Greyhound Buses: Hacked
Greyhound Buses don’t have the best reputation. They’re often late (even by an hour or more), they’re sometimes dirty (forgoing cleaning because they’re late) and the fleet used for shorter distances is usually quite uncomfortable.
But, they’re not all bad. Apart from anything else, they service a lot of popular and obscure destinations in Australia, Canada, the USA, Mexico and parts of the UK. I am writing this from a Greyhound bus travelling from Lake Louise, Alberta to Toronto, Ontario in Canada. The trip cost me CA$150 (approx. £90) and by the time I arrive, I will have been on board for 64 hours.
I also will have saved on three nights’ accommodation, received unlimited power usage and WiFi and travelled 2,226 miles. Value to money ratio equals “ker-ching!”
I’ve made a few mistakes since being on this journey, but I think I finally have it sussed; the perfect way to prepare for and enjoy your three days on a bus. Allow me to explain a few things…
Food & Drink
Don’t underestimate the power of boredom on these journeys. You may think, “Oh, how lovely it will be to look out the window for three days straight and be totally at one with nature…” Trust me, there are only so many mountains and fields you can look at before you get totally fed up of nature altogether.
Buy lots of food and drink. Start with $30’s worth. Yes, it sounds a lot, but you will end up buying more at a rest stop, I promise. Be sure to buy some sugary stuff to help with drowsiness in the mornings, too.
There are people who are squeamish about using public restrooms. I understand that, but I’m not one of them. However, the Trans-Canada Highway is full of potholes, and after being thrown around like a rag doll whilst sitting on the john and emerging with an arse not only tinged blue, but chemically deodorised, potentially forever, I’m going to make a suggestion.
Stops are frequent and timed. They may be anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes. There will always be a lavatory. Use that one, not the one taken straight out of the ’70s’ fun house used in Grease’s penultimate number.
This section is personal preference, as I travel with a large 80 litre backpack and a smaller day pack. Anything bigger or heavier than a day pack will be stored underneath the bus for the entirety of the journey. Even if you transfer, magical gloved hands will whisk your bag to the next bus without you ever seeing it.
Here are a few things you may want to add to your carry-on:
- Food and drink.
- A warm jacket or blanket – it does get cold at night.
- Some form of entertainment – iPad, iPhone, iPod, Kindle etc..
- One (and only one) travel adaptor and plug – there are two North American style outlets per pair of seats, but they are close together and you will only fit one of those horrid bulky adaptors in at once.
- Charging leads – I brought a 30-pin old-style Apple cable and a Lightning new-style Apple cable; these will charge my iPhone, iPad and iPod.
- Change of underwear/socks/T-shirt – especially if the bus is longer than 2 days.
- Money – you will run out of food and drink.
- Photo ID – if you chose to print your tickets at home, you’ll need your passport/driver’s license for every new bus you take.
- Tickets for all journeys – you won’t see your stowed luggage until you arrive at your destination, remember?
- Camera – you may see a moose. Or 5,000.
- Earplugs – screaming children do happen. It’s an inevitability.
- Cigarettes/recreational drugs, if you’re into that kind of thing.
This is, without question, the most important factor on any long journey. It will determine whether you sit next to a baby, a druggie, a hottie or, my personal favourite, no-one at all. Before I tell you how, though, here are a few tips:
- Be keen. This stuff only works if you are one of the first on the bus. Try and be waiting at the security table before anyone else, then hover at the boarding gate. Easy.
- Don’t sit in the back seats. Whether you haven’t gotten over that high school feeling of being the king of the bus if you sat at the back (you weren’t, by the way, you were a tit) or whether you just don’t want someone kicking the back of your seat the whole way to your destination, avoid the back seats at all costs. Simple explanation: they recline about 30% as much as all other seats on board, which will drive you nuts on a long journey.
- Don’t sit in the aisle. Lots of reasons for this one: you won’t have access to charging points, you’ll only have one arm rest (a lot of the aisle rests don’t stay put), you’ll have either drunkards or people losing their balance falling into you as they make their way to the lav and you won’t ever get a chance to smash that massive window with that impossibly tiny red hammer.
Also, you’ll get a nicer view in the window seat. Aww.
- Sit 5+ rows from the front. Whilst driving at night, there mustn’t be any reflections off the windscreen of any kind that may distract the driver. Ergo, no reading lights or electronic devices allowed in the first five rows. Understandable, I suppose.
- Pick your side. This may seem daft, but there’re good reasons to think about this one. Vehicles drive on the right in North America, so if you decide to sit on the left, you will have bright headlights zipping across your vision from oncoming traffic. This can be avoided by sitting on the right, but at the cost of having the sun glaring at you at some ungodly hour when it rises. This is especially severe when driving across the flats of Saskatchewan and Manitoba where there are no clouds to soften the blow. Obviously, this is only a tough decision if you’re travelling West to East.
I decided that I didn’t fancy developing epilepsy on this trip, so I picked the right. The sunrise is actually quite spectacular.
- Reserve a seat. Sounds obvious, huh? Well, think again. For only CA$5.25, it’s more than possible to cheat the system, especially seeing as the buses are never normally full:
- Reserve your seat at the ticket counter. For instance, 40W (4 seats to a row = 10 rows back. W = window.)
- When you board (hopefully first – this is why it helps to be keen), walk to your reserved seat. There should be a napkin or piece of paper with the word “Reserved” clearly marked. Now sit in the seat behind it.
- You will notice that all the seats are in the upright position. Recline the seat you are in and the aisle seat next to you as far as they will go.
- Place your carry-on luggage on the seat next to you.
- Feign sleep (optional).
Et voilà! No-one will sit in the seat in front of you because it’s reserved. No-one will sit next to the reserved seat because they’d have to get up again when the person (me – already seated) boards. No-one will wake up the adorable sleeping young man to ask him to move his carry-on luggage. And lastly, no-one will sit in the two seats behind me because they wouldn’t have a lot of legroom, due to my seats being fully reclined.
All that allows me, as I have at this very moment, ample legroom, two reclined seats to stretch out over and no-one kicking the small of my back for the next 28 hours. Simple!