After giving away my car in October 2012, I became a frequent Megabus rider. Megabus is a thrifty way to travel. It’s dirt cheap to hop on a bus that can take me all over the east coast. I would tell you more about it, but if you’re reading this post you’re clearly capable of using Google to look it up.
As of late, I have felt compelled to share some of my more entertaining Megabus experiences via Facebook (because I still can’t really get on the Twitter level). It took me a while to notice, but if I pay attention to the people around me, I get to witness the most ridiculous and hilarious of all human interactions. From couples fighting to strangers falling asleep on each other, the entertainment is excellent and the smells inhumane.
I have traveled an estimated 7,000 miles on Megabus, mostly between Atlanta and Athens but also with some trips to Knoxville, Columbia, and DC. I would provide you with an estimate of hours, but that would require an even more embarrassing amount of math than what I already did to share my Mega-mileage. Oh, and you probs don’t care. So as a member of the non-existent frequent rider program, I feel like it is my duty (ha ha… doody) to spread my wealth of knowledge with the people of the Interwebs.
All the tidbits I’d like to share would be overwhelming in one post. So, in this first post, I’ll just discuss the amenities.
The Megabus is a giant, double-decker, blue and orange monstrosity. It casts a shadow over any city it enters and it makes you feel like you’re in a traveling skyscraper. Okay, so it’s not that large, but it’s not your average bus. Unless, of course, there aren’t enough people scheduled for your route and you end up riding in a standard coach bus that Megabus stole for your journey. You won’t know which bus it is until the moment it pulls up, so make sure you don’t have any grand expectations.
The Luggage Compartment
Most Megabuses come equipped with a luggage storage compartment in the back of the bus (below the back staircase). It’s large and in charge and definitely not suitable for anything fragile. If you want your suitcase handled with care, rent a car and make the trip on your own. Megabus employees have no time to gently place your bag down and they mostly just let gravity take over once they have a good idea of where the bag should fall. In almost every situation, drivers will stack the luggage by destination. Don’t be surprised if the drivers make you line up like kindergarten classes based on what stop you’re going to. There’s even one driver in Atlanta who makes you raise your hands as a group to identify what city you’re going to. “Athens, raise your hands! Columbia, raise your hands!” Then they load the bus in order, starting with the kindergarten class being dropped off last. Efficient, but oh so annoying.
Once in a blue moon, you’ll get a driver who mentions something about the weight and size restrictions. Do everything in your power to argue your way out of this preposterous accusation. I always say that I have books in my bag if anyone mentions the weight. I’m all, “I’m working on a Ph.D. and I needed to bring home like 12 textbooks. Sorry…” If all else fails, start crying. I have seen many people turn the most horrendous Megabus driver into a helpful angel by shedding a few fake tears.
After dealing with a pushy driver and luggage-loader, a crowd of people who are confused about which number is the reservation number, and the sight of your perfectly-packed suitcase being tossed into the bus like a sack of potatoes, you now have to clear your mind and put on your game face. You are about to choose your seat for the entirety of your journey. This can be a tricky choice, depending on the route you’re taking.
If you are riding the bus through to the last stop and you’re starting from a less interesting city (i.e. Atlanta) and going to a really hip and hoppin’ city (i.e. D.C.), you will likely start with an empty bus. Choose an awesome seat and enjoy the peace and quiet for the first two stops. As you get closer to the final destination, the bus fills up really quickly. Start to make your seat look really undesirable or just deal with a Seat Buddy for the last leg of the trip.
If you are riding in the opposite direction (exciting city to less interesting city), you will definitely have a Seat Buddy for at least the first stop of the ride (pending some miracle). If you’re worried about a weird Seat Buddy, you can:
- Make friends with someone who is getting off at the first stop while you wait in line for the bus to load
- Make eye contact with someone who looks normal while other people are looking for a seat… let them come to you
- Ride with a friend or partner at all times
- Get over it because a lot of weirdos ride the Megabus
Feel free to use one of these pre-tested methods for avoiding a Seat Buddy:
- Cough a lot… maybe make some wheezing noises
- Make yourself as big as possible
- Put your stuff on the empty seat, put headphones on, fake sleep
- Become extremely preoccupied with your belongings (I like to pack and unpack my backpack)
- Hysterically cry (I haven’t personally used this, but I have seen it work many times)
- Sit in the aisle seat with your stuff on the window seat
- Bring a garment bag that looks really important (any old wedding dresses laying around?) and hang it right over the aisle seat
Of course, there is always an opportunity to hit the Megabus seat jackpot. This happens when the bus has a broken seat that is stuck permanently in an over-extended reclining position. It’s so reclined that it is basically laying in the seat behind it. This is seat gold. Grab the seat next to the one that is being encroached by the broken seat and build yourself a fort because no one is going to want to be your Seat Buddy. People are practically grateful that you took one for the team and sat there. You can then revel in your awesome life choice and enjoy your journey without rubbing butts, elbows, or other weird body parts with a perfect stranger.
Wifi and Other Electronic-y Things
Do yourself a large favor and set the bar extremely low. Don’t save any big papers or Skype meetings for the Megabus. The “free wifi” is nothing to write home about–especially if you’re writing home via email and you’re trying to use the wifi to connect. If you do want to get work done and you are confident that you don’t need a crazy good Interwebs connection, just make sure you bring all the lighting you’ll need for nighttime work. The creepy green lights that go on automatically are definitely not helpful for human sight. The “at-seat plug-ins” are actually legit though. Megabus seems to consistently provide working electrical outlets. This section is getting pretty boring, so I’m going to move on.
If you’ve ever been to one of those old castles that shows what Medieval toilets look like, that’s a good place to set your expectations. The toilet is located on the first floor of the bus. It’s essentially a ledge with a hole in it. On top of the hole is a toilet set, but it’s set so far back that it takes an act of God to use the toilet without touching some part of the restroom that you didn’t want to touch. More than once, I have had a driver tell the gentlemen to “watch their aim” when using the toilet. It’s a challenge for everyone though.
My relationship with the Megabus toilet is one of fear. It works in my favor because it keeps me from over-hydrating or even thinking about having to use the bathroom while on a Megabus ride. So far, I’ve only used the toilet twice. Both times were a huge struggle. I’m going to leave everything up to your imagination. But just remember: fear the toilet and you don’t have to face it.
I hope this painted a decent picture of the amenities you may interact with if you choose to ride Megabus. Keep in mind that I am no travel expert and I am only speaking from my own experiences. If I forgot to mention an amenity that you’re curious about, comment below and I’ll try to shed some (very dim) light. The best way to see if Megabus works for you is to give it a try. Or maybe a few tries because sometimes really bizarre stuff happens for no apparent reason.
In my next Mega-post, I’ll chit chat about some of the people you may ride the Megabus with and some insider tips and tricks to having an awesome journey.