The Ultimate Guide to Riding the Megabus

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What is the Megabus?

The Megabus is a intercity double decker coach bus service that is low cost and in my opinion incredibly more comfortable than the alternative, Greyhound Bus. The bus offers free Wi-Fi (that usually doesn’t work) and electric plugs at your seat. They stop in over 100 U.S cities, including routes through Canada.

Where does the Megabus travel to?

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Check out the route map on the site to find out where the closest stop is to you.

Do I need a ticket for the Megabus?

Once you’ve selected your dates and times, entered your information and purchased your ticket, make sure to save it or print it out. You will need the ticket or at least the confirmation number to board. I usually send it to TripIt, or save it in a note on my phone. The driver is going to ask you to read the first 5 numbers/characters of the confirmation number, so make sure you have it accessible.

You can change your ticket for a $1 fee. (50 cent change fee and 50 cent new reservation fee)

How to get the best seat on the Megabus

Travel light and show up early. I suggest arriving 15 minutes early, we’ve never taken a megabus that doesn’t leave at least 30 minutes late. When the bus first arrives, passengers with carry-on only bags rush to the bus door to await boarding. If you have luggage to load that doesn’t fit in your lap, join the line in the back of the bus.

Each passenger is allowed one piece of luggage and one carry on. (I’ve never seen them be too strict on this but I’m sure it depends on how busy the bus is that day.)

If you are traveling with someone else, I suggest splitting up. Josh takes our big bags to put in the back of the bus, while I get in the front of the line to be one of the first to grab a seat. You do need your ticket to get on so when I board I show the driver my ticket for 2 people and explain my husband is putting his bag on. When Josh gets on he knows his ticket number and reiterates that to the driver. We’ve never had trouble with this and we’ve always gotten the seat we want. Make sure both of you have the ticket numbers because they do occasionally ask for it when putting your bag on also if you’re carrying more than one bag.

There are two levels of seating on most Megabuses. Personally I prefer the bottom level, the seats seem to have much more space, the ceilings are higher and if you get carsick, the swaying is more forgiving on the bottom. You have the choice to have a table on the bottom or a regular seat. Be aware if you do pick the table you might end up playing footsie with your stranger-neighbor across from you. If you go too far back in the bus you are sitting near the bathroom and it could end up being a smelly trip. However, the far back left seats on the first level have the most leg room.

I suggest skipping the table seats and sitting 1 or 2 seats back, in between the bathroom and the table seats.

Why should I care what seat I get?

Before we started strategically boarding the Megabus we had AWFUL bus trips. Especially during the holidays these buses get incredibly crowded and if you are stuck upstairs it can get very … sweaty, stuffy and vomit-acious. We might sound crazy, but when you become a regular on the Chicago – Indianapolis Megabus route you begin to figure out how make the trip a positive experience.

Tips for Surviving the Megabus

Lower your expectations.

I never show up for a megabus expecting it to leave on time, the wi-fi to actually work or the person sitting in front of me to not talk loudly into their cell phone. There is always something that drives me nuts, but by lowering my expectations, I can handle the trip.

Come prepared for the weather

The megabus stops are outside and not usually accommodating to weather. We have stood outside in the pouring rain and below freezing temperatures waiting hours for the bus to arrive. If it might rain bring an umbrella or poncho, if it’s winter wear extra layers. The worse the weather, the later the megabus is and waiting outside in the extremes doesn’t make the next 3-5 hour bus trip ahead of you any more enjoyable.

Bring headphones or ear plugs

I’ve never understood why people feel it is their right to talk loudly in small enclosed places like buses. Every bus trip includes at least one long phone call with screaming involved, someone listening to their music loud enough for all to hear or a conversation on evolution between two strangers who are suddenly best friends. Come prepared with something to listen to or block out the noise you will thank me later.

Have your charger with you

The electrical plug at your seat is a huge plus for the Megabus. You can watch movies on your laptop and listen to music on your phone without fear of your battery dying.

Hopefully this tips will help you on your next Megabus trip. We’ve taken it so many times, we want to help you have a comfortable trip.

What tips do you have for riding Megabus?

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38 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Riding the Megabus

  1. I’ve done the Memphis to Chicago route. I agree with all your advice, the biggest one for me being lower your expectations. I do think it’s better than Greyhound, but people need to understand it’s not a private limo service. You are riding with others. For the price, as long as the schedule works for you, Megabus is a great option. I just haven’t been able to make the schedule work for me too often out of Memphis.

    • Yes – expectations play a huge role in successfully riding the megabus! We go into every trip expecting to be at least 1.5 hours late – this makes our trips much less stressful!

  2. Taking my first mega bus trip from CLE to PIT today and two more bits of advice not on here
    – Buses leave on time too. I was 4 minutes late for my 12:20 bus (they moved the bus area here in CLE recently from downtown to just east of downtown, third spot in a year) and the bus left on time.
    – There are no refunds or rescheduling or anything like that if it’s less than 24 hours before your bus leaves or if you miss your bus. Had to pay another $8 for a ticket leaving tonight instead. No big deal, but just be ready for that.

  3. Your experience will depend on where you get on the bus. I was in Albany, New York and took the Megabus to New York City. The Megabus uses the parking lot of the train station. Everybody on the bus drove to the train station to catch the bus. This was not your Grayhound crowd. The train price $31 (senior), Megabus $15.

  4. I took Megabus from Memphis to Chicago a few years back with my wife. The trip was great, as great as a 9 hour bus ride can be. What I enjoyed was being able to relax and not have all the stresses of driving. We both enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. You may ask why take a bus for 9 hours? To fly it was going to cost us $750.00 at the time, Megabus only charged us something like $60.00. I am sure the prices have gone up, however even with flying you have to wait in airport security and get to the airport 90 minutes early. Megabus is a great new way to travel if available for you.

    • Thanks for the comment – I love hearing about Megabus success stories! :) The price difference is definitely worth the extra travel hours and like you mentioned, bring an extra book and sit back and enjoy the ride!

  5. Hi Caroline
    Just a question the carry-on isn’t an actual airplane sized carryon is it?? do they fit in the bin on board??
    Thanks
    Monica

    • No, they’re not airplane-sized. Your luggage goes underneath or in the luggage storage at the back of the bus. We only bring onto the bus a very small bag like a small backpack or purse.

  6. The Toronto-Montreal bus leaves from the regular terminal as a Coach Canada service and arrives at the Megabus station behind VIA station, not at the Montreal bus station. There is one stop in Kingston but you cannot leave the bus – the driver said to someone who asked “Do you want to go the washroom or do you want to go to Montreal?” The lower level seats with tables have less space on the left side set than on the right (which are lower). The trip was about the same on the comfort level as VIA and the travel time was quick with the amazingly uninteresting scenery along the 401. It is more reliable than an airline and competitive on this 5-6 hour trip if the airport is not near you at either end.

    • Hi! I am visiting Canada from Australia, and I need to get from Toronto to Montreal. I am considering Megabus, but am concerned about our luggage. We will have one big suitcase each, one small carry-on suitcase, and also a back pack. Are they pretty strict on luggage? Should we purchase an extra seat as suggested on the Megabus website?

      Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

      • I would definitely purchase the additional seat. It will be cheaper to buy the seat now rather than later if they do decide to enforce their rule on that day.

  7. My first Megabus experience recently was great. Bus left absolutely on time at each stop. Late comers left behind. I have no problem with that since the website tells you to be there early, what size your checked and carry-on baggage should be and warns that you’ll be waiting outside and that there are no refunds if you’re late. Passengers were friendly and helpful to each other, even sharing snacks as needed. Drivers were friendly and competent. I’ll do it again.

    • My wife has taken the megabus between Toronto and NYC about 10x now. When we can afford the plane we fly.

      Because she doesn’t work yet she doesn’t mind the trip. Buses always leave close to their time.

      The luggage she takes is one / 2 full sized check-in type suitcases. We easily save 60$ there. And none of the airport nonsense either. The wifi never works but the power outlets are great she says.

      She carries lots of reading material to make the time go by easily. Much like any mass transit be prepared for a crying child and his or her infanto-fascist parents. This is a 13 hour trip so don’t get bored easily, pack good snacks and be happy that you’re going home for 1/4 of the regular flight price with luggage.

      My wife often travels return within 110 dollars. It’s not for those who live deep in NJ, CT or ON suburbs. Because then it’s a 16-17 hour trip door to door. Still for 25$ one way…

  8. I love Megabus! I’ve only taken one trip on it, but have wanted to use it more. In 2012, I went from Memphis to Knoxville for a one-day training. I bought a RT ticket, traveling through Friday night, went to my conference Saturday, and returned Saturday night. I was extremely lucky that my conference was less than a 10-minute walk from the bus station. Not only, did I not have to pay for hotel since I traveled through the night and slept on the bus, I didn’t have to pay for a rental car! Although, I did get a cab to take me to the bus stop on the way back since it was 11pm in downtown Knox. I was very lucky to have a great experience, and had read someone else’s review of Megabus before purchasing a ticket. In this guy’s review, he mentioned that a woman who arrived 5-10 minutes before departure was not let on the bus, as the website stated that you must be there or checked in 15 minutes before departure. So I knew I needed to get there early!! It was difficult to find the pickup point, as it located with our local Memphis transit, but did not have a sign. I just had to ask around. The bus left on time. We made two stops: a 30-min rest stop after the first two hours of driving, and a pickup/dropoff stop in Nashville. Bus driver was very nice and relaxed at the rest stop when he came on the intercom with his smooth Jamaican accent and said, “We will take a 30-minute rest. If you are not back on the bus before 2pm, you’ll be waving good-bye to the tail lights.” It was funny when he said it, but we were all back on the bus at five ’til 2! The stop in Nashville was very fast, and we arrived in Knox on time. Returning, we actually arrived in Memphis 20 minutes early! I had the app downloaded and was able to track our arrival time and let my hubby know we were early, so everything worked out very well. The wifi worked, but was super slow. But I figured it might be with lots of other people trying to use it, so I was prepared with other things to do. Plenty of outlets for everyone on the bus to plug in at least one thing. Top front seats of bus offered plenty of leg room, but it worried me that if we were to get into an accident, I’d be the first to fly through the windshield. The drivers were very good, though, so I wasn’t too worried. They were very courteous as well. Unfortunately they have cancelled service between Memphis-Nash-Knox. Just not enough business. They still have routes going in and out of these cities, just not between them. It was all word-of-mouth around here, no ads. Too bad, as I’m sure a lot of people would have been using it if they knew about it. By the way, my BIL had a terrible experience traveling Dallas to Memphis, but it was during Christmas holidays last year. Too many people. It was his first time with MB, but he would probably be willing to do it again as long as it wasn’t during the holiday season. Happy future MB travels to everyone!

  9. Great comments/thoughts on Megabus. I’ve taken Megabus from Grand Rapids to Detroit and Chicago often, LA to San Fran and back, Chicago to Memphis and back a few times, Memphis to Dallas and then Austin, Austin to Houston and then New Orleans, and New Orleans to Memphis. I think the most I’ve paid for a ticket was $17 from Detroit to Grand Rapids and that was only because I booked it about 3 hours before the trip. My trip from Grand Rapids all the way to Austin was $4.50, then Austin to New Orleans was $2 and New Orleans back to Grand Rapids was $11.50. That’s messed up.

    Some things I’ve noticed from other riders were bringing along an electric blanket or shawl during the winter months. Very nice for those occasions when they’re opening the door or your getting on/off the bus. I’ve recently purchased a cloth breathing mask and have noticed others with breathing masks. It’s not for germaphobes so much as to avoid breathing in the constantly flowing dry as hell air on the upper levels.

    As for the seating upstairs there’s often some very nice seating up there occasionally with massive leg room. Far up front of the bus has some great leg room up top and you can see everything going by. Yes, that would be troublesome with motion sickness but it was great to see California that way. Occasionally there’s a few seats up there across from the stairs that have nobody next to you (sometimes a bonus), additional leg room, or you don’t have to worry about people behind you when you lean your seat back.

    I’ve started bringing a power strip to plug in all my nerd toys. Hey, I can’t help it that I’m a geek. One thing I’d like to ask is has anyone figured a way to get the overhead outlets to maybe better hold a plug? Is there some sort of 3M or other strip or tape or something folks have rigged up? I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble or risk hassle from or hassling the driver/staff with undo messing with them.

    One caution about planning to watch movies on your laptop or other devices. Planning to STREAM them using Megabus’ wifi is ill advised. They seem to be blocking even youtube and their download speeds over right around 2.5Mbps at best and below 1Mbps upload. That’s not bad for getting email, browsing and I’ve even conducted some WebEx meetings. But it’s really not designed for effective Netflix, Hulu, etc. so make sure you’ve got optical media like a DVD or BlueRay and player or your movies/media stored on your hard drive or other storage device(s). The electrical outlets, though, are awesome pretty much for anything else and the wifi is there which is more than you can really hope for at the price(s) they’re charging right?

    I’ve noticed a few stops, D.A.R.T. in Dallas for example, where they’re PRE-registering/checking people in by staff at those sites and when the bus arrives those folks are express loaded, if you will, and simply allowed to board in mass while others (myself in this case) who are inexperienced with that stop/process and just transferring routes can sometimes be left to fend for themselves boarding/seating wise. Not a big deal, just something to maybe be aware of too.

    I’ve been told to purchase additional tickets to carry additional pieces of luggage or particularly heavy bags. Sometimes you can just tip the luggage handlers to get your kit loaded well. I believe my bag to Austin had to be 60+ pounds. I tipped the loader in Chicago $5 because he was grousing, nothing in Memphis, nothing in Dallas and the luggage guy in Austin simply complained to me when I arrived. Too late SUCKAH! Since then, though, I’ve purchased an $8 or so hand luggage scale I use which appears to be identical to the one the short little guy used in Chicago. Though he claimed it only went up to 80lbs and this one goes to 100lbs and my bag was no where near 80lbs or I’d not be able to strong arm it with a single arm.

    Plan your stops too. They often stop at the same places and you can even ask your driver if you’re going to stop and where they’re thinking they’ll do it. Then you can use the wifi/Google to figure out your options when you arrive at the stop and get your business handled quick and efficient.

    I watched a couple in San Antonio, on Christmas Day, get refused to ride, including their small child, because the dopes bought a box of six or so bottles of wine. Understandable for the holidays. Totally stupid for the bus. At the least, people, wise up. Read the disclaimers and luggage warnings. You can’t transport alcohol. These folks flipped out and almost got kicked off the property which would have not been good for them. What they should have done was taken the wine back, left it there, maybe given it away, I dunno. What I would have done was resorted to better packaging, as it were. I mean you get a couple pieces of luggage and two carry-ons with two adults. There’s no reason to have that box clearly announcing your intentions.

    Oh and don’t drink or do illegal drugs on the bus or wait too long at the stops, etc. They will leave you out in the middle of no where. I’ve not seen that happen but have no doubt it could.

    I’d be interested to hear if and how anyone has gotten a bicycle box with a bicycle tore apart contained within it. I could maybe get mine down to 50lbs but the dimensions just won’t make it. Would two tickets help with THIS? Just wondering.

  10. Hi all! I will try Megabus in April for the first time to go from Germany to England and back. It’s great to read all those positive experiences, but I was wondering, as I’ll be traveling alone and it’s quite a long trip, do you know if there is a chance to book 2 seats and will the driver accept that? I would be prepared to buy 2 tickets, but I’m worried the driver will still sit someone next to me. It’s overnight from 9 pm to 7.30 am and I’d like to Stretch out my legs a bit too. :-)

    • We know plenty of people who have booked two tickets. The driver shouldn’t be able to make someone sit next to you if you purchase two seats those two that you pick are yours.

      I would suggest making sure you show up early so you get on the bus first, to ensure you get two seats together!

      Good luck!

  11. Thanks a lot, Caroline, I will do that. :-) On such a long trip, I’m sure it makes a huge difference if you have one seat or two. I’ll make sure I’m early, even though I have to put my suitcase in before getting on the coach. So I hope it will be 2 seats next to each other. Otherwise, if I have to spread my body through half the coach to use both seats, that would be really uncomfortable for everyone. ;) All the best!! :-)

  12. I’ve done the Memphis to Chicago route. I agree with all your advice, the biggest one for me being lower your expectations. I do think it’s better than Greyhound, but people need to understand it’s not a private limo service.

  13. I’m taking my first megabus six hour trip next week and am worried about my bag. It is one of the rectangular roller bags with little wheels, soft sided, that I used to use for airplane travel. I measured it and it does not exceed 62 inches when added up. Is this suitable to have stored in the baggage area of the bus (not on board)? And for carry on, can I take a small back pack and a soft sided purse (purse not large but made of soft canvas and is utilitarian) on board without hassle?

    Thanks. Your article was very helpful.

    • Your bag should be fine. It depends on how large the backpack is. Sometimes the driver will see you have two bags and ask you to put one of them in the baggage hold. If it’s small enough to go under your seat and not disturb anyone else, you should be fine.

      • Thank you, Josh, for your quick reply! I appreciate it. What I hope to do is put roller bag in the baggage compartment under the bus and bring on board a small backpack. I will most likely store my purse in the back pack. There is a storage compartment overhead within the bus, right? Smaller than the airlines, from what I’ve read, correct? Or did they eliminate those and on board carry ons go under the seat now?

        Also, when we reach our destination and are getting off bus, does the driver oversee getting us our luggage from the outside baggage area, or are passengers reaching in and grabbing, ostensibly, their own bag? What’s to prevent someone from stealing our bag as we are still in line to get off the bus?

        Sorry – I have a lot of questions!

  14. Love the tips, but was curious if someone could help me with a couple of questions…Looking at a trip from Columbus, OH to Atlanta where there is a five minute “window” (6:05-6:10) for a connecting bus to our destination of New Orleans. There are afternoon/evening buses in Atlanta but these either put us into New Orleans late or too early. Is it worth the risk, or should we bite the bullet and plan for the odd arrival hours? Also curious if anyone has experienced or witnessed handicapped rider boarding? I’ve seen a wide spectrum of reactions but I get the impression there there have been a lot of Megabus drivers that seem “put out” by any passenger interaction.

  15. Thanks, I just recently booked a bunch of linked up megabus tickets for really cheap allowing me to travel just about every state on the megabus map for under 100 dollars! this is a great price for 2 and a half months of travel but I will be on the buses for a while this summer so I thank you for the tips! I sure hope the wifi does work for me however as I am an internet addict that was one thing that stood out to me in this post but now ill be sure to download a bunch of anime or movies or whatever or bring some DVDs with me now instead of just expecting it to work (but for the price I cant REALLY complain hehe).

  16. Hello and thank you so much for writing this! It was very useful and I’m very happy to know that Megabus has power outlets! This wasn’t mentioned on their website (that I could easily find) so I am pleased.

  17. Can someone help me?

    I want to ride the megabus from memphis to atlanta. I know that the megabus uses the city bus station, but are you allowed to just leave your car at the city bus station for several days? Will it be towed or will you receive a fine? If so where do you park?

    thanks!

  18. I will be taking my first megabus trip from Virginia to Pennsylvania with my 2 little brothers and was wondering if food was allowed

  19. i can’t seem to figure out how either to download flash (to show the map) or to unblock … something. you are the FIRST result when i google megabus map flash blocked. can you send me to where i can see the destinations?

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