Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Greyhound Survival

Greyhound survival is survival of the fittest, indeed. I've attempted to gather some of my ideas on making Greyhound travel survivable and perhaps even bearable. Hopefully some of these tips will do someone a bit of good at some point, and if not, at least writing them was a good way to pass the time on the trip from Tucson to Flagstaff. Here goes...

NUMBER ONE RULE! DON’T TALK TO ANY PASSENGER if you can help it.  You might think that meeting new people is part of the adventure, but for the most part they are all really crazy and scary. Steer clear.

Get to the gate as early as you can so you can pick a seat… and that seat should always be the emergency exit seat . There are four emergency exit seats per bus, in the middle towards the front. If you were in the front of the line, you shouldn’t have trouble snagging one of these seats.

Distribute your bags across the empty seat next to you- people will be less likely to ask to sit down if they know it’ll be a hassle. You should sit on the outside seat too, until boarding is finished. CAUSE YOU WANNA SIT BY YOURSELF.

If you’re on a stopover at night, picking up passengers, and you don’t need to get up to pee or stretch, just spread the hell out and pretend you’re sleeping. You’ll be much less likely to be asked to share your seat; who wants to risk waking a stranger up out of sound sleep? If you do have to get up to pee or stretch (or, eww, to smoke) leave your coat, bags and what have you spread across both seats. People are generally reluctant to move another person’s things. Just make sure it’s stuff you’re not super attached to, in case it should disappear. 

Never ever part from your laptop, wallet, camera or phone. Everything else is expendable (clothes, toiletries, etc.) If someone were to steal a bag containing things of that nature belonging to me, my response would most likely be that they needed it more than I did. Get on with it.

Be nice to the driver and the person loading your bag. This is obvious common sense. While we’re at it, just be nice to everyone. The person behind the Greyhound counter is usually surly, but so would I be if I had to deal with as many freaks in a day. I always give them my best smile, ask how they are, maybe even pay them a compliment. Be aware though, when I say “be nice to everyone,” I certainly don’t mean to make conversation or try to initiate small talk. Just don’t get in anyone’s way, and don’t be a jerk.

If you’re taking an overnight bus, I found it’s best to take a sleeping pill. If I don’t do that, I have very fitful, unrestful sleep and it’s not worth much.  If you take a sleeping pill, be prepared to be woken up about every 3 to 4 hours, as the bus lines seem to relish making everyone wake up and take a little walk when they pull into a station at about 3:45 in the morning. This is a huge annoyance, although sometimes they don’t force you off the bus but rather allow you to stay on and in your seat once they’ve busted your eardrums announcing the arrival, and flicked on the glaring overhead lights that will remain on for the duration of the layover, even if it’s 15 minutes.

Be aware that some Greyhound busses will have WiFi and electrical outlets, but DON'T expect them all to. If you’re on a long haul and you’re lucky enough to have a charging station, keep your stuff plugged in because on your next transfer you may not be so lucky. In my experience, I have the well equipped busses on short rides and the really skanky ones when I have a long, long ride ahead. Frustrating, I know.


If you’re changing buses and you need to get your luggage ticketed for your next destination (and you will) get in line at the Greyhound counter ASAP.  That way you can get tagged, find out the gate you need and get in line right away for the next leg of your trip.

Once you’ve got your place in line, don’t be too afraid to leave your bag (the one that only carries clothes and toiletries) to hold your place, and hit the bathroom or the snack bar. Make sure you’ve got a bag holding your place though! Otherwise you’ll be at the end of the line once you’ve peed and grabbed a French fry.


Your toothbrush should be handy- you can brush your teeth in the sink at any station. Personally, I’m humbled enough not to care too much that it’s bus station tap water- if you’re squeamish about these things, Greyhound is not the way you are gonna want to cross the country.

Make sure you bring along a bottle of multivitamins. It’s really hard to eat as healthfully as you might like when you’re on the road. I also recommend a package or two of Emergen-C (or better yet, the generic brand- mine are CVS brand that I bought in Boston.) I try to take 2 a day in addition to the multivit- buses are an enclosed air system and you want your immune system to be aces for the duration of your trip.

 Make sure you do lots and lots of stretching. Stretch at EVERY opportunity. My favorites are mini back bends, toe touches and mini lunges. Also don’t forget to stretch your arms. You can do seated stretches too, which are good to keep up on if you’re sitting by yourself and have the opportunity.


I’ve found the most useful items for bus travel so far to be:

Snuggie ™: I’ve become a big fan of the thing, although I was initially skeptical.  It wa a gift from my stepdad specifically for the trip. Mine is leopard print, which is rad.

Neck pillow: essential for overnights or naps- press it up against the window, curl up across two seats and enjoy a few hours rest.  Personally, I have a doggy pillow-pal. My stepdad got this for me too. He rules.

Emergen-C: as previously stated.

Brita water filter bottle: this allows me to collect water from nearly any tap and have it filtered for each sip. These things are truly bomb. I’m pretty sure there’s another brand that makes them as well. One of these might as well be mandatory. Keep up your water intake, too, even though it makes you have to pee more frequently.

Noise cancelling ear-buds: sometimes I keep them in even when I’m not playing music. Of course, you could always just get ear-plugs, which I also have but never feel like fishing out. I think the buds are probably more effective anyway.

Granola bars: grab a box anytime you can hit up a grocery store, but try to avoid buying them at gas stations and such, as they’re far to expensive that way.

Hopefully you've gained some insight into cross-country bus travel! Be safe, and DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS.

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