To get to Chicago, I decided to use Megabus for the first time. I have also used Greyhound on my travels around the US. There are many benefits and disadvantages of using either but if you play your cards right, you can get a great deal and be able to spend more in whatever city you are traveling too.
First off, each bus company has a different way of doing their pricing. Greyhound allows you book your trip well in advance but the prices are like that of airlines. The prices are fairly consistent week to week and you will only get a discount if you book two or more weeks in advance. You also have the option of paying more in order to get a fully refundable ticket. On the other hand, Megabus only allows you to book just few months in advance. Once a date becomes available for booking, prices can start as low as $1. As there is more demand, the prices will start to increase. In my case, I was able to book a round trip from Nashville to Chicago for $21.
Next thing to consider is that Greyhound has buildings as their bus stations in major cities soif you are ever stranded, the weather won’t be an issue. The stations have ticket counters that are usually staffed by Greyhound employees that will be able to answer questions. These stations aren’t always in the best part of town so that is something to contend with but at least you will be warm and dry doing so. Megabus doesn’t have any physical bus stations, you are just picked up and dropped off on the side of the road.
In Chicago, the stop is right near Union station which can be used as shelter if needed. Only problem is there is no way to know when the bus arrives so you have to either stay at the stop or have someone at the stop call you when the bus shows up.
Not only does Greyhound have main bus stations, they also have more stops for you to get on and off the bus. Where Megabus just travels from major city to major city, Greyhound has small cities and towns that it will stop at in between those major cities. For example from Nashville, TN to Chattanooga, you can be picked up or dropped off in Murfreesboro or Manchester. Also Greyhound has a network that extends all across the US while Megabus is slowly expanding their routes across the US. Currently they have an extensive network on the east coast but routes only extend west to Minnesota south to Texas and there are a few routes out in California and Nevada.
Since Megabus isn’t that extensive yet, when booking you can only buy tickets for specific routes at one time. For example if you wanted to go from Orlando to Minneapolis, you would have to buy a ticket from Orlando to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Chicago, then Chicago to Minneapolis. With Greyhound you would just select these two cities and you will be returned all the possible routes, start times, length and layovers.
Do you have any experiences or insight about taking a bus around the US?