Megabus and the Art of the Deal

In the age of budget travel it is difficult to tell if that deal you’re being offered is REALLY a deal. Sure Ryan Air will fly you from London to Rome for 5 quid…

…Plus £ 40 in taxes…

… Plus the £ 5 mandatory online booking fee

…Plus £ 30 to check your bag.

Suddenly what seemed like a really simple deal isn’t looking so great anymore.

Creative Commons License photo credit: fredcamino

I was somewhat suspicious to find out that I could get from DC to New York for $1 on Megabus. I’d used some of the other “Chinatown buses” before and I already knew that they were way more convenient and cheap than flying or taking the train. Previously I’d used Washington Deluxe (link) which charges something like $45 round trip, so I was intrigued by the $1 offer. It seemed too good to be true.

MegaBus is a British transplant. I remembered their ads in England promising to get you from London to Leeds for £ 1. It sounded a little gimmicky even then. They are fairly new to the US Market, joining Washington Deluxe and Bolt Bus in providing cheap transport throughout the Northeast.  Given my penchant for all things British and/ or cheap I decided to give it a shot on my trip up to New York this past weekend.

So was it a good deal? Here are the Pros and Cons:


  • Really cheap (if you can find the right deal)- My ticket ran me $2.50 ROUND TRIP. That’s $1 each way plus a 50 cent booking fee.  Although the prices fluctuate up to about $20 a leg, if you are flexible and buy your tickets early it is very easy to find fares under $10.
  • Swanky buses– on my way up to New York our bus was a pimped out, brand new, double-decker affair. The bus I took home wasn’t as fancy but both buses were extremely clean and tasteful with comfortable seats and clean bathrooms.
  • Quiet peaceful ride– Putting aside the fact that my friend once sat next to an ACTUAL BOX OF CHICKENS on a china town bus once, some of the other bus companies I’ve used have forced the entire bus to sit through movie screenings. It’s not fair to force a captive audience to sit through movies like Daddy Daycare or Juwanna Mann (actually the riders complained so loudly that the bus drive finally turned of Juwanna Mann thank goodness).
  • Free Wifi– This was a HUGE plus for me and it was nice to get some work done during my 4-hour ride. The first bus I took also had electrical outlets for each seat, which is a nice plus since laptop batteries only last so long.


  • The wifi didn’t really work– The internet went down for the last hour or so of my ride to New York and on the way back to DC there was no internet at all. This is one of Megabuses major selling points so it was rather annoying.
  • Punctuality– although the website suggests arriving 15 minutes before departure to facilitate timely boarding, my bus didn’t even pull in until 8:40, ten minutes after the scheduled departure time. Fortunately boarding was quick, although we did arrive to New York behind schedule. The second bus I took was on time.
  • phpAvzv4pPMSeat dimensions– I am not a big person and I only have a tiny Mac book, but I had a very uncomfortable time trying to use my laptop in the shiny new bus. The seats in front of me were so close that there was no room for the computer in my lap, particularly because of a large plastic handle on the back of the seat which made it difficult to position my screen. The seats are spacious enough for just sitting and reading, but if Megabus is going to play up it’s free internet they ought to consider giving you enough room to use a lap top.

On the whole my ride was much more pleasant than I’ve experiences on other buses. If I’d paid full price for my ticket I may have been more irked about the internet issues but for $1 it more than fulfilled it’s end of the bargain. Megabus got me to and from New York quickly and with minimal hassle for less than I would have spent on toll charges if I’d driven myself. And that, Ryan Air, is a deal.

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22 thoughts on “Megabus and the Art of the Deal”

  1. I’ve personally never used Megabus but I know that I’ve checked it out for a few trips. The only downside is that unlike Greyhound the have limited stops. Yet, if they have your desired start and stop location, then unlike Greyhound you don’t have to stop at every podunk town along the way.

  2. OHGOD both times I’ve used Megabus (in the UK) were a NIGHTMARE. Going to London from Newcastle, the bus broke down and my legs were touching the seat in front of me. I’m not even tall – only 5’8”!

    On the way back, it was 45 minutes late due to “traffic”. Strangely enough, the National Express buses on the same route were all on time. We were then informed the driver had to have a 30 minute break by law – screw the fact we’d been waiting 45 minutes not having a clue what was going on. They didn’t even have a back-up driver. Really, really shitty. I ended up arriving 2 hours behind schedule, missing all the public transport home and having to shell out for a taxi because it was pissing it down with rain.

    I’d rather shell out for the National Express in the UK – or spend a little more and take the train!

    1. Hmm, I’ve never taken Megabus in the UK so I can’t vouch for them. It’s pretty nice in the US though! Unfortunately we don’t have the wonderful train system you guys do- taking the amtrak to New York costs as much as flying!

  3. Being a D.C. native I’m a huge Megabus / Bolt bus fan. And FYI, there’s a nifty Chinatown bus search engine (Greyhound included) for the Eastern seaboard. — they even tell you what busses have wifi and bathrooms in the searches.

  4. I’m using megabus next month on my trip to the UK and I too got some really cheap deals when booking ahead (most expensive trip was 6 pounds, other 2 were 1.50 each). I’m a pretty frugal person, so I was really excited to find these great deals. I’m not traveling with a laptop so I’m not too concerned about that, and it’s like, nothing could be smaller than coach airplane seats anymore, right?? I’m taking 2 buses and 1 train with them and I imagine the train is probably going to be on time, whereas I understand the buses sometimes are late due to traffic (which is ok, I’m not really in a rush either day on those as they aren’t connecting).

    1. I’ve never used the british buses but I’ve seen them and I’m sure they are excellent! Definitely let us know about the train!

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