Survivor’s Guide to I-95: Ten tips on surviving the NY-DC commute
Last weekend, while getting out of work, my boyfriend Alex sent me a text that read, “Damn I am so good at waiting for the bus. I know exactly where to stand and always get the perfect seat.”
He was not exaggerating. Alex and I have been together for over three years, over two of which I have lived in DC and he has lived in New York. Since I moved to DC in 2008, we have been busing back and forth between our two cities. At a rate of at least once a month, that adds up to:
27 (months) x 2 (trips—there and back) x 2 (people—Alex and me) = 108 trips
At five hours and 230 miles a trip, that’s almost 540 hours of time spent traveling 24,840 miles between Washington D.C. and New York. By the time you read this article, we will have collectively traveled on enough bus trips between New York and DC to travel around the world more than once. You get it- we have done this a lot. We are both damn good at taking the bus. We are bonafide 1-95 experts.
As we settle into our centennial trips, we want to share some of the tricks of our trade. Together, these tips have made being packed into a bus with a hundred other people and a “liquid-only bathroom” a little bit more enjoyable. They aren’t the most enlightening or mind-shattering suggestions, but they help!
Garnered from our collective knowledge, we present a Survivor’s Guide to Busing I-95:
1. Choose the right bus company
There are a lot of bus companies servicing the NYC-DC route. You will be spending five hours at least (more if it’s a holiday or you’re hitting weekend rush-hour) on the bus, so choosing the right bus company is crucial. There are a few classes of bus companies making this trip: the Greyhound bus, the Chinatown bus, and the “luxury” bus. The prices for all three classes are actually pretty similar, ranging from $17 (Apex Bus- of the Chinatown class) to $35 (Greyhound), so there are other factors that also must be taken into account, like pick up and drop off location, type of bus, amenities, orderliness, timeliness, speed etc.
We’ve shopped around all the bus classes and many of the companies, and have settled firmly on the “luxury” bus, specifically the BoltBus. BoltBus is more often on time, its buses are sturdy and equipped with leather seats and electric plugs, and the drivers are orderly and fast. When you’re already spending five hours on the bus, the extra minutes spent waiting for a delayed or broken down bus are dear.
BoltBus is best. Afterwards we’ll choose one of the following luxury buses in descending order:
DC2NY - they serve water, which BoltBus doesn’t, but they also show movies like “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” which BoltBus doesn’t.
MegaBus - it’s a double-decker bus, which is bad if you have a fear of heights.
Vamoose - it goes to the suburbs of DC. While not convenient for us, it might be for you.
2. Avoid the Greyhound
If you can, we recommend completely avoiding Greyhound buses. They pick up and drop off from the Port Authority in New York and this weird bus station/no-man’s land north of Union Station in DC. The amount of pigeon shit, rats, and wayward souls in both these locations are enough reason to avoid taking this line. On top of the dismal locations, Greyhound has proven pretty unreliable. They are known for random unexplained stops and the occasional breakdown. Plus some of their buses are brand new with leather seats, and some are most definitely not.
3. If all else fails, take the Chinatown bus
If all the luxury bus lines are sold out, it’s worth a shot on the Chinatown buses. The Chinatown buses do have a reputation for being sketchy, and we have seen odd things transported in addition to people (think bananas, t-shirts etc). However, they drop off and pick up in the Chinatowns of New York and DC, both of which are pretty central and convenient locations. Their bus drivers really know how to drive, too. They gun it down the highway at 80-90 mph on average, dodging slow cars and passing other buses. It’s pretty impressive and almost makes up for the sometimes dingy conditions of the bus (we’ve read reviews of bug-infested Chinatown buses, though we’ve never experienced an infestation ourselves). They are also very cheap, with some lines offering tickets for prices as low as $17.
4. Sign up for the loyalty program
Nearly all of these “luxury” bus lines provide a loyalty program, with initiation consisting solely of an email address and the creation of an account. With BoltBus, you can save your billing address online to allow for quick checkout. By purchasing your BoltBus ticket through your loyalty account, you are guaranteed an “A” level ticket, which allows you to board the bus before all the “B” or “C” class tickets. As a BoltBus “member” you will also earn “points” toward getting a free ticket. It may not make sense initially to tally these points if you do not travel as frequently, but it takes only the purchase of 10 rides to get a free ride, and rides can add up quickly.
5. Buy Your Ticket Early
It’s important, as well, to plan ahead. In the case of many “luxury” bus lines, you will be able to save a significant amount of money if you buy your ticket well ahead of time. Tickets purchased a month or so in advance can be as low as $8 in the case of Megabus or $14 in the case of BoltBus depending on what day of the week you wish to travel. As soon as you finalize your travel plans, it’s wise to purchase your tickets as soon as possible to guarantee the best deal.
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