The lure of traveling for just $1 was too strong to ignore.
Megabus, the daily express bus service that expanded to include a hub in Atlanta last fall, has since added routes to Athens and New Orleans. It also offers direct travel to Knoxville, Gainesville, Fla., and other Southern cities sometimes excluded from express services.
The $1 travel fare isn’t a unique marketing technique, but Megabus is capitalizing on the “safe, convenient, low-cost” combination that appeals to riders sick of the gas price rollercoaster. Some trips via bus can easily cost you less than it would to drive yourself.
The trick is keeping costs to a minimum, which includes using double-decker buses, which haul more passengers but burn roughly the same amount of fuel as single-deckers, says Bryony Chamberlain, VP of operations for Megabus.
“We try and make sure we’re a very efficient operation — very few people in the senior planning management,” Chamberlin says. “We have the Internet[-only reservations], so that helps keep our overhead lower.”
I took a jaunt to Athens via Megabus last week to test it out. My round-trip price: $2.50 with the service fee.
Our driver, Tom, was from the Athens area, and began and ended both trips with multiple refrains of “Go, Dawgs!” from the driver’s seat. The man clearly enjoyed his job, announcing before departure, “I got three rules: Enjoy the ride, enjoy the ride, and don’t complain, I’m doing the best I can.”
Here’s a rundown of what to expect on Megabus:
Fares: At least one $1 fare is available for each (one-way) trip. Prices might increase based on the day of travel and how many other tickets have been purchased. Tickets for longer trips and the most common travel days, like Friday, top out at around $59, with a few exceptions. A 50-cent service fee is charged for each transaction. Wednesdays are the least common days to travel via Megabus, which means more $1 tickets are available.
Refunds: To avoid extra staffing and higher overhead, Megabus doesn’t offer refunds for cancellations. Reservation changes will incur a $1 service fee, and you won’t receive the difference back if you book a cheaper trip.
Wi-Fi: The buses provide free Wi-Fi Internet and outlets in which to plug your laptop, reader or tablet. The Megabus website (megabus.com) notes that there are no refunds if the Wi-Fi fails to work, but I had no problem patching in as soon as I boarded. I did experience issues streaming videos, so consider the length of your trip and what kind of access you’ll want.
Logistics: Tickets are available only online, and only with a credit card. The entire Megabus process, from start to finish, was easy. Once I made it to the departure point, the driver simply checked my printed receipt before inviting me on to the bus.
Travel time: Each trip will take a bit longer than it would if you drove yourself . . . but not by much. My trip to Athens was 1 hour and 40 minutes, and Megabus’ newest route to New Orleans has trips as short as 7 hours and 45 minutes. The trip to Athens was right on time; the return trip was eight minutes past schedule.
Would you consider taking a bus instead of a car for other trips across the Southeast?
– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter