Megabus can save you mega bucks

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


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7 comments Add your comment

Mike Shaft

May 8th, 2012
7:07 am

I would take a bus to Athens, but I need one that provides a good same-day return. The Megabus leaves at 11a and doesn’t return from Athens until about 630p, putting me back in Atlanta at 810p. Would be good to see an 8a/9a departure with a 3p/4p return from Athens.

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Stacey

May 8th, 2012
9:03 am

I plan to take a few days off this summer with my son so this might be something fun and economical for us to do one day. I also see this as a good thing for students to use as a way to check out a few college campuses and towns if time permits. Sounds good to me!

Money Saving Mom

May 8th, 2012
9:34 am

I booked a trip for 3 to Jacksonville, Florida from July 4-8 and paid only $32.50 roundtrip.

Victor

May 8th, 2012
9:42 am

I’ve used Megabus a half-dozen times since they entered the Atlanta market in November of 2011.

I’ve been to Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham and Jacksonville.

The most I have ever paid was $17 one way, and several times paid only $1 or $5 per ticket.

Like any mass-transit option, you do find a few exceptional passengers on every trip.

On my trip to Birmingham, I found myself giving a courtesy lecture on using the internet to a blind octogenarian.

Some things to mention for anyone considering MegaBus:

1. Only one checked bag per person.
2. There is no overhead storage on the double-decker buses, and the space under the seat is very limited, so if you bring a largish carry-on, you may have it on your lap for most of the trip.
3. There is power and wifi on most of the buses, but the wifi doesn’t always work.
4. You can bring your laptop, but there is no tray table, so again you will be using your laptop on your lap.
5. On longer routes (more than 4 hours) there will be a meal/rest stop around the half way. So as an example this means Tifton if you are going to Jacksonville. If you plan to eat, you need to run off the bus to get to the front of the line or you will be waiting in the fast food line for longer than the bus stop.

Well, that’s all I can think of. It is a good value, but I would compare it to traveling on Spirit Airlines.

After a couple of trips, you will consider paying the extra $$ to fly on Delta.

Bon Voyage. ;)

Lauren Davidson

May 8th, 2012
12:54 pm

Thanks to everyone sharing their experiences!

LVB

May 8th, 2012
3:03 pm

I really enjoyed my trip on the Megabus from Atlanta to Memphis. I will be riding the bus again soon!!