5 safety tips for riding intercity buses in the USA

30 Jun

The past week I’ve traveled from New York, NY to Richmond VA, and then to Charleston, SC. In this time I’ve done a lot of travel by America’s iconic intercity Greyhound buses. For the most part, Greyhound buses are a no frills, low cost way to get from point A to point B. The Greyhound system is far more extensive and cheaper to use than the Amtrak system. So why do so many avoid it like the plague?

America, more so than most places, has a huge, often racist stigma around the types of people who ride the bus. Many middle class, suburban Americans would rather spend a lot of extra money to fly or even take Amtrak than even consider taking the Greyhound bus. A google search for “Greyhound horror stories” can bring up many results that scare travelers away.

To some extent, the fear of taking the bus is understandable. The bus stations, outside of Boston and New York, are often not located in very nice neighborhoods. And while I think the stereotypes about bus riders are usually not true and often racist, it is important to be careful. I’ve been on buses people who argue with the driver about where the bus station is. I once saw a woman get in between the door of the bus and the curb, arguing with the driver about where her ticket allowed her to get off after she was supposed to leave. And one time there was a dude who walked up and tried to talk to me while I was washing my hands. Soon after, a Greyhound security officer walked into the bathroom and made him leave the station, so apparently he must have been up to no good.

This, however, should not scare travelers away from taking the bus. Usually, it is a cheap way to get around America, and it’s a shame more travelers don’t use it. For the most part, my Greyhound bus journeys have been uneventful and good value. Here are five tips for riding the bus.

1. Sit near the front of the bus

From a safety perspective, the front of the bus is where to be. The front is close to the driver, less bumpy, and away from the weird people who tend to cluster in the back of the bus. Get in line for your bus departure earlier than most do, so you’ll have a good choice of seat.

2. Don’t make eye contact with strangers

I always follow this one just to be safe. If someone thinks you are staring at them, they may be provoked.

3. Be willing to say “NO”

Several times, beggars have asked me for money in the bus stations. Another thing some of them do is try to start a conversation with you about something or give you advice, then, once you’re talking to them, they’ll say “just one thing, could I please have fifty cents?”. It can be awkward, but the safest, smartest, thing to do is to say a firm “NO” and swiftly walk away.

4. Don’t flaunt any signs of wealth

This is an important one. Don’t have your new smartphone out all the time, don’t leave your laptop unattended, and don’t wear expensive clothing. Doing any of these things makes you a target.

5. Don’t leave the stations except by taxi (unless you know for sure the area is safe)

Violent crime in the United States has been on the decline since the early 1990s, but there are still plenty of places where you have to be very careful. The greyhound stations, which tend to be located in dodgy neighborhoods, are usually heavily policed, with many guards and security cameras. If you stray outside of them, understand that you may be in a dangerous area, be careful, and take a taxi if it’s your last stop and you’re going to where you’re staying.

The most important thing: DON’T BE AFRAID TO RIDE THE BUS

From my experience, most Greyhound journeys are hassle free. You may meet a new friend on the bus, and you’ll certainly get to your destination. Be sure, however, to leave long connection times if you’re changing buses. Traffic can be pretty bad in some places.





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