This past weekend Rafael and I went to Wilmington, Delaware for my cousin’s wedding. This is the second time we have taken this trip (last year for Thanksgiving with extended family was the first). Both times we took the Greyhound bus. We take buses out of NYC a lot, actually. We go to DC every three months or so since half of my family lives there. Usually, we take the Bolt Bus or Megabus, which just pick you up on the side of the road in a generally remote location (as remote as you can get in NYC, of course).
After standing in the wrong line for 30 minutes, waiting for over 45 minutes after our departure time for the bus to leave, having no a/c on the bus,and having to sit in the back of the bus next to the bathroom and on top of the engine spewing hot air on our legs I felt it necessary to write a short post about the best way for visitors to survive the purgatory that is Port Authority.
1. Do Not Confuse Port Authority with Penn Station
Port Authority is the bus (and only bus) terminal located in Times Square. Penn Station is the train station for the Metro North, Long Island Railroad and NJ Transit train system. Yes, it seems obvious when you read this, but you will get confused. Even as a local who frequents both, I forget and end up at the wrong place.
2. Print Your Ticket
Yes, we are living in a technologically heavy time, but bus stations are not. The Megabus and Bolt Bus accept electronic tickets – Greyhound/Peter Pan does not. As far as I’ve seen there are zero exceptions. They will turn you away and will not let you on the bus without a printed ticket.
3. Ask for Gate Information
I am the kind of person who likes to be places early. This includes standing in line in a hot, brutalist bus terminal in the hopes of getting a seat next to my husband. As I mentioned previously, we stood in the wrong line for over 30 minutes before we overheard a conversation that we were in the wrong line. Why were we in the wrong line? When you walk in to Port Authority there are big, beautiful, interactive electronic boards where you can search your bus by departure time, bus number, or destination to find out which gate you are departing from. Gate 75, you say? I’m on it! When we arrived at Gate 75 there is a physical board sign showing the bus from Mt. Laurel departing from Gates 74 and 75, alternating so Gate 75 is open at 5:30 (obviously for my bus). Turns out, that sign has been there for years and is wrong. All Mt. Laurel buses depart from Gate 75. We ended up at the back of the line for the Wilmington bus and all we should have done is ask. Don’t trust any information regarding the gates (except their physical location as that doesn’t change) or you’ll end up in the wrong line and be forced to sit next to the toilet and on top of the engine.
4. Have Patience
Your bus will probably be late. Nobody cares about your plans or your impatience. Take a deep breath and know that you will get to your destination eventually.
5. Yes, Greyhound is a Decent Way to Travel
Bolt Bus and Megabus are great ways to travel (cleaner, nicer, timelier) to the larger cities (Megabus does offer more locations and travels as far as Atlanta, GA) but Greyhound still offers more options. I searched North Carolina as it’s my home state and Greyhound travels from NYC to over 40 cities in NC, some I have never even heard of. Did you know there is a Washington, NC? I didn’t. Greyhound goes there. It also goes to Charlotte, Asheville, Fayetteville (Ft. Bragg), Wilmington, Raleigh, and Durham.
Bolt Bus and Megabus also tend to have surge pricing based on the demand that Greyhound doesn’t. But if you order early (and I mean really early) you could, possibly, maybe get a ticket for $1. It’s never happened to me, but it’s their main advertisement.
Final note: No, you will generally not find a train ticket (from Penn Station, remember?) cheaper than a bus ticket. Buses are the way to travel in the USA right after airlines.
Good Luck and God Speed.