Cool Tools: Gotobus.com and Busjunction.com

My niece has her own version of “The Wheels on the Bus” that she prefers to sing. For example, the “Ayi (me) on the bus goes ‘Hi Kiddo. Where is everybody? JON!!'” Apparently Ayi (which officially means “aunt on mother’s side” in Chinese, but does get loosely applied to any aunt-like person) leaves enough voice messages asking where everyone is when nobody answers and says JON!! a lot.

In any case, Ayi doesn’t really enjoy riding buses because they are slow and make her nauseous. So, all these newfangled features that come with today’s long-distance buses along the east coast, like Wifi and videos, don’t really do much to sway me to get on the bus. I believe it has to do with all the lurching braking action that trains don’t really have, which is why I would inevitably prefer the much more expensive Amtrak. I have managed to survive bus rides before, but with the same enthusiasm applied to roller coasters and worms.

But I am incredibly tempted by the low, low cost of riding the bus. $15-$20 from DC to New York can’t really be beat. In a car, it costs us $25 in tolls, plus gas, although we can just roll up to my dad’s house or wherever we are destined without having to switch to the subway, or, god forbid, another bus. For years my friends took the infamous Chinatown Bus home from college for $10 (really a conglomerate of several companies run by Chinese people, dropping off and picking up in Chinatowns throughout the East coast). Today, there’s also the sleek Bolt Bus (a partnership of Greyhound and Peter Pan in response to the competition of Chinatown bus), Megabus (the British company), Vamoose, and other non-Chinatown bus companies to whisk you off. And if you don’t have issues reading on a bus, and you pick non-traffic hours, then there’s really no good reason not to take the bus for a quarter of the price of a plane or train ticket. Now all the buses, including Chinatown buses, have plush seats, washrooms, videos (sometimes in Chinese, which can be entertaining if you’re guessing the plot), Wifi, and other comforts to compete with each other.

In the end, it appears price and location of pick up/ drop off win. There are two search engine sites that will aid in the process of booking your bus trip. The first, and more comprehensive, is Gotobus.com, which not only searches and books on the East Coast but also throughout the entire country and even Canada. The second is Busjunction.com, which functions more like Kayak except with buses. Each lists the cities and locations for pickup and drop-off, so if you want to go to Bethesda instead of downtown Washington, you can select that option. Likewise, if you live in midtown Manhattan, you can opt to pick up at Times Square than haul yourself down, downtown to Chinatown.

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