The China Town Bus
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It won’t cost you extra and it’ll make my day.
I was in Croatia a few months ago and I met a bunch of Americans at a hostel there. I told them I was planning on taking a trip to the USA and I was going to be using buses, trains, and planes to get around. The Americans seemed genuinely horrified.
They told me the buses would be full of criminals and homeless people, that people would be eating greasy burgers literally in my face, and that it would be so bad that I would literally pray for death.
They were worried about the Grayhound, but I went one step further and picked an even less established form of transport. I caught the Atlantic Tours bus from NYC to Charleston.
The Atlantic Tours Bus, I.E The China Town Bus
It wasn’t exactly luxury travelling, but it was hardly the hell hole that had been described. The windows could do with a good clean, but I didn’t see any bed bugs lurking anywhere.
The seats were surprisingly comfortable and were automatically set to recline so you could sleep, there were USB power sockets so you could charge your phone, and there were parents with young children on the bus so it didn’t seem particularly threatening. There were also several other women travelling alone.
I’m guessing the guy sitting next to me was affiliated with some sort of gang judging from the content of his many phone conversations, but he seemed perfectly polite.
The people on the bus sometimes played videos on their phones without headphones so it could get a bit annoying, but that was pretty much my biggest complaint along with the obvious lack of sleep.
The bus route wasn’t exactly scenic. I’m not sure why the highways have been set up like this, but there are tall trees blocking your view of anything past the sides of the road.
One thing I will say about this bus is that when we got to South Carolina the people going to Charleston were transferred into a minivan which took us right into the downtown section.
This was great because the hostel was really close and there was no need to pay extra for an Uber. The bus was also promptly on time, which is more than I can say for the trains or planes in the USA.
All in all the bus wasn’t that different from the long-distance coaches you’d find in Europe. Be prepared to compromise on sleep if you want to save money, but don’t be scared of the bus itself or the people on it. Just because someone may not be totally above board in their regular life doesn’t mean they mean you any harm.
Just be polite and most people will follow suit. You might get a few characters, but most people really aren’t looking to harm you just for the sake of it.
The drivers don’t speak tons of English, but they are nice and they’ll answer any questions you may have.
Do keep hold of your personal belongings and don’t leave your bags on the bus, but as long as you keep hold of everything and you’re not rude to anyone you should be fine.
Remember that Americans in the USA really don’t catch public transport a lot and so the person you’re talking to may not actually have any real experience with the bus system.
If you’re used to long-distance coach travel in Europe or Asia then you’ll be alright.