How To Travel Around The USA Without Driving

If you’re looking for a USA travel itinerary that doesn’t involve driving, this guide is for you.

The California Zephyr, Colorado to Utah

This is a month-long travel itinerary that will take you from the insanely tall buildings of New York to the sweltering southern charm in Charleston, over to the tequila slushies in New Orleans.

You will venture into Elvis-obsessed Memphis, waltz into the Honky Tonks of Nashville, journey up the musical streets of Chicago,  and fly over the mountains of Colorado.

This trip will have you creeping past the temples of Salt Lake City, wandering through the crazy nightlife in Las Vegas, diving into the beaches of San Diego and end up on the other side of the country getting lost in L.A

Forget what you’ve heard about the Greyhound, the Amtrak and the Atlantic Express: I caught all three (some multiple times) and it was fine.

Plane: London To New York

View of New York from the Staten Island Ferry

I had to leave my house at 4 am to get the plane at 10: 30 am, so I was exhausted by the time I got to New York.

Thankfully, the plane was nice, the food was vegetarian and the selection of movies stopped me going insane.

I found a single Delta plane ticket from London Heathrow to JFK for £249.

The ticket was discounted because I have an STA student card. If you’re a student, you need to get your hands on one of those bad boys.

Bus: New York To Charleston

Before travelling to the USA, I had limited knowledge of the states.

I knew what New York looked like thanks to Friends and How I Met Your Mother, but I had no idea what a large, diverse country the USA really is.

Magnolia Plantation, Charleston SC

I booked an Atlantic Tours bus ticket from New York to Charleston with Gotobus. The tickets are $70 (£56.32) and the journey is 14 hours.

Walking tours are awesome. If you’re ever in New York or Charleston, check out Free Tours By Foot.

GotoBus

Plane: Charleston To New Orleans

New Orleans is one of my favourites places in America thanks to Site 61, an alien-themed hostel 40 minutes from the French Quarter. I book all my hostels through Hostelworld.

I got an American Airlines flight from Charleston to New Orleans for $208 (£160).

Amtrak: New Orleans To Memphis

I wanted to visit Austin Texas, but Hurricane Harvey made that impossible. I ended visiting Memphis instead and got my first taste of the legendary Amtrak.

The Amtrak broke down several times and it arrived two hours late, but it had amazing views of rural America. It cost around $100 (£70.26) because it was very last minute, but Amtrak tickets can be bought for $50+ in advance. You can also buy an Amtrak Pass with ACP Rail.

ACP Rail

Bus: Memphis To Nashville

Nashville, TN

On the way to Nashville, there was a woman sitting behind me on the Greyhound who had just got out of prison.

The guy sitting next to her had got out of prison a few years ago and they spent the five-hour journey talking about prison life,  how weird it was outside and how the woman had never been to New Orleans.

They seemed quite nice. The guy actually helped me pick out a chocolate bar from the machine when we had a break stop.

People act like the Greyhound is a hotbed of robbery, debauchery and violent snoring, but aside from the grimy windows and occasional character, it’s really not that bad.

The Greyhound trip from Memphis to Nashville takes five hours and costs  $20 (£14).

Bus: Nashville To Chicago

Chicago skyline

Chicago is an amazing city full of free things.

In the two days I was there I attended an outdoor jazz concert, visited the zoo, took a free bus, found some fabulous Instagram spots and stayed in a Musicians commune.

I caught the 9.55am Megabus from Nashville to Chicago. It took  9 hours and cost $25 (£17.54).

Plane: Chicago To Denver

Wheatridge, Colorado

I didn’t spend much time in Denver, but Wheatridge (40 minutes away) is a beautiful town with mountain views, loads of marijuana shops and a big supermarket that sold bread with enzymes in it.

I’m not sure why Americans put enzymes in bread, but there you go.

I got to Denver by catching a £100 United Airlines flight.

Amtrak: Denver To Salt Lake City

California Zephyr journey

I took the California Zephyr Amtrak from Denver to Salt Lake City.

You go up through the mountains till you’re at the point where trees stop growing,  then down past mountain towns and lakes,  into the desert, past scenery that looks like it fell out of an American Western and slowly emerge into Utah.

The train cost $69 (£48.43) and took 10 hours. I highly recommend you smoke some weed before departing.

Get Amtrak Passes with ACP Rail. 

Rail Passes and train tickets worldwide

Bus: Salt Lake City To Las Vegas

Vegas, Baby

I very nearly didn’t go to Las Vegas, but I’m glad I didn’t miss this insane, larger than life, tackier than tacky and yet magical city.

You can lose a lot of money in Vegas, but there are also $1 beers, free drinks (as long as you gamble) and a Walmart that’s accessible by bus!

I took the greyhound from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas. It cost $52 (£36.50).

Bus: Las Vegas To San Diego

San Diego is a quintessential Californian city with beaches that look like they fell out of a postcard.

I spent most of my time at the Beach Bungalow hostel and didn’t see much of the city, but the hostel was right on the beach so you can’t really blame me.

I caught the greyhound at 12:01 am and got to San Diego at 8:40 am. It cost $52 (£36).

Bus: San Diego To Los Angeles

L.A

On the bus to Venice Beach, a man in a baby blue jacket told me I had a beautiful aurora.

I got the Greyhound from San Diego to Los Angeles. It cost $18.50 (£16) and took 3 hours 10 minutes.

Plane: Los Angeles To London

I flew back to London with Norweigan airlines.

They have crazy modern planes with special windows that are meant to help you sleep, a really good in-flight magazine and a fair selection of movies.

The ticket cost £234.90 and the flight took around eleven hours.

Summary

So that’s my travel itinerary from New York to L.A. I was there for about five weeks and the travel cost £1039,99 including international flights.

Without the international flights, it only cost £556. The whole trip ended up costing around £2000.

If you’d like to read more detailed articles about my USA adventures, check out my other posts!

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About Sophia Moss

Freelance journalist, copywriter & travel blogger. Bylines with Ethaid by Atlas, Easyjet Traveller, Prospect Magazine, The Sun Online, Litro Magazine.

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