How To Travel Around The USA Without Driving

If you’re worried about taking a trip to the USA when you can’t (or don’t want to) drive, this is the guide for you. I compiled this month-long travel itinerary which will take you from the insanely tall buildings of New York to the sweltering southern charm in Charleston, all via buses, trains and planes.

You will experience 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.

How To Get From New York To Charleston By Bus

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

Charleston is only a nights bus ride away from New York, but it’s an entirely different world. I will never forget wet heat, front porches and southern accents. To get from New York to Charleston, I booked an Atlantic Tours bus ticket with Gotobus. The tickets are $70 (£56.32) and the journey is 14 hours.


How To Get From Charleston To New Orleans By Plane

New Orleans is one of my favourites places in America thanks to Site 61, an alien-themed hostel 40 minutes from the French QuarterIn the first fifteen minutes of arriving, at Site 61, I went from not knowing anyone at all to having dinner with some Australians, going to a pool party across the street and discussing whether sapiosexuals are actually a thing.

Site 61 isn’t located in the safest part of town: about six people mistook me for a sex worker (including one guy who followed me in his car for about ten minutes) and there are a few people screaming to themselves. It is, however, a really fun, inclusive and homey hostel which you won’t want to leave.

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

How To Get From New Orleans To Memphis By Train

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.

The Amtrak from New Orleans to Memphis 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

How To Get From Memphis To Nashville Without Driving

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).

How To Get From Nashville To Chicago By Bus

Chicago skyline

Chicago is an amazing city full of free things. In the two days I spent 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).

How To Get From Chicago To Denver Without Driving

Wheatridge, Colorado

I didn’t spend much time in Denver, but Wheatridge (40 minutes away) is a beautiful town with mountain views, loads of legal 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.

To get to Denver from Chicago, I caught a £100 United Airlines flight. It took 2 hours and 45 minutes.

How To Get From Denver To Salt Lake City By Train

California Zephyr journey

I took the California Zephyr Amtrak from Denver to Salt Lake City. This is probably the most scenic and exciting train you will ever catch: the Amtrak goes up the mountains till you’re at the point where trees stop growing,  then down past mountain towns and lakes,  before rolling through a desert landscape which looks like it fell out of an old Western movie.

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

How To Get From Salt Lake City To Las Vegas By Bus

I very nearly didn’t go to Las Vegas, but I’m glad I didn’t miss this adult theme park with Eiffel tower replicas, lights which never turn off and tiny wedding chapels on every corner. 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).

How To Get From Las Vegas To San Diego

San Diego is a quintessential Californian city. When you’re there, it feels like you’ve climbed into a sandy beach 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).

How To Get From San Diego To Los Angeles

On the bus to Venice Beach, a man in a baby blue jacket told me I had a beautiful aurora. Los Angeles is much larger than I imagined and, out of everywhere I travelled in the US, it is the hardest city to get around without a car. The buses are on the side of huge highways, you’re never far away from petrol fumes and catching the bus will show you the poor, forgotten parts of LA. I didn’t find the people scary, but it’s far removed from the stereotypical image we have of the city of angels.

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 eleven hours.

Itinerary Breakdown: New York To Los Angeles

So that’s my travel itinerary from New York to Los Angeles. 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

Writer and social media person at Dirt and Glory media. Freelance comment moderator, freelance writer and travel enthusiast.

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