Travel isn’t getting any cheaper these days. The combination of gas prices and increased airplane and train fares is enough to make you rethink your weekend getaway. But there’s an increasingly popular way to get out of Washington for a few days on the cheap: a bus trip to New York City. Rides take about 4½ hours and round-trip fares typically cost $35 to $50—sometimes you can even score fares as cheap as $1.
There have been Greyhounds as well as buses departing from Chinatown for several years now, but the competition has recently grown. New bus lines have begun to pop up, and riders are realizing they have more options.
Matthew Yglesias, a senior editor at the Center for American Progress, has been riding buses to New York from Washington for five years and has tried four different bus lines. “Over time, the services and amenities have steadily improved as a result of competition,” he says. “The introduction of wi-fi on some lines and electrical outlets on BoltBus is a big step forward, especially for someone in my line of work.”
Ultimately, it comes down to how much money you’re willing to fork over. A ticket on a cheaper bus line, such as Chinatown’s Apex Bus, costs $20 one-way or $35 round-trip. But if you’re willing to spend $28 one way or $50 round-trip for a more pricey line such as DC2NY (whose slogan is “The Upscale Bus”), you’ll get free bottled water, free wi-fi, a vote for the movie played during the trip, and the guarantee of a clean restroom.
A few extra bucks don’t guarantee a smooth ride, however. All of the buses have their share of complaints. Take it from Carra Fowlkes, a legal assistant in Washington, who has taken trips on both ends of the price scale but favors DC2NY. When asked about her worst experience with a bus to New York, she says, “It’s a tie. Once on the Chinatown bus, the door was broken and swung open and closed the entire ride. Once on a DC2NY ride, the driver left someone at a rest stop when he was 34 seconds late.”
Most regular bus riders will agree, however, that your experience on almost any bus can be hit or miss. Still, some lines have earned reputations. Chinatown buses are said to be cheap and fast but not the most comfortable or convenient. BoltBus and DC2NY are some of the newer lines that have generally positive reviews for their wi-fi and convenient bus stops. Vamoose bus line takes passengers from Arlington and Bethesda to New York and back, which appeals to Virginia and Maryland riders.
John Spykerman, a Foreign Service officer with the State Department who takes the bus to New York every other month, started with Greyhound in 2000. Now he uses some of the newer lines. “One time,” he says, “we made it from DC to New York City in three hours and 50 minutes on a $15 ticket, with a departure just four blocks from my house. If that could happen every time, there’d be no comparison with planes, trains, or cars.”
Sometimes there are problems that are out of anyone’s control, from traffic jams to flat tires. But really, how much should be expected of these buses? You’re saving money, and some lines even offer fares as low as $1 if you buy your ticket early enough.
There’s no sure way to avoid a bumpy ride, but to get you started we’ve created a guide to help you decide which bus is most convenient for you. Your next decision? What to do during your weekend in the Big Apple.
Have you had a particularly good or bad experience on one of the DC-to-New York bus lines? Tell us in the comments!
Web site: boltbus.com.
Online price: $1 to $25 one way, depending on the demand for each trip.
Walkup price: $25.
Free wi-fi? Yes.
Number of Friday trips to New York: 16.
Number of Sunday trips to DC: 16.
DC bus stop: 11th and G sts., NW.
New York bus stops: 33rd St. and Seventh Ave.; Canal St. and Sixth Ave.
More: Each seat has an identification number, so if you purchase your ticket online, your seat is guaranteed.
Web site: dc2ny.com.
Online price: $28 one way, $50 round-trip.
Walkup price: $30.
Free wi-fi? Yes.
Number of Friday trips to New York: Seven, with expanded holiday service.
Number of Sunday trips to DC: Six, with expanded holiday service.
DC bus stops: Dupont Circle; 14th St. between H and I sts., NW.
New York bus stop: W. 34th St. between Seventh and Eighth aves.
More: DC2NY members (registration is free) pay $46 round-trip and $25 one way.
Web site: megabus.com/us.
Online price: $1 to $24, depending on the demand for each trip.
Walkup price: $14 to $24, depending on the day of the trip and the demand. Sold only for trips from New York to DC.
Free wi-fi? Yes.
Number of Friday trips to New York: 14.
Number of Sunday trips to DC: 14.
DC bus stop: 11th G sts., NW.
New York bus stop: 31st St. and Eighth Ave.
More: Buses stop in Baltimore.
Company: Apex Bus.
Web site: apexbus.com.
Online price: $20 one way, $35 round-trip.
Walkup price: $20 one way, $35 round-trip.
Free wi-fi? Yes, on some buses.
Number of Friday trips to New York: 18.
Number of Sunday trips to DC: 20.
DC bus stop: 610 I St., NW.
New York bus stops: 252 W. 31st St.; 13 Allen St. (in Chinatown).
More: Buses often stop in Baltimore.