America, first of all forgive me for thinking you would have public transport system as good as, if not better, than Australia’s, but you need to take a long, hard look at the systems you have now and do something about them. ASAP! Seriously, I never knew that it would be so hard to travel within and between states in America on public transport! Ok, let me try to explain this to you. If you were staying in San Jose, to get to San Francisco’s Bay Area first you would have to take the Light Rail to Downtown San Jose, then board a train run by a DIFFERENT COMPANY, then a tram run by ANOTHER different company, and finally a bus, also run by a different company! AMERCA!! What is so hard about putting into place a single company that operates your trams, trains and busses? One ticket, 3 different transportation methods. Simple! One company, one fare to get to any destination!
OK, rant over. I’m going to try to explain how we have travelled across America on the tight budget we have, and share a few tips for future American wander lusters.
We began our American leg in Los Angeles, before heading up to Lodi, then San Jose, San Francisco, Chicago, Indiana, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Washington D.C, Niagara Falls and finally New York. You could say we nearly did Route 66, just never travelled on Route 66.
From my rant above you have probably realized that getting around California wasn’t that easy, but now that we’ve travelled to other states in America I’ve realized that California was probably one of the most connected states.
Amtrak is the one and only national train service that runs across America, which only means one thing: High prices. We tried to avoid using Amtrak for this very reason, however sometimes it was unavoidable, especially when travelling between towns and cities. A 7-hour journey between Los Angeles and Lodi cost us $50 on the service, and that was with a 20% student discount. You can get this student discount by using an ISIC card (International Student Identity Card – costs AUD$30) or a Student Advantage card (costs USD$20).
The cheapest way to get around America is on a bus, particularly Megabus. While this bus doesn’t serve he west coast, it is a life and money saver for all states from central America to the east coast. Fares start at $1 if you book far enough in advance, but we booked our Chicago to Indiana leg, a 5-hour journey, for $8 each. Another crazy good deal we scored was Philadelphia to Washington D.C, a 3.5-hour journey for only $5! Something to note about Megabus is the bus itself. You wouldn’t be wrong to think that these busses would hold the bear minimum, yet what is included in the price is probably as luxurious as a bus can get. Free Wi-Fi, power outlets, reclining seats, light and AC options AND a full, panoramic glass sun roof stretching the entre length of the bus on the second deck. Megabus is definitely the way to go.
Bolt Bus & Greyhound
Another option for cheap travel is Bolt Bus, another bus service similar to Megabus, only this company serves the west coast and the east coast. No services to the central states here. Greyhound is the most popular bus service in America, and prices can be fairly low if you book them far enough in advance, but there is no beating the $5 fares of Megabus and Bolt Bus.
If I have one regret of how we went about travelling through America is the fact that we ALWAYS missed out on the super super good deals on bus or train fares because we never booked when they were still cheap! All the cheapest bus companies always hike their prices up as the travel date gets nearer, and somehow we never learned to book our tickets while they were still cheap! So if you see a price that you like, book it! Even if you don’t end up travelling on that day, then the worst you can lose is $5.
America is a huge country, and you can’t underestimate the time it will take to travel interstate. Sometimes flying can be the cheapest way to travel, surprisingly. We’ve flown within America twice, because airfares were either cheaper or equal to the price of travelling by bus. American Airlines often have cheap deals, but keep an eye out for the dirt cheap Frontier Air fares. We scored a $40 flight from Indiana to Philadelphia! (American carriers never include baggage.) Cheap flights are generally on Tuesday’s. Try to search for your flight on a Tuesday or Wednesday in the morning. Prices always rise at night.
So with this in mind, good luck! Remember to book in advance, travel on busses but don’t forget to check prices to fly.