I know that my name is Johnny Jet, not Johnny Bus, but above all, I like to save money and time and avoid hassles when I travel—and sometimes taking the bus is the best option.
This week, I learned a valuable trick while booking a Greyhound ticket from Erie, Pennsylvania to Mississauga, Ontario (just outside of Toronto). The price for the journey was $52.50 for a last-minute ticket (24 hours in advance), a great deal because flying from Erie to Toronto costs anywhere between $250 and $950 for a one-way ticket. Flying also requires a change of planes and riding on a cramped prop plane unless you fly on one of Delta’s tired regional jets (that’s the $950).
When I noticed there was a transfer in Buffalo, I decided to price my ticket out as two one-ways instead of one. Sure enough, the price went down drastically! A ticket from Erie to Buffalo was only $12 (above) and then the ticket from Buffalo to Mississauga was just $20 (below). By breaking it into two trips I saved almost 40 percent. Crazy, right?
Speaking of crazy and annoying, Greyhound has these archaic rules that say you HAVE to either print your ticket or pick it up at Will Call an hour before your trip, using a password and the credit card you paid with. Unlike with an airline boarding pass, if you lose your ticket, you’re can’t show them your email confirmation to get around it. You’re just out of luck. Oh, and then there’s the $18 charge if the person who’s traveling is not using his or her own credit card. Ridiculous, right?
To print or not to print
I was at my sister’s summer house during all of this, under the impression that the printer didn’t work (because it didn’t last year and my nephew said it was still broken). So I selected Greyhound’s Will Call option and was hit with an additional $2.50 Will Call fee (see screenshot above). I decided to get off my butt and go downstairs to make sure that the printer really was broken—and it turned out that it wasn’t. Good news. I redid my reservation to print at home and guess what? As you can see from the screenshot below, Greyhound also charges a $2.50 booking fee for using a credit card!
Something smells funny, right? Why doesn’t Greyhound just include this fee in the fare instead of trying to sucker us from the get-go? I’m guessing that they must not get taxed on the booking fee, which is pretty slimy, wouldn’t you say?
Erie to Buffalo, and what I learned along the way
The good news is that the bus rides were uneventful and I learned some valuable info that will better prepare you for your own trip. Starting with:
- I didn’t need to show up an hour before departure time as their website had suggested. I could have just shown up a few minutes before since I had my printed ticket in my hand.
- You need your ID but the drivers just glance at it quickly.
- Like a nervous Nelly, I showed up 30-minutes early and asked the attendant working the Greyhound ticket booth if the bus was on time. He said he’d heard it was. Heard? Not sure why Greyhound hasn’t implemented the same technology as Uber or doesn’t require the drivers to send a Glympse so they know exactly where their drivers are.
- The bus was just a couple of minutes late and when it pulled up, a bunch of derelicts ran off for a quick smoke before heading out again. All of them were sitting in the way back so I suggest getting a seat closest to the driver for peace, quiet and safety.
- The bus was a little ratty and could’ve used a deep clean. The armrests also needed replacing but the seats reclined and there were electrical outlets.
- Greyhound claims they have Wi-Fi but my computer and phone wouldn’t connect (probably a good thing since it’s unsecured).
- About 30 minutes into the ride, the driver announced that we were making a 15-minute stop at a McDonald’s on the PA/NY border. Pretty much everyone got off and bought food, and I went to use the loo since it’s no fun using the one on the bus. Since my driver was so nice, I decided I was going to buy him lunch by handing the cashier my credit card before he handed over his. But before I could, I noticed the cashier called over a manager who then pulled out a piece of paper and had the driver sign something. I’m guessing Greyhound has a deal where they get some dollars and the drivers get free food if they bring passengers to a specific McDonald’s. I can’t say for sure, but it saved me a few bucks and should save you, too.
- Tip: Send your loved ones a Glympse so they know exactly where you are and when to leave to pick you up.
We arrived into Buffalo 20-minutes late, but I still had plenty of time to catch the bus to Mississauga, which wasn’t until 6:30 pm. I was happy to see they had cleaned up the Buffalo station up a bit by tearing down the nasty cement-wall food shop and replacing it with a bright and open Tim Horton’s. But I wasn’t happy when my driver informed me my next bus might be an hour late.
He told me it was possible that they’d add another bus or better yet, that I’d be able to get on the earlier bus to Toronto. I was told to hang out by door number 4 and when I saw a Toronto bus pull up, I got excited. Rarely, do these things go in my favor but believe it or not, this they time they did. When I asked if the bus was going to Mississauga, the driver told me that yes, it was, and asked for my passport and ticket. Just like that, I was off early and on the express bus to Toronto, with the only stops being the border and Mississauga.
The Buffalo-to-Toronto bus is operated by Trailways, not Greyhound, and was a bit nicer. It too had electrical outlets but no Wi-Fi. It also had a noticeably different class of passengers onboard. No gold teeth or scary characters lookin’ for a quick smoke. Most were traveling from the Buffalo airport since it’s so much cheaper to fly to/from Buffalo than it is Toronto.
The Canadian border is just 10 minutes from Buffalo. I was impressed with how the Canucks ran their border where we crossed (usually they aren’t very nice). Our bus was completely full, with 50 passengers, and to steady the flow, they began the process by having the first five rows get off first and grab our bags, including the checked luggage. Families went together to speak to immigration officers and they had all five counters manned. It took only 20 minutes for them to process everyone on the bus and we were off.
Good to know: There’s no bathroom at the border stop but there is one on the bus. There was no traffic and it took just 2 hours and 20 minutes from the time I left Buffalo to get to the Mississauga stop at Dixie Mall.
Overall it was a very pleasant experience and you can’t beat the price.
Even More Good to know: Keep in mind if your first bus is late and you miss your connection you will most likely have to buy a whole new second ticket or plea for an agent or driver to let you slide.
Wow. That’s something to think about – the Amtrak and Via trains take about 4 hours at the border to process everyone, whether you’re going in or out, headed for Montreal or Toronto. 20 minutes is amazing! Of course, the trains have hundreds of people on them, not just 50 or so, and a lot more places to potentially hide stuff. This is definitely an option to consider. I could do a combination Amtrak (U.S.) to border/bus to Toronto trip, and save time AND money.