I recently took a little three-day getaway trip from Minneapolis to Chicago. Since driving through Chicago is a major pain, I figured this would be a good time to test the two big Midwestern bus companies – the oh-so-trendy Megabus, and the eternally derided Greyhound. So how do the two stack up?
Despite the scuzzy reputation, Greyhound’s stations are actually pretty nice. Security guards, remarkably clean restrooms, and a solid selection of vended goods. Megabus, on the other hand, picks you up and drops you off on an unstaffed, poorly-marked street corner. This one isn’t even close.
Megabus’ fleet is newer than Greyhound’s, which means the buses come with fresher upholstery, cleaner aisles, and free Wi-Fi, although the latter is frequently broken. The buses on the Minneapolis-Chicago run are double-deckers, which has a certain UK touristy appeal to it – but it also means that they don’t have overhead storage space for luggage. Greyhound had more legroom and significantly more storage space for baggage. When you’re 6’3” that last piece means a lot.
Bboth the Megabus and the Greyhound I rode were quiet. Megabus seemed to have a few overchatty students and a driver intercom that must have been turned to 11, while Greyhound had a crying baby and a very smelly guy. Nothing too traumatic in either case.
On Megabus, if you buy 2-3 weeks in advance, you can get a Minneapolis to Chicago ticket for $5-10, especially if you take the overnight bus. Greyhound doesn’t go below $25. But if you’re buying even a week out, it’s pretty much a wash – Megabus’ fares quickly rise to match Greyhound’s.
WINNER: Megabus, if you’re the plan-ahead type. Otherwise, draw.
Megabus covered the trip in eight hours – ahead of schedule, and including a generous half hour rest stop. Greyhound’s overnight trip took eight and a half hours, but their day trips take up to nine and a half. More stops means more time on the bus, and although Greyhound has cut down on the number of dull Wisconsin cities where buses stop, Megabus clearly takes the “Express” mantra more to heart.
If you’re planning well in advance of your trip, and it’s a quick getaway, Megabus is probably the smarter ticket. You can get a lower fare (although probably not that much lower), it’s a bit quicker, and you might get Wi-Fi if the gods are smiling on you. That being said, although Greyhound is a bit less efficient and probably an hour slower, there’s more legroom, a much more generous luggage allowance, a wider range of destinations, and legitimate stations. All in all, either is a cheap and reasonably pleasant way to get away.
WINNER: On points, Megabus. But it’s close.