I took the journey by bus between Los Angeles & San Francisco three times in July/August 2018. Twice with Megabus and once with Greyhound.
They’re the two main bus companies connecting the cities, with Bolt Bus and Flix Bus also running. The prices/schedules for Bolt Bus didn’t work for me, and Flix Bus I only just discovered exist in the US having used them in Europe several times.
In this comparison of Greyhound vs. Megabus I will give my opinions on:
- Check in Procedure
But first, the question that everyone wants to know.
Did I feel safe on the Greyhound and/or Megabus buses?
Yes, I felt 100% safe on the three journies.
I was with a little bit of hesitant about going on the first bus from LA to SF in the hours leading up to boarding given the reputation (reputations can change!) of bus travel in the USA. Of course, I’m a solo male traveller so I can’t speak for female travellers bus there was no violence or weird behaviour on any of the trips. The only thing to note was a couple people bickering before boarding the Megabus from LA to San Francisco about the staff member not being able to do his job. They were being completely out of line (he was following the rules as per the website) and the staff member did well ignoring their insults. I wouldn’t have let them on the bus!
I have to give the edge to Greyhound here. The Megabus seats were the regular kind of bus seats you probably think of when imagining these buses. Some kind of wool I believe, they don’t state the material on the website. The Greyhound seats were leather, a nice upgrade since I caught a Greyhound bus a few years ago, and it felt clean and well looked after.
In terms of leg room, Greyhound had the edge too. They actually removed one seat from each row in their last interior upgrade. I’d hate to have had that experience, though it is possible I did and have forgotten as I did catch a Greyhound bus in Texas a few years back.
Wifi and chargers are always a big plus. There was working WiFi on all of the buses, charging points too. The WiFi was better on the Greyhound bus, but don’t expect quality WiFi on a bus route. I’ve always figured transport is a good chance to stay offline for a hwile.
p.s. I do feel a little bit conflicted having thought about the seat materials before. Both seats are likely made from animal products…interesting.
Bus Station Locations
In San Francisco the Greyhound and Megabus stations are about 1.5 miles apart. The Greyhound Station benefits from being close to the Muni/BART but I liked how the Megabus Station in San Francisco was connected to Caltrain Station with access to long-distance trains and local buses.
If you were arriving into San Francisco I’d prefer going to the Megabus Station as the access to buses and long distance trains is simple. If you’re leaving San Francisco, the Greyhound is more central to where most people stay therefore is easier to navigate.
In Los Angeles the Megabus Station is in the massive complex that is Union Station, a hub for people coming to and from LA with easy public transport access. The Greyhound Station is two miles away, and while it is a Greyhound Station specifically it’s not in Downtown LA and not close to the metro.
Of course, Uber and Lyft are obvious options for getting to both places too.
The schedules from day to day rarely change for both companies, so this is a straight up comparison. There are 13 buses from LA to San Francisco each day on the Greyhound service compared to six with Megabus. Both companies spread departure times throughout the day.
I’m writing this on the 31st of August and have been looking at the prices for all of September across both companies. The lowest price is $15 for each company if you book a couple weeks in advance. Otherwise, for most days you’re looking to pay around $20 for each during the week and around $30 for peak times (Friday and Sunday nights in particular).
Price is always going to be a factor (budget travel yo) for me, so I made sure to check both sites. I had a bit of flexibility with my times so took the cheapest option on each trip.
As you’d expect you don’t need to deal with the staff to much on these rides. I’ll chat more about the Megabus process below which involves the staff, but I have no complaints about them at all.
Check In Procedure
Before jumping in, let it be known I did not reserve a seat on either bus. If you’re in the same position, get there early as it’s first in, first serve. If you want a window seat, you know what to do.
Greyhound. At both the San Francisco and Los Angeles terminals, there are buildings dedicated to Greyhound services. This makes the check-in process much smoother as you line up at the specified gates that are either on screens or have staff making it clear where to go.
When they’re ready for you to board, the gate opens and you board. Simple!
Megabus. Note: I only took the Megabus in the LA to San Francisco direction, but can imagine it’s the same in both directions. When I arrived 45 minutes before the bus was due to leave, there was a Megabus staff member ready to take my name and booking reference before going to stand in the line a few metres away. Those first arriving get to be first in line to collect a board order card which they use to get everyone on the bus in some sort of order. When the bus arrived, they made everyone put their checked luggage in specific places depending on their destination, with so many people this didn’t work as well as it could of with people leaving their bags anywhere. When it’s time to board, those who have reserved a seat first board and then the staff start to call out the names of the board order cards. The system was effective as everyone wants a seat of their choice and would get pushy. But I don’t know why they can’t issue seat numbers when you’re booking your ticket…
Final Decision: Greyhound or Megabus?
I was not expecting that result. Even when I booked my bus from SF to LA with Greyhound, I was a little nervous because of the reputation they have as being, well, feral. How wrong I was! It looks like 2014 was a big year for Greyhound with a transformation of their entire brand which involved upgrades of the fleet and bus stations. It appears to have worked.
A Quick Tip For Cheap Greyhound & Megabus Tickets
Sign up to the Greyhound and Megabus newsletters. They have regular email deals, with coupons from time to time you can save $10 bucks or so from.
Why not Amtrak?
The cost of trains is way higher than any of the bus ticket prices. It’s as simple as that.
The general consensus is the train is more comfortable, but for someone like myself who is lucky enough to be able to sleep anywhere it was easy
Final Decision: Greyhound or Megabus?
Me being me, I take the cheapest option always. But if I wanted an enjoyable experience, I’d opt to take an Uber to the Greyhound bus station and catch the most convenient departure time.