The stench of weed and body odour is in the air. Homeless people and nefarious individuals sleep and loiter on benches outside of the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Downtown Los Angeles. One man comes up to us, “Hey man, have you got any spare change?”, it’s 5am and people are already asking me for money.
Being near Skid Row does have its advantages though, if you are homeless or a crackhead, but fortunately we pulled up outside of the terminal and walked straight in. I would not walk here regardless of how close you are to the terminal, especially early in the morning or at night.
The dismal reviews on Yelp should be warning enough to stay away from Greyhound, but the $16 bus tickets were too cheap to ignore. The old saying, “You get what you pay for” can’t be any more true.
We line up and get our tickets and luggage tags. This part was really easy and the staff were friendly. My fiancee had a small suitcase that looks like carry on and is quite wide, we asked if we should check it on as luggage and she said that it would fit as carry on, so we go to carry it on.
As we were lining up, one of the guys who were loading baggage said that it wouldn’t fit as carry on and that he would load it under the bus for us. We thanked him and got on the bus.
Shortly after getting on the bus, the driver named Gorman or Gordon (or whatever his name is) comes onto the bus shouting holding up Marie’s small suitcase shouting, “Who’s bag is this?”
Marie then responds that it is hers and he says, “Where is your luggage tag? You can’t load luggage on without a tag” we tried to explain that the lady at the counter said it could be carry on, but as we were getting on, the man handling the luggage put it under for us. He walked off shaking his head and put it back under the bus.
This was a taste of what was to come on our eight our journey.
The trip was horrible. It was like being in a school bus full of teenagers. People playing loud music from their phones, the bus driver subsequently shouting at them to turn the music down. A guy using his phone like a walkie talkie (what is up with that?). Some guy was snoring loudly. A lady was coughing without covering her mouth, prompting the bus driver to come over the speaker and tell people to cover their mouths when coughing.
Some teens at the back were putting their feet up on the seat, prompting the bus driver to stop at traffic lights and yelling at them, “Show some respect or I’ll kick you off the bus” – this I agreed with. I don’t want to sit on a seat someone has put their feet up on, who knows where they have been.
One of our stops, the bus driver turned a corner too late and hit a stop sign with the right side mirror. It didn’t break, but seemed to trigger some kind of sensor, because the bus was beeping constantly about 20 minutes after, with the driver constantly stopping to fix up the placement of the mirror. This was a taste of things to come, the swerving on the highway, over the vibrating white lines constantly, made it impossible to sleep or feel safe.
The most entertaining aspect of the trip from Downtown Los Angeles to Las Vegas was definitely the stop in Barstow. If you want to see interesting people and by interesting I mean gang members, prostitutes and other nefarious individuals, look no further than Barstow. Fortunately we made it out of there, bullet hole free (my bulletproof vest was in the wash at the time).
If you like the smell of stale urine, you are going to love taking the bus with Greyhound. I don’t know if it was the toilets or some people who soiled themselves, but the bus smelled and we were at the front. I actually got a headache from the smell.
The wifi and electricity outlets worked (thank heavens). The wifi was the standard bus fare, good in some parts and completely unusable in a few others. The seats were surprisingly comfortable and clean, not much leg room though (compared to rivals like BoltBus or MegaBus).
My favourite part was when we were in downtown Las Vegas and the bus driver was pointing out a few things, he pointed out the location of the ferry and someone asked, “How much is the ferry?” and he replied, “How the hell would I know man, I am a bus driver” in a sarcastic and rude tone. Why point something out if you don’t want to be asked questions?
We were happy to see Vegas and subsequently get off the bus. No tip was given to the driver for his bad attitude (we usually tip good bus/taxi drivers). But I am sure he is probably used to not getting a tip for his customer service by now.
Part 2: The return trip home from Las Vegas to Los Angeles
We arrive at the small bus terminal. There is one lady behind the counter called Ashely for what was a very long line. She was courteous, patient when we were struggling to find our trip details in our email and happy.
The terminal itself although small seemed safe, it did smell a little dingy like an old casino or motel. After reading some reviews online about how unsafe this place is and the people that hang around it, I was expecting a miniature Skid Row inside of the terminal, but surprised to see somewhat normal people there.
I can’t attest for what this place is like at night (I read that it isn’t good), so if you can, take a trip on a bus during the day.
Everything goes smoothly. We check in Marie’s smaller carry on looking bag as luggage for a $15 fee to save any issues. We line up and get a seat. The bus driver on this return trip seems a whole lot nicer, a guy by the name of Raymond. He was fairly talkative and professional.
In-fact, his announcement as we left off was surprising. He detailed procedures for getting out of the bus in an emergency (how to open up the windows and roof panels), where the fire extinguisher is and what to do in a medical emergency. The trip on the way here had no such info.
More surprisingly, this return bus didn’t smell like a nursing home. The bus was clean, the people on the bus were all normal and listened (for the most part to the drivers instructions). There was no loud music or any other behaviour. Best of all, Raymond knows how to drive, so I felt comfortable that I was not going to die on this bus ride today.
It seems most people have bad experiences on Greyhound as I was reading. While the return trip back to ghettoville LA was very decent and trouble-free, we won’t ever travel Greyhound in the US again.
For the most part, you should believe the reviews. Obviously Greyhound is for budget conscious people and drug dealers, but consider going with a company like Boltbus or Megabus instead (both travel to Las Vegas), you’ll get newer buses, more legroom and better service.
Never again Greyhound.
Long bus journeys are pretty interesting, like a step back in time. I’ve taken Greyhound trips between Toronto and Florida a couple of times. The Knoxville Greyhound station is interesting at 2 AM! I also did a round trip from Toronto to Vancouver, 72 hours each way. On the outbound journey by the middle of day 2 we weren’t even out of Ontario and I thought I was going to lose it. I learned to grab the rear seat next to the toilet as you can stretch out and relax. It’s like going back to the 70s.
Did you arrive on time las vegas to los angeles?
I traveled cross-country three times on Greyhound from 1996 to 2000, once from Marietta, GA to Vegas, once from Charlotte, NC to Vegas and the last time from Vegas to Charlotte. Sounds like the average Greyhound experience to those I have had – interesting, though not very rewarding.