As a budget minded traveler, I started traveling with Amtrak for many of my short length trips. I hate driving, and many times the train ticket was cheaper than the cost of gas. As much as I loved taking the train, there were some issues that came with it.
Amtrak is notorious for running late. That creates issues with arranging pick up and drop off. It can also mean you may not make a connecting train. Amtrak keeps losing funding from the government, so their prices are steadily climbing and their quality is decreasing. The lack of available trains is also an issue. When there is just one train going to a particular destination a day, your options are limited. Amtrak is just not economical for last minute trips.
While I was planning a last minute trip to Chicago, a friend recommended a Mega Bus. She told me that her daughter had taken this charter bus from Indianapolis to Chicago. The bus did not make any stops, and the price was something ridiculous like $5 round trip. It sounded too good to be true, but it piqued my interest.
When I looked up the website, I was very surprised. Mega Bus travels from many locations throughout the Midwest to Chicago. If you book far enough in advance, you can make the trip for $1. I booked my trip three days out, and I still only paid $22. For less than half of what I would have had to pay for Amtrak, I had round trip transportation that had no stops, was on time, and was very pleasant.
Mega Bus has many things in its favor. The cost cannot be beat. You really can’t go wrong there. The charter bus is just as comfortable as the train. The bathroom is actually cleaner than many of the ones you find on Amtrak liners. You actually arrive at your location on time. You can bring one piece of luggage and a carry on. Mega Bus usually has more than one bus on a route per day. So where Amtrak only has one train that goes to and from Indianapolis daily, Mega Bus has three busses that make that trip. This makes your plans more flexible.
At the same time, Mega Bus does have some less impressive details. Sometime the pick up/drop off points are not ideal. In Indianapolis, it is at a bus stop by the City -County building. In Chicago, it is located outside of Union Station. In Toledo, the stop is by the Southwyck Mall. These locations are easy to locate, they aren’t always places you may want to wait. In case of cold weather or rain, there may not be anywhere for you to escape the elements. Another issue is that Mega Bus does not have offices or representatives at these locations. Even in Chicago, Amtrak and Metra have made it very clear that Mega Bus is not one of their services and that they have no information on the shuttles. If there is a problem, such as a bus running late, there is no one to convey that information. When you look at you reservation confirmation, the company tell you to direct any questions to them through their website, but what happens when you do not have internet access? If there is not a phone number listed, what can you do?
Is Mega Bus for you? If you live in the Midwest and like to travel, it is a very viable option. Do the negative aspects out weight the positive ones? That is for you to decide. For me the answer is yes. My distain for driving, added with the facts that I am usually traveling alone and traveling on a budget, make this very attractive to me. It is an affordable and simple way to spend time in a city I love.