A Girl's Guide to Riding the Bus

At 8:32 in the morning, my Uber driver dropped me at the front entrance of the bus station in North Charleston. Lugging my duffel bag over my shoulder, I trudged to the back of the line, praying I would secure a seat to myself. It was time to embark on my journey to Greenville, South Carolina, for a Fall Break visit. I have traveled alone many times before via plane, car, train, and even ferry, but before this certain October morning, I had never taken the bus. Now, I was about to spend 5 hours with my butt glued to an itchy bus seat, wondering if the Greyhound bus bathroom was safe to use. (Spoiler alert: on the return journey, the toilet on my bus leaked and flooded the back of the bus. Can confirm, not safe to use.)

In an ideal scenario, I would have been flying on a private jet to Greenville. Let’s face it, as a college student looking to travel on a budget, the Greyhound bus is cheap. While it often reeks of some horrible combination of vomit, weed, and pee, the bus is quite possibly the easiest and cheapest mode of transportation. Even after three bus journeys filled with stories from hell, I still would choose the Greyhound to get to my final destination. Is it pleasant? No. But will I get home in one piece before classes tomorrow? Yes. 

Here are my tips for navigating the Greyhound experience by yourself:

  1. 1. Try to get a seat to yourself

    Without fail, there will be a few interesting characters riding on the bus with you. Take the window seat and set your bags directly next to you. You’re not being anti-social, I promise - this will save you when the man calling his lawyer about an ongoing criminal case against him wants to sit next to you.

  2. 2. Wear pants

    Whether it is to protect you from the turf-like itch of the bus seat or from the wandering eyes of the old man across the aisle, this fashion staple is essential to your travels on the bus.

  3. 3. Prepare for a slight delay

    The Greyhound bus schedule operates on Caribbean time. My advice is to add at least 15 minutes to the departure and arrival times listed on your ticket. If you’re expecting to be boarding the bus at 10:25 am, try again: you’ll be boarding somewhere around 10:52, and departing somewhere around 11:13. Think you’ll be getting back to Charleston at 4:00 pm? Tell your ride that you’ll arrive at the bus station somewhere around 4:31 pm. 

  4. 4. Rest stop bathrooms only

     The bathroom in the back of the bus is never a good idea. Unless you’re looking to find out what substance produces the odor of pee and vomit combined, I would hold it. 

  5. 5. Keep your hands to yourself

    Touch as little as possible. If you see an entire bag of trail mix (plus M&M’s) emptied into the crack of the window, it’s not yours for the taking. Don’t mess with the random clump of hair you might find on the seat next to you. Leave the band-aid that’s stuck to the ceiling alone.