‘Shall I get the bus or fly from Atlanta to New York?’ That was the question I asked my friends in Costa Rica as I tried to arrange all the logistics from timings to my ESTA visa for a last-minute detour to the US, before flying back home from my backpacking trip. The verdict was unanimous, fly of course. Why would you voluntarily decide to take a seventeen-hour overnight bus ride through six states on a run-down, cramped bus when you could just get a two-hour flight for a few dollars more? Obviously, I picked the bus option.
The US is a country known for its road trips but it seems that taking the bus isn’t really the norm with backpackers. However for me, a person with tons of time but not a lot of cash, I couldn’t see a reason why not to get the bus. For just $30 I could go with EastWest buses from near my aunt’s house in Atlanta right into the centre of Manhattan. Although flights were only $70 more expensive once I’d calculated in hold baggage cost, the price of getting from the airport to the city and an extra night’s accommodation, it was looking like it would cost closer to $200: That extra cash was my spending money and I wasn’t willing to give it up.
What’s it like to take the bus from Atlanta to New York?
Arrive at the bus station at least 15 minutes early
One thing I was worried about was not being able to find the place that I had to pick up the bus from. Anyone that’s ever gone on a long bus journey before will probably know that it’s usually just a case of turning up at your designated stop fifteen minutes before departure: This always unnerves me because it just seems too easy. In this case, I put the postcode into Google maps which took me 3240 Shallowford road, Chamblee, Atlanta to a little building located in what looked like just a small car park where I got my paper tickets.
The journey between the two cities takes 17 hours with buses leaving at various times throughout the day. I decided to book the bus that left at 5pm in Atlanta and got to New York at 9am the next morning.
A road trip through six states
Driving from Atlanta to New York is one heck of a drive to do in one go. The journey took me through six states and even through the centre of Washington D.C.
What you see
I loved the bus journey because it felt like a proper US road trip and I’m not embarrassed to say I got a thrill every time we passed a ‘welcome to’ state sign. If like me you decide to book the overnight journey then you’ll be in darkness for most of the trip, however I loved looking out of the window at the start of the journey as we drove through North and South Carolina down big open roads and past gorgeous lakes: How fantastic is the scenery is the US?!
Where you stop
I didn’t have to change buses and apart from picking people up, the only stops we made were at huge service stations in the middle of nowhere where I spent way too much money: I’m such a sucker for buying all the snacks in foreign countries, I mean who can resist splurging when there’s a whole aisle dedicated to pretzels?
The journey was quite bumpy but against all odds, I managed to sleep and just happened to wake up in time to see us go through the centre of Washington D.C- No, I didn’t get to see the White House.
Arriving by bus into NYC
There’s nothing quite like the thrill that I get from arriving in a new place overland and driving into New York City the next morning, I could barely contain my excitement as I looked out of the window. First I saw the skyline in the distance then everything became so unmistakably ‘New York’.
What’s so great about this bus service is that unlike arriving into one of the cities airports, the bus drops you off right in Manhattan by Chinatown which meant that I could walk straight off the bus and find my caffeine fix before even having to negotiate the subway.
For the price, it will come as no surprise that East-West is a ‘no thrills’ bus Company. The bus wasn’t the cleanest and it packed full however you do get a designated seat so that’s not really an issue. I was happy to see that the buses had phone chargers, a toilet on board and AC so it’s fairly comfortable. I was the only backpacker or tourist on it as it seemed to mainly be used by families
The bus journey is long and it’s tiring. However, in my opinion, to have gone from Atlanta one evening and to step off in the centre of Manhattan at nine in the morning, all for the price of a nice meal out: it’s totally, totally worth it.
Is it safe?
Overall I felt safe on the bus journey and I didn’t feel uncomfortable despite being the only backpacker. The only worrying thing about the journey was we didn’t seem to switch drivers which seemed like a long time for them to drive without taking a break, particularly overnight.
How to book it
I booked my journey online on a comparison website called gotobus.com. Here they list all of the options per day between the cities, listing about ten departures each day comparing either EastWest Buses or the Greyhound bus which is a more expensive service with prices averaging $80.