Helpful hints on taking the bus

Helpful hints on taking the bus

Let’s see if I can type this without having to deal with a crackhead and the cops this time….. See, as I was standing in front of the Portland bus station drafting this, my train of thought was interrupted by a crackhead with a knife getting chased by the cops in front of me. You think I’m joking? Watch the video.

The guy wasn’t running that fast and I thought about kicking him in the face but as soon as I thought about it, I realized that filming was one thing, putting myself in the potential crossfire is another.

This brings me to point number one.

Bus stations and MLK

All due respect to Martin Luther King Jr, the man is a personal hero of mine. That being said, if you’re ever traveling and find yourself near the bus station or MLK Blvd, Ave, etc, you’re ass is in the bad part of town. The one and only exception I’ve found for this is Minneapolis. And even after what happened in Portland, LA is still by far the worst of the bunch. It takes a lot for me to not smoke but there was no way in hell I was walking back outside.

Yes, I know what I’m talking about

Fun fact, over the years I’ve traveled around 50,000 miles on the bus. I’m sorry to say that this is not by any means an exaggeration, if anything is a conservative estimate given the number of times I’ve gone cross country on one.


I don’t give a shit what they want to say, the bus is only comfortable for the for the first 8 hours, after that, it starts to hurt. You’re not going to sleep either, you might doze off for a few but as soon as you do, you’ll pull into another stop and people will start moving. Even if you have both seats to yourself, you really can’t lay down unless you’re a child, in which case you shouldn’t be reading this.


One of the very few perks of taking the bus is that you will often find yourself in strange place that you didn’t plan to visit for extended periods of time. Why the hell else would I ever explore old town Sacramento at 4 AM? Yes, the bus station is in a bad part of town but if you have more than an hour, you’ve got time to go on an adventure. Pull out your phone and get a lay of the land and get out of the station.

Don’t ever ever ever leave your bag unattended

No, I’m not saying that everyone or even most people on the bus are thieves, I’m not one. What I am saying is that there are enough people who are for you to need to keep an eye on your stuff at all times. Don’t trust the people around you to watch your stuff either since you don’t know them. I’m not trying to sound cynical but I’ve watched enough people get robbed to know better. Pack your main stuff in checked and keep your carry on bag as lite as possible and never leave it on the bus. If you stop to eat, take it with you, if you go stretch your legs, take it with you.

Don’t get scammed

Criminals are idiots but they’re not stupid. Most of the time they’re lazy as well. They’re only going to go after easy targets and chances are, you’re one. You’ve got a layover, you want to go explore, you’ve never been to, let’s say Chicago before. As soon as you walk out of the station you’re going to have the look of “wow” on your face and criminals love this. It means you’re vulnerable and awestruck. Chances are, unless you’re in LA, you’re not going to get outright robbed but most likely you will have someone try to con you. Again, not to be cynical but I’ve traveled enough to know this stuff.

Real simple, don’t talk to strangers. You don’t know these people and the only reason they have to talk to you is the fact that you have something they want. They’ll have a (convincing) sob story or a great deal on weed (swag) and it’s a hustle, a sales pitch that they’ve rehearsed and performed a thousand times on just as many suckers. And yes, I’ve been one and gotten scammed trying to buy weed because I was young and stupid.

Never show your hand

And by hand, I mean what you’ve got. Smokes, cash, anything of value, keep that shit to yourself. I don’t carry cash with me on the bus anymore since everywhere takes a card (except the “weed guy” in front of the station) and I keep my wallet in my front pocket. If you want to be nice and bum a smoke to one person, be ready for the vultures because for the rest of your trip people will try to bum off you.

Most of the people are cool

Yes, I know that this article makes me sound a bit jaded and yeah, I am. I’ve seen some shit man and a lot of it hasn’t been pretty. But some of it has been pretty awesome. Most people who take the bus are cool and I’d say it’s only about 5% that you need to worry about. I’ve met some really cool people riding the greyhound that I’d have no other reason to talk to otherwise.

Show some respect

I’ll go on the record with saying that the company sucks. Their motto should be “Yeah, we fucked up but there’s nothing you can do since we know you can’t afford to fly”. The people who call the shots are assholes. The people you deal with are not. The ticket agents and security guards are overworked and doing their best to keep the wheels turning. It’s not their fault when the bus breaks down or there’s traffic and you miss your connection. They’re not the ones who make the rules, they’re the ones that have to deal with unhappy, tired and stressed out travelers, each of whom believes that their issues are the most important and need to be dealt with ASAP, plus a full ticket refund…… and a back massage 

I’ve seen the things that the ticket agents and bus drivers deal with and I applaud their almost saint-like self-control. True, some of them have been beaten and broken to the point of numbness but most of them really do seem to care about the people traveling and will bend over backward to help you, if you’re not a dick.

At the end of the day

While I doubt that the bus is anyone’s first choice, it can be a lot of fun if you have the right state of mind. You’ll get to see things that you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to and meet some people that will open your mind a bit. It takes a bit of getting used to and it’s a bit sketchy at times but it’s better than hitchhiking.


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