Best Bus Lines From DC to NYC Review


BoltBus at its stop outside Sbarro’s in NYC (33rd and 7th ave)

Need to take a bus from DC to New York City (NYC), or from NYC to DC? After taking four different bus lines I am now confident that I have found the best one: BoltBus. I rode on Greyhound, Chinatown’s Apex Bus, and Tony Coach in the past, and they all pale in comparison to Bolt.

Here is quick summary of why you should use BoltBus:

  • Express service from DC to NYC and back (no shady stops in Baltimore)
  • Onboard Wifi for Laptops
  • Power Outlets on first ~12 rows of seats
  • Pseudo-Leather Seats
  • Rewards program (After 8 rides you earn 1 free ride)
  • Amazingly responsive customer service (via e-mail at customerservice[at]boltbus[d0t]com)

Price
BoltBus is comparable in price to most of the other bus lines. If you are the first person to book a ticket on a ride, your ticket only costs $1. After that, the tickets go up incrementally. Do not expect to pay under $15 for a one-way ticket. In general, expect to pay around $20 each way to get to NYC. Bolt also offers service to other cities including Boston and Philadelphia. BoltBus does sell available seats for $25 each way on a walk-up basis, but these seats are never guaranteed. Your best bet is to always book online in advance.

Reliability
BoltBus is about as reliable as a bus can be, which is at best only slightly reliable. My experience with DC to NYC buses in general has been riddled with delays on all bus lines, BoltBus included. This usually cannot be held against any company, as they do not control traffic. BoltBus is by far the most reliable of any buses I have taken.

Service
BoltBus drivers generally have a great personality, and make a legitimate effort to make sure everyone feels accomdated. BoltBus uses Southwest Airlines-style boarding, in which every person belongs to a boarding group (A,B, or C) and board the bus starting with group A. This is an ingenious idea, so people do not have to worry about showing up early to get a good seat on the bus. If you have an “A” boarding pass, you can feel safe arriving there 20 minutes before scheduled departure. Any later than that and you will be stuck boarding behind everyone else.

Wifi + Power
The one thing that really made BoltBus stand out for me is as simple as power. There are few things that can make a 4-6 hour bus ride enjoyable, but having unlimited use of power for a laptop is about as close as you can get to making it tolerable. To make matters better, they have wifi on board all buses. The wifi is VERY temperamental, so by no means should you ever depend on having internet access via BoltBus wifi. That being said, the wifi has worked much better as of late than it did when the bus line was first starting out.

DC Location
Boltbus picks up and drops off at 11th and G St NW, right at one of the entrances to Metro Center.

NYC Location
Boltbus picks up in multiple locations in NYC, the one I always prefer is the Penn Station stop, which picks up at 33rd st and 7th Ave, right outside of Sbarro’s.

In closing, if you find yourself needing to travel between NYC and DC for cheap, Boltbus is definitely the best and most cost-effective method. Riding on buses for more than an hour is never fun, but BoltBus really does make the trip as enjoyable as it could possibly be. Feel free to also check out MegaBus which picks up in the same DC location as Boltbus. I have not tried it yet, but it is definitely a good second option should BoltBus ever be unavailable.

If speed is the most important factor, forget the bus, and even forget flying. Take the Acela, which generally costs around $130-$190, EACH WAY. It will get you from Union Station in DC to Penn Station in NYC in a blazingly fast 2 hours and 45 minutes (I clocked the speed of the Acela in excess of 140mph at some points of the trip via my Blackberry GPS), but you pay dearly for it.

Take the DC Metro to BWI Airport

In case you have stumbled here looking for step by step guidance, here you go:

GETTING TO BWI USING DC METRO:

  1. Check the B30 Bus Schedule [PDF] ahead of time.
  2. Take Metro to Greenbelt station, which is at end of the Green Line.
  3. Look for the B30 Bus when you get off at Greenbelt, the stop will be outside in the parking lot. It costs $3.00 with a SmartTrip, or $3.10 with cash (don’t ask).
  4. The B30 is an express bus that will take you right to BWI Airport. The bus ride takes around 35 minutes or so, but depends on traffic.

GET TO DC METRO FROM BWI

  1. The hardest part for me was finding the public transportation bus stop. There will be about 500 bus stops for shuttles to take you to the parking garage, but you have to keep following signs to “Public Transit” or “Regional Bus” in order to find the B30 Bus stop. It is on the lower level outside baggage claim, but depending on which baggage claim you get out at, you may have to walk for 5-10 minutes to get there.
  2. Once you actually find the bus stop (B30 will be posted on the wall), take a sigh of relief. The hardest part is over. They have the bus schedule posted on the inside of one of the bus shelters. The B30 will take you directly to Greenbelt, just make sure you are getting on the B30.

BWI’s Official(ly Lacking) Instructions are here.

I will try to get some pictures to aid your voyage soon. Check back.