You may have seen the Megabus buses around town. They are the brightly colored two-decker buses that advertise fares for as little as $1. A little over a year ago, Megabus added Anaheim to its routes from the Bay Area to Southern California. Previously, its last stop was as Los Angeles’s Union Station.
On a recent trip to Disneyland and California Adventure, I took the Megabus and it made me a convert. Unfortunately, companies like Greyhound have given bus travel in the US a bad name but Megabus gets it right. The buses are clean, comfortable and include electric ports and free WiFi. The coaches also stop in convenient locations, not the sometimes seedy bus stations where Greyhound stops. For example, MegaBus stops at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, where you can easily make connections to other parts of the city. By contrast, Greyhound stops in an area southeast of downtown, on E. 7th Street, an inconvenient and mostly industrial area where few visitors would feel safe to be after dark.
I started out my Disney trip with a friend at 6 a.m. from the station in San Francisco alongside the Caltrain Station on 4th Street. The bus was on time, the bus driver, Melanie, was cordial and funny as she instructed us on the rules aboard the bus. By the way, you need to make reservations ahead of time You will give the bus driver or the Megabus curbside attendant your confirmation number. The boarding process was a breeze. A Megabus employee who was at the stop early took the numbers for me and a friend and instructed us where to leave our luggage before it was loaded on the bus.
The bus’s first stop was San Jose, about an hour later . Next, we stopped about halfway between LA and San Francisco for a 30 minute break where we could use the restroom and get food or drink at one of the many fast food joints at the stop. The ride for all eight and a half hours on the bus was very comfortable. The other passengers were of every age but the majority looked in their 20s or early 30s. Everyone was well-behaved. Going south, most of the passengers didn’t talk at all, or if they did, they kept their voices to a low level to be respectful of other passengers. Everyone, thankfully, held toward the rule of listening to electronic devices on headphones.
The WiFi service was excellent for the whole ride. It is not meant to download large files but if you only intend to surf the Internet and view your emails, you will be fine. Just don’t expect to download a NetFlix movie along the way.
My Anaheim-bound bus continued on after the rest stop with stops in Burbank, Union Station, finally Anaheim. The stop in Anaheim is at the architecturally stunning Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC) which opened in Nov. 2014. The cathedral-like glass domed structure has a number of bays for buses and it has a built-in Amtrak station with an exit to the tracks on the third level in the back of the building. To get to Disneyland, we only had to take one of several buses that either go directly to the Disneyland entrance or within two blocks of Disney. The bus ride is $2-$3. Would recommend one of the ART buses that goes directly to Disneyland because the aisles are wider to accommodate luggage.
We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim Theme Park Entrance, which was just a five minute walk from Disneyland. Several hotels are clustered close to Disney, making it easy to get by without a car. On the one day we wanted to go to the Universal Studios theme park, we rented a car from Alamo, which has an office in Downtown Disney.
The return trip on Megabus was also a snap. We caught an ART bus from the entrance of Disneyland to the ARTIC building. On the way back, the bus stopped again in Burbank and Union Station but instead of San Jose, we made a stop at the West Oakland BART station. Despite the typical heavy traffic getting out of Los Angeles, the bus arrived back to the Caltrain station about 10:30 p.m, 8 hours, 30 minutes after we left Anaheim. Besides being more economical than flying or driving on our own, we saved the airport hassle and were able to stop in a safe area close to where we were going.
Call this writer megally impressed by the Megabus and the service gets this Examiner’s five star review for excellence. I and other fellow travelers can only hope that people continue to use the bus keeping this valuable service going for many years to come.
By the way, if you go, here are some tips. First, to get the low, low $1 fare, you have to book early. Once you have your travel dates in mind, book as soon as possible on the MegaBus site. Generally, the earlier you book, the cheaper the fare. But in general, you can only book a few months in advance. Check with the Megabus site often for those days to be open for booking.
Megabus also offers a number of seats that you can pay extra to reserve including the coveted four seats on the front of the bus. Those seats are the most expensive to reserve but still only cost $9 more each way. If you want a good seat but don’t want to pay extra, make sure you line up early because those unreserved seats are on a first come, first serve basis. Probably the best free seats on the upper level are the two seats in front of the back staircase. You won’t have to deal with anyone reclining their seat back into your space. Also, the seat in the middle at the very back is good because you have plenty of room to stretch your legs because no one will be in front of you.