What is it like riding the Greyhound bus on a long distance route? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
I did just this in the summer/fall of 2012. It was an experience I'll never forget and I wouldn't trade it for anything. At the time, I was able to purchase a three-month unlimited ride pass; it was a godsend, as I made up the cost of the ticket after the first three rides. I saw so many places I'd only ever heard about and met a lot of interesting people. I highly recommend it. However, there are some things I wish I'd known before I started out on my own journey so I'll list some tips for you here.
Originally, my romantic idea of the trip would be to get on a bus and go wherever whim took me, however, it didn't quite work out that way. While the bus schedules were plentiful in the bigger cities, routes to smaller towns were limited, sometimes only going through once a day. Also, since I was bound to the buses, I was limited in where I could go, as I could only go within walking distance of the local bus station. In the big cities, this wasn't a problem, as there's a lot to see/do in downtown areas and usually a good public metro system to utilize. So keep that in mind. You might consider renting a car to visit the surrounding countryside.
To save money and also meet interesting people, I recommend staying in hostels whenever you can. They cater to travelers and provide a place to sleep for typically $10 or less a night. Usually you have to bunk beds with other travelers but some of them are actually nicer than a lot of hotels. It also helps that most of the ones I came across were not that far from the bus stations, usually within a couple miles or less.
Make sure to take at least two pairs of good walking shoes, maybe three, and switch them out frequently. This will help cut down on the blisters caused by a ton of walking. If you're not already a walker, I suggest in the months leading up to your trip you start walking a lot each day to help strengthen your legs and feet so you might not hurt as much as I did my first few days on the road!
I found that the east coast and northeast buses were far nicer than the midwest and west coast buses. If you start in the east, the bus trips will be nice luxury compared to those farther west. The ones in the east have nice padding, power outlets, and sometimes even wifi. I enjoyed the bus travels almost as much as the destinations. But that changed in the west. Your fellow travelers will be quite a colorful plethora of differences. Not all of them will be pleasant, but never in my trip (which lasted about three months) did I feel in danger, not even in some of the most run-down looking bus stations I sailed into.
If you don't have the money for a lot of car rentals, I highly recommend at least renting a car to drive along the California coast, route 1, between San Francisco and San Diego. it's well worth the price, but keep in mind route 1 usually takes double or even triple the time to get down than the major highway. Hearst Castle is on that route and is a great destination if you like architecture or history.
Couchsurfing.org is a great community and may also provide some interesting adventures. There you can meet people who may give you a room or let you stay on their couch while you're in the area. It's best to plan with them in advance though as there are few who will accept a traveler on super short notice. I met some great people that way, and even was provided some tours around local hot spots.
Another idea I had on my journey was taking night bus trips and sleeping on the bus to save money on hotels/etc. This turned out to really stab me in the back. The first time I did it, my feet swelled terribly and it was a couple of days to recover from that. From then on, unless I had no choice, I traveled during the day and made sure to move my legs and stay hydrated, which I learned is very important for extended trips.
Do keep a travel log and take lots of pictures!