New to You Tuesday (late edition)

By 24 May ’06Places I Go, Reviews

I’m a fly girl on a shoestring budget. This week’s review:
The Chinatown Bus

I was wary as hell when my dear friend Miss H. suggested that we take the Chinatown bus rather than the train from DC to New York. My Amtrak ticket would have been $45 bucks, but her round trip ticket would have been $90. Since she and her friends have partaken of this particular mode of transportation in the past, I was a little more comfortable, but still not very.

We traveled on the Today bus line since that was the one that LaShaya had taken before. There are plenty more choices: the Fung Wah, Dragon Coach, Apex. We took the 9:30 that was supposed to arrive in Manhattan at 2:30. There’s no proper “bus station,” we just saw a bus parked in an alley parking lot between two buildings and spotted the “Today Bus” sign above a stoop and went from there. Rather than purchase advance tickets, we just paid our way once we boarded the bus. My fare should have been $17, but the guy didn’t give me back change out of my $20… I was still a little scared of the whole situation, so I didn’t say anything. LaShaya used exact change for her tickets so I didn’t have a comparison.

The bus was a comfortable and clean charter bus with a bathroom in the back and television screens to watch DVDs and tapes of the driver’s choosing. The passengers were a hodgepodge of ages and races, the same as you would find on any other mode of transportation, but there were plenty of young people. We both each had a bag for underbus storage and one to carry on. I’m not sure if there is a luggage limit but we had more than enough space under the seats an in overhead racks for our carryons. Some girl brought a tiny dog wrapped up in a blanket and I’m not sure if she hid it or not; I would reccomend checking their pet policy before trying that out. We left promptly at 9:30 and stopped once more to pick up more passengers in Baltimore; until then my friend and I each had a seat to ourselves. The bus was never overly crowded. There was one 15-minute stop at a rest area midway through the trip for food and bathroom breaks, and we arrived in Manhattan well before the posted time; the driver gave us the option to disembark in front of Madison Square Garden instead Chinatown, which we took since we had to make our way to Grand Central Station.

I didn’t catch the bus on the return trip, but according to LaShaya is was just as prompt and convenient. I was dropped off at the airport before she made it to the bus stop and she made it to DC before my flight made it to Charlotte. She had a little problem finding the bus and I think that it was a little more crowded on that trip, but her return was on a Sunday night as opposed to our initial trip on a Monday morning.

All in all, I give the Today Bus 5 out of 5 stars. I traveled comfortably from DC to New York City in standard driving time for about the same price as it cost me to get from New Rochelle to Manhattan and back just once. The Chinatown Bus officially = the new heat.

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