Tips for Riding the BoltBus

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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I’m running my 20-miler in New York City tomorrow morning. I know, I probably sound like a crazy person traveling to a different city to do my long run, but I’m running the last 20 miles of the New York City marathon. How cool is that?!

I’m taking the BoltBus down to NYC, so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to share my tips for riding it.

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Buy your ticket in advance online. You can purchase ticket online at www.boltbus.com until three hours before departure, but the earlier you purchase your ticket, the better the price you get. If you book a few months in advance, a one way ticket from Boston to New York City, for instance, costs as little as $8.00. Sometimes, there’s even $1 fares! The closer you get to your departure date, the higher the price. I once paid $22.00 each way, which is a lot for the BoltBus.

Sign up for the Bolt Rewards program. Bolt Rewards is a free frequent rider program that rewards passengers with a free one-way ticket after eight trips on the BoltBus. That’s great, right? Well, the real reason you should sign up is because you get priority seating on the bus, which means you get the best seats and don’t end up sitting near the bathroom.

See the A-03 on my ticket below? The folks with A tickets board the bus first. If you buy a ticket online without creating a BoltBus account or logging in, you get a C ticket, which means you board last and you might end up sitting near the stinky bathroom for many hours.

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Hold onto your ticket. After you purchase your tickets online, you will receive an email confirmation that also serves as your boarding pass. (You can print it out or show the email to the driver to board the bus.) BoltBus doesn’t collect your ticket when you board, so make sure you put it in a safe place for your return. Your BoltBus ticket serves as both your departure and return ticket.

Arrive early. Of course, you don’t want to miss your bus, but BoltBus only guarantees you a seat on your ticketed scheduled bus provided you arrive a minimum of 15 minutes prior to departure to claim your seat. At 5 minutes prior to departure, any unclaimed seats are released to walk-up and standby passengers, which means if you cut it too close to the departure time, you might not have a seat on the bus even if you have a ticket.

If your plans change, consider standby. The public transportation in Boston is so unreliable, I often ride standby to New York City. If I arrive early to South Station, I’ll go standby to get on an earlier bus. If I miss my bus (like this time), I’ll go standby on the next BoltBus to NYC. I’ve gone standby 3 or 4 times now, and I have always got on a bus. And the best part: it doesn’t cost any extra money!

When you decide that you want to go standby, make sure you talk to the BoltBus attendant and get your name on the list. If there are open seats on the bus, the attendant uses the list to determine who gets the seats. Basically, you want to be #1 or #2 on it. Although, I was once #7 on the list and still got on the bus. Even still, talk to the attendant as soon as you make your decision.

Use the bathroom as soon as you get on the bus. On a 4.5-hour ride to NYC, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I will have to go to the bathroom at some point, so I always use the bathroom as soon as I get on the bus. The bathroom is usually immaculate and smells pretty, but toward the end of the ride, it’s not always so pleasant.

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Bring your laptop or iPad. There’s free wifi and outlets on all of the buses, so bring your laptop or iPad to watch movies or use the internet. It makes time fly by. If you get motion sickness (like I do), wait to use your laptop until you are out of the city. The stop and go in traffic always makes me sick, but once the bus is on open road, it’s smooth sailing.

Bring snacks. The BoltBus doesn’t usually stop, so if you want something to eat or drink, make sure you bring your own. Eating and drinking is permitted on the bus.

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Dress in layers. The temperature on the BoltBus is pretty unpredictable. I’ve had rides when I’m shivering cold and sweating on others, so I always wear a few different layers on the bus. If you’re really uncomfortable temperature-wise, just tell the driver. He/she will mostly always adjust it.

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47 Comments

  1. great pointers for riding Bolt Bus. i haven’t ridden it before and they seem to be a great alternative in the northeast region as opposed to the midwest. i’m going to share this link so my other east coast friends can benefit!

  2. Good luck on your big run, what an awesome idea to run it in the city!
    I just took a megabus for the first time last month and really liked the experience… these are awesome tips seriously! Especially the hold on to your ticket…. on my return trip i hadn’t thought to look for my ticket until 10 minutes before the bus was leaving and I couldn’t find it. I went into panic mode but luckily could pull up my email last minute to get the confirmation number!

  3. Hi Tina – Is this your last long run before you start to taper? I’m doing New York too, but I’ve been injured and have missed 3 long runs. I’m hoping to be able to do 20 next weekend and then taper from there, but i’m getting anxious and frustrated. it’s not my first marathon, and my training has been really solid up until 2 weeks ago (i did a few 18s and a 19 mile run), so I know I can do it… but injuries are the worst :/

  4. Goodluck on the run!!! I’ve never taken the Bolt Bus but I have taken the Peter Pan bus – it was around $60 for a round trip I think? I’ll definitely need to sign up for the Bolts reward program and take it next time I go to NYC. I’ve missed my bus before and man was it nerve racking! Luckily, we got the last Acela train back to Boston. Acela is awesome but it was soooo pricey!

  5. Thank you for the tips! I want to visit some friends in NYC, but I’ve been a bit nervous about taking the bus and the train is $$$, so I haven’t gone in a long time. Your tips make me confident to go! Good luck with your 20-miler! I’m sure its extra motivation being in a fun location and getting more familiar with the marathon course!

  6. Good luck on your run! These are really great tips. I’ve always wanted to try riding the Bolt Bus to NYC. I live in the Philly area and to take the train to NYC is super expensive. This would be a great option. 🙂

  7. Are you running the FRNY’s Blue Line Run tomorrow or running it on your own? I’m signed up for the Blue Line Run and for the NY Flyers run (which isn’t the last 20 miles, but takes you over two of the bridges in the race) and I can’t decide which to go to…maybe I’ll see you out there!

  8. I take Bolt often because I’m from MA but go to school in NYC. It’s dirty and oh-so nasty. As of late I’ve been taking Worldwide Bus to/from Newton (it stops in Cambridge, too) because it’s somewhat on-time (compared to Bolt which is ALWAYS running behind schedule) and it doesn’t make stops. Every time I take Bolt the driver stops at a Sbarro or something, which drives me absolutely nuts!

  9. Those are good tips! I take the Megabus from Chicago to Ann Arbor to visit my parents a lot, it looks similar! Gook luck on your 20 miler!

  10. Thanks for all of the great tips! My husband and I want to go to NYC next summer but I want to try to go to Boston too. This would be a great option for both of us.

  11. Pingback: Back to Boston
  12. I have taken the Bolt Bus many times back and forth from Boston to NYC and NYC to DC, was a pleasant ride, very chilly, but went by fast! I’ve also taken the Mega Bus to Boston, not D.C and it was nice, but I think Bolt Bus by far is much nicer!!

  13. That is awesome! The bus from Atlantic City to New York is terrible. You are never guaranteed a spot no matter how early you booked because there are multiple pick up points (so if you are first in line but the bus filled up at the last stop, oh well!) and its $50 round trip. It is ok if you would rather not drive but I’ve gotten really proficient at the 3 hour trip!
    ~Ang

  14. Thanks for the tips! Unfortunately, I found your tips after I bought the tickets so I am boarding last. Ugh!

  15. BoltBus offers the worst service! They have horrible customer service – and simply stated, they don’t give a damn about their customers.

    I bought a ticket and had a reservation to ride the BoltBus. I was at the bus stop 15 min prior to departure and was prepared to stow my belongings underneath and board the bus. However, when I attempted to go on the bus, I was stopped and told that there were no more seats available and that I would have to find another form of transportation to get to my destination.

    Here’s the way BoltBus advertises how they operate:
    You purchase tickets online. After purchase you receive an email confirmation that also serves as your boarding pass and a receipt for your purchase. They claim they don’t oversell schedules so the boarding pass will guarantee you a seat on your ticketed schedule provided you arrive for your scheduled bus a minimum of 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time to claim your seat.
    How does the boarding process work?
    In the top left hand corner of your email confirmation is a large letter. This letter designates which boarding group you are assigned to. Customers board the bus based on assigned boarding group (A, B, or C) with our loyalty program members boarding first, followed by customers who purchased tickets online.

    However, when it was time to board the bus, the BoltBus representative did not call out the letter designations (I had an A) and instead, this person (Named Jackson) allowed anyone to board. Since I had 2 suitcases, I could not join the mass of people that swarmed the entrance to get on the bus. I put my suitcases under the bus and then joined the back of the crowd to try to board.

    By the time I made it to the entrance of the bus, everyone else had already boarded and there wasn’t a seat left for me. MY RESERVATION TICKET was supposed to reserve me a seat! I turned to Jackson and said, “Here, here’s my reservation”¦here’s my ticket, now, I need a seat.”
    Jackson’s response, “There’s nothing I can do”¦all the seats are taken.”

    I repeated myself and said, “But I bought a ticket, I have a reserved seat, now get me on that bus!” At this point, Jackson got right up in my face and said, “You listen to me! There are no seats left, and you are NOT taking that bus! How much more clear do I have to be?”

    Well, this is no way to treat customers! I ended up having to take AMTRAK to get to my final destination.

    Upon trying to contact BoltBus – (877-265-8287) – to try and explain my story – they said, there was nothing that anyone could do and that b/c I wasn’t fast enough pushing my way through the mass of people, that I missed out. When I asked to speak to a supervisor, they said that I wasn’t allowed to speak to one. I asked why not and they said “BECAUSE I SAID SO!” And then they hung up the phone on me.

    They are the worst company and I would never use them again!

    If anyone else has had any problems using BoltBus – contact the CEO of the company – his name is Peter Picknelly. His cell phone # is 413-246-8600 and his e-mail address is peter@peterpanbus.com. Or you can also try and contact Peter at 413-781-2900

  16. Boltbus claims they don’t give refunds, but I told them that I would file a consumer affairs complaint with the district attorney of Oregon and they decided to forward my call to their corporate office. The lady at corporate quickly refunded me when I explained that I would be reporting their bad business practices including false advertising on their app (doesn’t show date of ticket on final purchase screen). How difficult can they be? Nobody take shit from this Greyhound subsidiary now you hear?

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