Myself and my boyfriend are planning to travel to the USA on the student summer work/travel program in 2012 from June-September.
How much will we we need based on the following preferences:
- We don’t mind staying in hostels with shared facilities, but we will only stay in private rooms
- We will eat and travel as cheaply as possibly, but will want the odd ‘nicer’ meal in the big cities, for example my boyfriends really wants to go to Bubba Gumps in NYC.
- While we want to keep costs low, we’ve never been to the USA before so when in the big cities or near famous landmarks we’re going to want to do some touristy stuff that will of course cost money.
How much money do you think we will spend per month on this basis?
Hostel prices can be found on a site like hostelbookers.com - look at the prices for private rooms. Unfortunately from what I’ve seen up to now it seems that unlike in hotels when you pay one price for the room, in hostels its per person, so you end up paying quite a lot when you both have to pay for the same room. So hotels might end up being a similar price i dont know. Deffo look into both options.
Do a lot of research on websites for accomodation and try to book in advance it will be a lot cheaper than just turning up. I paid about $25 a night for a hostel in NYC and i booked months in advance. When i got there i spoke to someone who was paying $50 a night, so do a lot of Googling and if you can, book ahead.
I can’t really give you a nice round amount per month or anything as I’ve only been here in the US for 2 weeks up to now but the prices vary. Big cities like NYC are a lot more expensive than the rest of America.
NYC was very similar prices to living in England so my advice for now would be to just imagine how much everything will cost if you travelled in hostels/hotels and everything you’ve asked, in England. It will probably be a similar figure.
Hey, it depends where you go, how you get there and what activities you are doing. My boyfriend and i were there 7 weeks over March/ April and we used the Greyhound (purely because car was too costly as under 25). So with a 60-day bus pass, this is what we did (in order):
-LA, Vegas (grand canyon) and San Fran
-Salt Lake City
-Toronto & Niagara Falls (Canada)
Greyhound bus= $540. Everything else you spend obviously depends on yourself and how much luxury you want to pay out for. Finding dorm beds was hard enough on the East, so i would definately suggest pre-booking some places if you’ve got schedule already. We wanted to visit other places and stay longer in some, but we just couldnt get a dorm bed anywhere and hotel rooms are $150+, so we just cut our losses and came home a week early as it was just frustrating.
Just had a look at my bank, it look as if i spent around £2200 in 7 weeks which seems quite alot, i didn’t realise it was that much, i’d given up keeping track by that point…. That includes Greyhound bus pass at around £350, grand canyon tour which i think was around £80 for a day trip, and i know we spent about £50 on a day snowboarding course.
Around £200 of that budget is also event tickets and (kinda expensive) hotel accomodation in Atlanta, we were there i think 4 nights and that on its own was at least £200….So that leaves around £1650 that was just spent on ‘stuff’...which now i think of it totally blows my mind as we don’t drink, we don’t buy any meat products and i dont remember doing anything else in the states that actually required spending any substantial amount of money….hmm. Must all be on accomodation and food then!!!
Accomodation isn’t cheap and (like i mentioned previous) your choices are so limited, outside the tourist areas you’ll be lucky to find 1 hostel in some parts, if any at all. Some states don’t even have hostels, so plan your trip carefully beforehand so you spend your money wisely
There’s always megabus also! They work in the US and Canada, not just in the UK. I’ve used them successfully and satisfacturarily here so I don’t see why it’d be any different on the other side of the pond.
Thanks a lot for all of your replies so far! I’ll definitely remember to book ahead, especially NYC!
In terms of the buses, in your experiences are they safe? I’ve read lots of things online about the Greyhound being used for convicts/bus stations being really dangerous etc and it’s put me off a little bit (someone told me a story about someone having their head cut off by a crazy person) ... how did you find it?
Did anyone use the train to get around? A basic map of the routes seems to show that the train would stop at most places I’d like to visit, but I’ve not spoken to anyone who’s travelled across the states by rail…
I’m gonna be getting a train at the end of this week so i can let you know how it goes - from what ive read they are subject to big delays but i dont know yet.
To get from NYC to D.C i used a bus company called Boltbus - i think they only do the east coast but if you book a few weeks in advance when the tickets first become available you can land the ticket for $1, which is madness. I booked the night before and got it for $21, so still not bad for last minute 5 hour journey. Wifi onboard too.
I also used greyhound canada which was fine, some have wifi some dont. My trip didnt visit any bad stations but ive heard the same stories as you. My advice would be to try make sure you book journeys that depart/arrive during the day time, to avoid any thing bad happening. The horror story is just a freak 1 off thing - a lady last week got her head cut off in tenerife in a supermarket… sometimes bad things just happen.
There’s also Megabus that are expanding, ive seen lots of big billboards for them, so theres a few companies to look into.
OK, i apologise if this post ends up long but i’ll try and blurt out everything i can remember.
That http://www.gotobus.com website james put up looks quite handy, i never used it but definately worth checking out for competition while you’ve got time to do your homework. There are many regional (or state) bus services around, bus to be honest the time it’ll take you to figure it all out i just thought greyhound was easier.
The ‘decapitating’ story- this happened on Greyhound in Canada:
We only found out about this once we got to canada and had used the bus for a month, so it was no biggie to us.
Firstly i’ll say i never felt threatened on one of the buses. I never saw anyone be aggressive or particularly crazy while on the bus or IN the stations. Greyhound is very local, so you’ll stand out if you’ve got backpacks. And be preapred to be spoken to by everyone- the minute they hear you aren’t american, they HAVE to talk to you, and they’ll want to know everything. It’s really nice, we spoke to so many normal americans from all over, that were so excited to meet us (this is when you get further out than vegas, california and NY i mean)
Yes, it is used for certain ‘public services’- we saw 2 guards of some sorts giving tickets to a group of 5 dudes and telling them what to do/where to go, i assumed recently released from something. i didnt care to be honest, they werent on my bus! I also saw a lot of people who were away with the fairies. Thing about the states is (according to my american friend) most states won’t give you help if you are mentally ill, only if you are physically disabled (according to him) so these peeps aint got nowhere to go. They just hang out in the stations- theres free water, shelter, toilets and i guess free food maybe. They get moved on sometimes but they’ll never ever bother you.
I would also say never trust anyone at the stations enough to leave your bag with them, one person always stay with them. Just because most stations have doors on 2/3 sides of the building, so people come in/out alllllll the time, so someone can quite easily walk in, steal a bag and leave unnoticed. There were a few stations i thought had dodgy looking peeps hanging around (Buffalo really springs to mind, and Chicago). But they are always busy and always have security, so you are never alone or at risk whatsoever.
The buses are used by everyone. mums with babies. pensioners. disabled people. teenagers. guys who’ve just got back from Afghanistan. you name them, we shared a bus with them. If an old woman in her 80’s is brave enough to pull an overnight bus across state on her own, then i think we all can!
The buses themselves- Longest delay we had was only 1 hour. We did here of some being delayed much longer but we were lucky. The new buses which should be in full swing by the time you go are really decent. Good leg room, wifi and sockets for charging- perfect to help make the journey pass quicker. We would call home on the bus via skype which was really handy. They stop often, and once you are on, its like a gentlemans agreement that everyone keeps their seat. toilets always worked fine, but it stops often enough that most people tend not to use them which is obv good. When the bus is full, then its a tad annoying. sorry to be blunt but if a fat person takes up nearly 2 seats, its unfair to make a skinny person perch in the isle coz they can’t fit! we saw this happen. They should have a width rule or something.
We ALWAYS got to the station 2 hours or more before the bus left. Your bus leaves from a certain door, and once that is announced, everyon starts queueing. If your first in line, you get on first. If you turn up 30mins before the bus leaves, you’ll be last on and next to the fat guy.
Overnight buses are tedious BUT we did several of these to help with money. It’s either have a bad nights sleep OR lose an entire day getting from A to B, so take your pick
If you use the Greyhound discovery pass you need to be aware of something, this is important!!!!!!!
The discovery pass means every journey you take, you can go to the desk and use that to book yourself on a bus. You can ask which bus you want, you should always get on it. BUT- this is ONLY ALLOWED ON SAME DAY- you can’t turn up in Chicago, go straight to the desk and say ‘‘hi can i please be booked on a bus in 4 days time?’’ so you’ve got your next trip pre-arranged, it won’t happen. IT IS ONLY SAME DAY, or if you get someone nice (rare!) they’ll do it within 24 hours of the bus you want. So if your bus leaves at 11am the next morning, you can book it evening beforehand. sorry if that is confusing????
ANOTHER IMPORTANT FACT OF THE PASS- you need to have a ticket desk ANYWHERE THAT YOU GET OFF THE BUS. SO, i’ll give you our example.
We got off at Glenwood springs. They have a third party ticket desk. For some obscure reason they couldnt explain, they could not book us on the bus we wanted. they could book us on one to denver we didnt want….but not the one we wanted. They could ‘print us a ticket’ but it held no value, didnt book us a seat, and would basically be ‘‘if the bus turns up with 2 seats free, you can get on. If not, you’ll have to wait until the next day’‘
SO- make sure you only get off at stops where there is a proper ticket office (this is listed on their site dont worry) as if you hop off in a small town where the greyhound just pulls up in a gas station once a day, then you might have issues as some drivers are total idiots and discover pass isnt technically a ticket. With me? :?
We looked at the Amtrak pass, but there are complications with this also. They offer you segments (if you do a pass that is) so you plan your trip around the amount your allowed. HOWEVER- if for reasons out your control they make you get off a train and get on, they take a segment away, end of. i contacted them and they confirmed this. for any reason, it counts as a segment. so getting from san fan to la at the time was 3 segments gone, total waste. so we didnt bother.
Locals we spoke to in bus stations were quite anti-amtrak (i guess thats why they use the bus!) They said it takes just as long, is really slow, isnt good service and you pay lots more…so i dont know i’m afraid???
But in all honestly our greyhound experience was a good one, it shows you and you get to meet the real americans out there. We got invited to peoples houses, we ended up being the talk of the entire station with everyone wanting a word in, it was really fun to be honest. I hope thats been of some use to you, let me know if you want to know anything more specific as i can remember most stuff