BoltBus Seattle to Vancouver
I am writing this post on my BoltBus Seattle to Vancouver trip. While I have taken coach type buses in other countries; this is my first time using a Greyhound type service in the states. BoltBus is owned by Greyhound but markets itself as the cooler younger brother of the big dog. It is the Southwest or JetBlue of buses. Or perhaps Ryanair or easyJet is a more apt comparison.
I needed to get a one way ticket to Vancouver, BC for the opening night of the U2 tour. I am meeting up with a friend for the drive back and looked at options for the trip north. Other options were getting a ZipCar, flying, or Amtrak. I had read about BoltBus and wanted to give it a try.
Ticket Purchasing Process
It is easy enough to book. Just visit boltbus.com and search for the route/dates. BoltBus is currently only available in the Northeast and West Coast. Tickets are available about 6 weeks out. Typically they are cheapest the farther out you book; I was able to get my BoltBus Seattle to Vancouver ticket for $16 + $1.50 ticketing fee. They advertise that on each trip there is at least one $1 ticket that is randomly released. As the date got closer, the ticket price went up in to the low $20’s, still not a bad deal and cheaper than any other option.
Ticketing is all paperless (unless you chose to print it out). When you purchase your ticket you are given a boarding group (think Southwest). In reality for my trip the boarding group didn’t really matter since the bus was already 1/3 full as it was coming up from Portland. No assigned seating.
In your ticket confirmation email you are told to arrive 15 minutes before scheduled departure and if you are there less than 5 minutes early you will be denied boarding.
The BoltBus picks passengers up on the side of the street in Seattle; not far from the Amtrak station. It is a very convenient location near the light rail and downtown. The bus pulled in about 20 minutes before departure. Some people from Portland got off. Then the new passengers boarded. Quick and easy process.
The bus was not full; I picked the front row of the bus because I am the kid that always sat in the front of the bus. But actually I wanted to make sure I didn’t get car sick and could see out the front of the bus. No one sat next to me so I had a bit of room.
The buses are typical coach style. Seats are black “leather” and do recline a bit. There are power outlets at most seats; sitting in the front I had to ask the nice people behind me if I could use one of their outlets to charge my phone… but the power cut in and out throughout the ride. Wifi is offered but is EXTREMELY slow. Slower and less reliable than dial up. I ended up using my iPhone as a hotspot and connecting over T-Mobile. Don’t count on being able to use the Wifi.
There is a bathroom in the back. The only staff on the bus is the driver (who checks tickets as well). No food or beverages are sold on the bus, although if you ran you could grab Dairy Queen at the 15 minute stop in Bellingham. I tried this but ended up having to leave before my food was ready in order not to miss the bus!
It seemed like about the same crowd you would get on an airplane, with perhaps a few more international backpackers.
Overall it is a comfortable ride despite not having all the (working) amenities advertised. The seats do not have tray tables which would have been nice for using my laptop or having lunch.
The trip from Seattle to Vancouver took exactly 4 hours as advertised. One stop in Bellingham and a second stop at the US/Canada Border where we all had to get off and go through customs.
In Vancouver you disembark at the Pacific Central terminal. The Main Street-Science World Skytrain station is across the street and a quick ride or walk into downtown.
For $17.50 it is a comfortable, low stress way to travel.