Seattle Skyline
Credit: Photo credit ologsinquito

The Least Inexpensive Way to Travel

We recently visited the Pacific Northwest. After spending a couple of days in Seattle, we needed a way to get to Portland, Oregon. Originally, we had planned to take a train. Fortunately, someone told us about the Bolt Bus.

This is a low-cost line, owned by Greyhound, which offers inexpensive transportation between cities in California, Nevada, the Pacific Northwest and the Northeastern part of the United States, including Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington DC. There is also a run from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia.

For a family of four, taking the bus, instead of the train, saved us about $100. Also, it was a quick trip, as the bus made no stops along this route.

Our one-way tickets cost each of us $18. But if we had known about this discount line sooner, we likely could have saved even more money, by booking earlier, instead of the afternoon before.

In general, the earlier you reserve your spot on a Bolt Bus, the less you'll pay. Tickets usually run between $10 and $20, but it's possible to spend as little as $1 for a one-way fare by planning ahead. At least one of the first few seats sold on each trip sells for this low price.

It's highly recommended that you purchase your ticket ahead of time, because Bolt seats tend to sell out. Although you can also ride these buses without reservations, it's not advisable because you are not guaranteed a spot. Also, tickets for walk-on customers are more expensive than for reserved seats.

Boarding the Bolt
Credit: Photo credit ologsinquito

Boarding the Bolt Bus

Our bus left from a spot near the base of Seattle's International District, where many of the city's Asian shops and restaurants are located. At night, it's generally not advisable to walk around in this area. But, by daylight, it seems perfectly safe, as the restaurants cater to both locals and tourists.

Like many of the other passengers, we had suitcases that needed to first be loaded into the side of the bus, underneath where we sat. Our driver, an affable man with a good sense of humor, took care of our luggage. Then, we were on our way.

It was a pleasant trip, riding in the modern air-conditioned bus with high-backed leather seats. I was happy our driver did not drive nearly as fast as some of the other bus drivers that ply the Seattle freeways. Riding in a bus through Seattle two days before had been a hair-raising experience. I was very happy I wouldn't be biting my nails during the three-hour ride to Portland.

All of the buses are equipped with wifi. But I preferred to enjoy the pretty Northwestern landscape instead of staring at my laptop. Actually, the farmland we passed was beautiful. As we got closer to the Oregon border, we could see several rivers winding their way to the Pacific. It appeared as if people had built vacation homes along some of their banks.

On our bus, all of the seats were filled, so our family of four needed to split up. I sat next to a very nice young man who lived in Washington, just north of the Portland border. He was a student at the University of Washington, returning home for a visit.

The other passengers seemed to span all socio-economic groups. My husband chatted with a very flamboyant woman, who wanted to tell him about her experiences with astral projection. He politely listened.

Other Routes Run by Bolt Bus

Bolt Bus is a relatively new company, founded in 2008. It seems to cater to a market once dominated by independent low-cost bus lines.

Judging by the filled bus on our trip, it appears as if this is a very popular to travel between cities on its route.

The 10o or so buses in the company's fleet seem to be newer than the typical city bus, and the bathroom, at least the day we traveled was clean.

The bus left us off in downtown Portland, in an area served by the city's Light Rail Max line.

If you're thinking of traveling between Portland and Seattle, I highly recommend taking the Bolt Bus if you're looking for a low-cost direct route from city to city.

In the Northeast, there are multiple routes in and out of New York City, connecting with all of the other major cities, including Newark.