EXPERIENCE: I took a Greyhound bus and survived

rietrot

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Aug 26, 2016
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Yeah, I'm guessing those probably have two meal stops. Anybody who tries it out can report back here :D
I did JHB to George back in 2007 in a city to city bus.

No real leg room almost upright seats and 12 or 14 hours. Cant remember. But we stopped a few times 3 or 4.
 

Brawler

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As a teen I used to do EL - CT 4 times a year. As the other poster said it was hellish without iPads, etc.
There was always some rather largish woman with a bucket of KFC. Always.
 

Little Mac

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IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The guide below is a travel guide that opens up buses as an option for some people who might have been in the same boat as me recently, because I wasn't aware of all of this before I basically lived through it :) This is not the place to share your terrible bus experiences (we all know about THAT bus with the cockroaches on). If it works for you, it works. If it doesn't, move along.

So I needed to pop down to Queenstown recently from Pretoria, just for a weekend. This is no simple logistical feat.

The three options are:
1) Drive down in my own car (around 9 hours) - R750 one-way in petrol at 6l/100km, so R1 500 return + tolls + maintenance wear-and-tear on car
2) Fly down to East London + rent a car + then drive around 2,5 hours to Queenstown - return flight around R2000 + R1000 car rental + R3500 refundable deposit
3) Take a bus - I settled on a Greyhound bus for the reasons below, and with my Discovery Vitality promotion applied and the most luxurious seats selected (these are ironically not the Luxury Seats but rather the 'Premium Seats') this was only R480 down + R396 up (i.e. R876 return)

Why did I select the Greyhound DreamLiner bus?
1) I'd travelled long-distance on the Intercape Sleepliner before and didn't have a bad experience (this time the schedules didn't match what I needed)
2) That return price was awesome ... only snag was I ended up paying R280 each-way to my Uber driver to get me to the station (so spent almost as much for two 20km trips as I did on the entire 800+km bus journey!)
3) The timing really worked out well. By leaving at 16:00 on Thursday afternoon, I arrived in Queenstown at 04:00 (or was meant to - actual arrival was 05:30) and so got to spend all of Friday there as well in return for only one day's leave. I couldn't have done that with either driving down (unless I drove through the night myself - which wasn't safe) or flew down + rented a car (which would have cost me more AND got me there around lunchtime). Return was great too: left Queenstown at 20:00 (so got to spend all of Sunday there vs having to return to East London around 10:00 to catch an afternoon flight out), and arrived in Pretoria at 06:30 (again actual arrival was 08:00 but still).

Three things about the bus itself:
1) The bus looks awesome and is really well-maintained. I was impressed at the size of the Greyhound logistics operation: at one point there were three large double-decker Greyhound buses all just meeting up in a random town in the middle of nowhere late at night, with paths crossing going along different routes.
View attachment 775618
2) The 'Premium Seats' are totally worth the 'extra' cost. There are only around 15 seats in a little closed off ground-floor cabin (behind a locking door), so it's like the first class of bus travel. The seats recline 150 degrees and are super comfy, so actual sleep was possible (WITH my noise cancelling headphones lol). The seats on the left are only one seat in the row, and on the right-hand side there are two of these large seats side-by-side (but the seats are large enough that you're still private). This is a terrible photo I took of the seats in their 'up' position, but they recline a lot further backwards and you have plenty of space (more than on an airplane).
View attachment 775620
3) The actual travel experience is pretty 'meh' ... there is supposedly some WiFi system with in-travel streaming movies you can connect to, but I'd downloaded Netflix episodes already so didn't bother with that. There's no food or drink service, except there was one 'meal stop' each way at a Shell Ultra City where you could go into the petrol station convenience store or the neighbouring Wimpy for a burger. Basically the point is just to try get as comfy as possible and sleep the trip away, and that works (mostly).

Tips for bus travellers:
1) Get an eyemask to block out light ... this really bothered me, because the cabin is so dark, so ambient lights (like the flickering muted TV screen at the front of the cabin) bugged me.
2) If you suffer from travel sickness, make sure you've bought medicine for it. I finally found travel sickness meds that work for me: Medazine (Cyclizine Hydrochloride). Worked like a bomb and I felt fine for the most part.
3) Either use noise-cancelling headphones or else earplugs to drown out the drone of the engine / chatter from people getting on / off the bus at the many stops along the way.

Overall summary: Was the experience perfect? Nope. The bus being 1,5 hours late without warning was a pain. I certainly do NOT recommend just jumping on at any bus station if you've got options. Stations like Park Station in Johannesburg and Pretoria Station are not for the faint-of-heart ... they're full-scale African logistics hubs (i.e. massive taxi and bus ranks), so if you're in the area I'd recommend jumping on at the much nicer new Midrand stop (the 'Big Bird' petrol station on the highway). Was I safe in the stations? Yes. Were there beggars in the stations? Yes. Should I have found an alternative solution to Uber to save more money? Hell yes. But did it work for its intended purpose? Hell yes. I managed to get a trip down to Queenstown far cheaper than expected, with a lot more time spent there than any other mode of travel would have allowed me. Consider it :)
My kids use it regularly. Some caveats:. It's almost always an hour or more late to pick up in EL. Their Aircon had a leak once... Onto one of the "business class" seats... He complained and was told to move.... The bus was full. He was also told he must have spilled something.
We've had decent experiences but the attitude has got slack. No security checks, luggage just gets loaded (tags or not). No name or ID checks.
 

Little Mac

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One other useful thing: I ended up booking my ticket telephonically through the Greyhound call centre. The website booking system was glitching, and said I needed to do that. The ordering process there was very quick, and the payment was via credit card (there was an EFT option too but I was travelling next day so didn't want to mess around). When I arrived at the station I just had to present the credit card and they printed my tickets.
The website is terrible for booking. Especially if you want to choose seats .. it's just impossible. Ig you book 2 tickets, you always get different rows. Rather phone or go in person.
 
Last edited:

gottagoon

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Aug 15, 2019
Messages
6,177
Bookmarked. I've done both Translux and Greyhound here since 2001.
Why? Bus is cheaper. Save your car.
I've seen arrogant Translux employees with their shirts hanging out and giving customers ****. They think they can do as they want. Swaggering along. Yea.

I've seen Greyhound battling with the same stuff. They treat customers differently. Greyhound not a SOE. They there to make money AND make customers happy. They do it well.

Translux yet another ANC failure. No surprise. Translux drivers are/were excellent. Seriously good. And they will leave. And what a waste again :( :(
 

Foxhound5366

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Oct 23, 2014
Messages
8,047
Bookmarked. I've done both Translux and Greyhound here since 2001.
Why? Bus is cheaper. Save your car.
I've seen arrogant Translux employees with their shirts hanging out and giving customers ****. They think they can do as they want. Swaggering along. Yea.

I've seen Greyhound battling with the same stuff. They treat customers differently. Greyhound not a SOE. They there to make money AND make customers happy. They do it well.

Translux yet another ANC failure. No surprise. Translux drivers are/were excellent. Seriously good. And they will leave. And what a waste again :( :(
My one Translux experience, admittedly 15 years ago or more, the bus was old and not comfy, and broke down halfway. Never again.
 

Little Mac

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My one Translux experience, admittedly 15 years ago or more, the bus was old and not comfy, and broke down halfway. Never again.
I renamed them Translax when I waited hours for a late one and ended up on the Kei cuttings from Durbs doing 120kph. Heard when we got back that the one that was meant to pick us up was involved in a major accident en route to us in Durbs.
 

gottagoon

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Aug 15, 2019
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Translux track record outstanding with bus drivers. Translux safe buses. I feel for the driver's. I'm grr on their behalf.
 

Afon Kulikov

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Feb 24, 2016
Messages
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From your very helpful review I think I might try them with a trip from Dirtbin to Cape Town some day with the family, just to live the experience with a little one that does not even know what the winding lever in the hired car's door is for
 

Foxhound5366

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Oct 23, 2014
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From your very helpful review I think I might try them with a trip from Dirtbin to Cape Town some day with the family, just to live the experience with a little one that does not even know what the winding lever in the hired car's door is for
Should be lots of fun. This is only one experience, but I'll honestly use them again. Hope you've got a nice bus rank, or your kid might get traumatised right there lol. Then again, maybe it will all be a big adventure.
 

cr@zydude

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Jul 20, 2008
Messages
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I use Intercape each Easter to travel from Cape Town to PE. I can work a normal day on Thursday, take a 7pm bus out of Cape Town and arrive in PE earlier than the first flight would. It's also damn cheap. I paid R300 this year but I've seen non peak tickets for R200.
 

Gaz{M}

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Feb 9, 2005
Messages
6,815
Did PE to JHB on overnight bus. It was hell. Not because the bus was bad, just because I couldn't sleep on the upright seats. 14 hours.

Did PE to CPT on Intercape a few times too. Wasn't so bad, just boring as hell. No technology to keep me entertained. But at least it was scenic.

This was all in 1999-2000.
 

Little Mac

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Did PE to JHB on overnight bus. It was hell. Not because the bus was bad, just because I couldn't sleep on the upright seats. 14 hours.

Did PE to CPT on Intercape a few times too. Wasn't so bad, just boring as hell. No technology to keep me entertained. But at least it was scenic.

This was all in 1999-2000.
I know the feeling. Plane seats are usually worse.
 

Craig_

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Feb 22, 2016
Messages
23,840
From your very helpful review I think I might try them with a trip from Dirtbin to Cape Town some day with the family, just to live the experience with a little one that does not even know what the winding lever in the hired car's door is for

I would love to do this with my kids at some stage. Kid's reaction to that winding lever can be funny. My son just kept turning the window up and down in my cousins tazz the other day. He was fascinated by that thing.
 

Gozado

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Jan 13, 2019
Messages
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Over the past few years I've done Jhb-Dbn and Dbn-Pmb and back a few times, with Intercape.

At the risk of sounding like an ad for them, this is my positive experience.

The Intercape staff were, with very few exceptions (there's always the risk of a disgruntled person somewhere, after all) polite and helpful: each time two drivers who alternated driving, resting and dealing with luggage. Once, as I disembarked, the driver defended me against rather aggressive soliciting from a vendor, and stayed with me guarding my luggage and me for 5 extra minutes until my friends arrived to fetch me.

Absolute no-smoking policy, and on one journey a driver even stopped the bus (after a few km, having found a safe space) to investigate. More experienced passengers told me a passenger had been smoking in the toilet cubicle, and that after any such violation of the rules his name would be put on a blacklist and, were he ever to want to book with Intercape again, he would have to specifically agree to comply with all the rules. They told me that any such person gets only that single second chance, and if they ever cause any further trouble after that, they'd never again be allowed onto Intercape. Several passengers who did not know one another confirmed that that's how it works, and they said that for that reason, the behaviour on the bus is generally civil and respectful - which was what I also saw.

Intercape advertises as "we promote the Christian faith on our buses", but it wasn't, in fact, too pushy (just a brief tape-recorded prayer at the start and end of the trip) and independently of each other a Moslem man and an Hindu woman told me that that is why they now (having had other experiences) always choose Intercape. As she said: "On these buses, there's no swearing at the driver, no drinking, and no tsotsis. We're safe here."
 

Roman avril

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Joined
Aug 20, 2021
Messages
136
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The guide below is a travel guide that opens up buses as an option for some people who might have been in the same boat as me recently, because I wasn't aware of all of this before I basically lived through it :) This is not the place to share your terrible bus experiences (we all know about THAT bus with the cockroaches on). If it works for you, it works. If it doesn't, move along.

So I needed to pop down to Queenstown recently from Pretoria, just for a weekend. This is no simple logistical feat.

The three options are:
1) Drive down in my own car (around 9 hours) - R750 one-way in petrol at 6l/100km, so R1 500 return + tolls + maintenance wear-and-tear on car
2) Fly down to East London + rent a car + then drive around 2,5 hours to Queenstown - return flight around R2000 + R1000 car rental + R3500 refundable deposit
3) Take a bus - I settled on a Greyhound bus for the reasons below, and with my Discovery Vitality promotion applied and the most luxurious seats selected (these are ironically not the Luxury Seats but rather the 'Premium Seats') this was only R480 down + R396 up (i.e. R876 return)

Why did I select the Greyhound DreamLiner bus?
1) I'd travelled long-distance on the Intercape Sleepliner before and didn't have a bad experience (this time the schedules didn't match what I needed)
2) That return price was awesome ... only snag was I ended up paying R280 each-way to my Uber driver to get me to the station (so spent almost as much for two 20km trips as I did on the entire 800+km bus journey!)
3) The timing really worked out well. By leaving at 16:00 on Thursday afternoon, I arrived in Queenstown at 04:00 (or was meant to - actual arrival was 05:30) and so got to spend all of Friday there as well in return for only one day's leave. I couldn't have done that with either driving down (unless I drove through the night myself - which wasn't safe) or flew down + rented a car (which would have cost me more AND got me there around lunchtime). Return was great too: left Queenstown at 20:00 (so got to spend all of Sunday there vs having to return to East London around 10:00 to catch an afternoon flight out), and arrived in Pretoria at 06:30 (again actual arrival was 08:00 but still).

Three things about the bus itself:
1) The bus looks awesome and is really well-maintained. I was impressed at the size of the Greyhound logistics operation: at one point there were three large double-decker Greyhound buses all just meeting up in a random town in the middle of nowhere late at night, with paths crossing going along different routes.
View attachment 775618
2) The 'Premium Seats' are totally worth the 'extra' cost. There are only around 15 seats in a little closed off ground-floor cabin (behind a locking door), so it's like the first class of bus travel. The seats recline 150 degrees and are super comfy, so actual sleep was possible (WITH my noise cancelling headphones lol). The seats on the left are only one seat in the row, and on the right-hand side there are two of these large seats side-by-side (but the seats are large enough that you're still private). This is a terrible photo I took of the seats in their 'up' position, but they recline a lot further backwards and you have plenty of space (more than on an airplane).
View attachment 775620
3) The actual travel experience is pretty 'meh' ... there is supposedly some WiFi system with in-travel streaming movies you can connect to, but I'd downloaded Netflix episodes already so didn't bother with that. There's no food or drink service, except there was one 'meal stop' each way at a Shell Ultra City where you could go into the petrol station convenience store or the neighbouring Wimpy for a burger. Basically the point is just to try get as comfy as possible and sleep the trip away, and that works (mostly).

Tips for bus travellers:
1) Get an eyemask to block out light ... this really bothered me, because the cabin is so dark, so ambient lights (like the flickering muted TV screen at the front of the cabin) bugged me.
2) If you suffer from travel sickness, make sure you've bought medicine for it. I finally found travel sickness meds that work for me: Medazine (Cyclizine Hydrochloride). Worked like a bomb and I felt fine for the most part.
3) Either use noise-cancelling headphones or else earplugs to drown out the drone of the engine / chatter from people getting on / off the bus at the many stops along the way.

Overall summary: Was the experience perfect? Nope. The bus being 1,5 hours late without warning was a pain. I certainly do NOT recommend just jumping on at any bus station if you've got options. Stations like Park Station in Johannesburg and Pretoria Station are not for the faint-of-heart ... they're full-scale African logistics hubs (i.e. massive taxi and bus ranks), so if you're in the area I'd recommend jumping on at the much nicer new Midrand stop (the 'Big Bird' petrol station on the highway). Was I safe in the stations? Yes. Were there beggars in the stations? Yes. Should I have found an alternative solution to Uber to save more money? Hell yes. But did it work for its intended purpose? Hell yes. I managed to get a trip down to Queenstown far cheaper than expected, with a lot more time spent there than any other mode of travel would have allowed me. Consider it :)
Wow greyhound was really something special wasn't it?
 

Foxhound5366

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Joined
Oct 23, 2014
Messages
8,047
Wow greyhound was really something special wasn't it?
*smiles* To me, yes. Not so much because of the service, but because of what it enabled: me to travel from here to THERE, to her ... more regularly than I could have afforded to fly. For that reason, it was priceless for me. Trying to sleep with noise cancelling headphones, blocking out the blue lights in the premium cabin with an eye mask ... garage snacks (pringles and biltong ftw) ... arriving in ungodly places at cursed times ... it was something.
 

Roman avril

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Joined
Aug 20, 2021
Messages
136
*smiles* To me, yes. Not so much because of the service, but because of what it enabled: me to travel from here to THERE, to her ... more regularly than I could have afforded to fly. For that reason, it was priceless for me. Trying to sleep with noise cancelling headphones, blocking out the blue lights in the premium cabin with an eye mask ... garage snacks (pringles and biltong ftw) ... arriving in ungodly places at cursed times ... it was something.
I only travelled between plk and pta so I got on the old double deck bus. I always was worried about the prices. They was just too cheap in my eyes. U can't charge prices lower than taxi when u are a household name and offer safer service
 

Foxhound5366

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Oct 23, 2014
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I only travelled between plk and pta so I got on the old double deck bus. I always was worried about the prices. They was just too cheap in my eyes. U can't charge prices lower than taxi when u are a household name and offer safer service
LOL, you wanted them to charge you more so you could feel good about it? *shrugs* I never noticed any maintenance issues with the important parts of the bus (e.g. worn tyres or squeeky brakes). Sure there were no niceties like onboard catering, and the USB ports in the seat invariably never worked (far less the free wi-fi), but who cared? I paid general more more my two Uber trips and Gautrain within Gauteng than my entire return trip of 900km. That's a business model and a half, that enables that sort of pricing.
 
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