A long-haul bus and attendant in Turkey. Photo: Tupinambah/Creative Commons.
Travelers exploring Turkey by long-haul bus for the first time are often surprised at what they find onboard, or perhaps more by what they don't: no people sitting or standing in the aisles, no crates of chickens, and no stinky toilet. With their cushiony seats, TV screens, snack service, and full-service rest stops, Turkish buses are not only more civilized than many foreigners may expect, they put the dingy old Greyhounds I remember from my college days to shame. But it seems like bus companies in the United States may be finally catching up."For some Americans, bus travel remains a last resort; people associate it with seedy bus depots, uncleanliness, and cramped quarters," Joanna McKone writes for TheCityFix.com, adding that "the face of intercity bus travel is changing."
Though people's tolerance for long bus rides understandably varies, I find that the pluses of bus travel in Turkey go a long way to easing the pain. Tickets can generally be bought at the last minute, for no markup, and the bus companies offer free van or mini-bus service to the bus terminal. Once onboard, the seats couldn't exactly be called generous, but they're certainly more roomy than on most airplanes. A steward is on duty during the entire ride, passing out cups of water and spritzes of lemon-scented kolonya (cologne) for freshening up, and offering coffee or tea along with a packaged snack cake in the morning. Every few hours, the bus stops at a massive rest stop with all the facilities people need to use the restroom, shop, pray, or eat a meal.
Rebranding the Bus
New and improved services are likewise among the ways U.S. bus companies are seeking to draw new customers, along with redesigned and rebranded buses and better advertising campaigns. New firms such as Megabus (owned by Stage Group) and BoltBus (owned by Greyhound Inc. and Peter Pan Bus Lines) are even pursuing, and winning, business travelers, according to TheCityFix.com:
These intercity bus lines offer cheaper fares than Amtrak and air travel while providing other amenities like wireless internet. The bus systems also offer travelers the opportunity to use cell phones and can be less cumbersome when factoring the travel to and from airports and security checkpoints. In some ways, buses are out-competing and out-edging other services by being more responsive to changing city dynamics and commuter needs.
Even Greyhound is getting into the game, adding extra legroom, power outlets, and wireless internet access. RedCoach, a company operating in the Southeast, offers "high-end service with only 27 seats per bus, personal tables and reclining seats."
But while they're adding extras, bus companies might also do well to push one of their long-standing selling points, which commenter Garrett Bradford eloquently describes in response to TheCityFix.com article: "It may take a bit or, really, quite longer, but I like a good bus ride. You know, it's hard to see the ocean waves rolling in or the mountains rise up on the horizon from 35,000 feet up in the air. Happy travels!"
More about bus travel:
How to Ride the Bus!
Take The Bus, Instead of Flying
Top 10 Things You Need to Make Your Cross-Country Bus Trip Comfortable
Planes, Trains, Automobiles (and Buses): Which is the Greenest Way to Travel Long Distance in the US?
Crazy Bus Stops From Around the World
Green Patriotism Bus Ads Prompts Americans to Address Climate Change