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Budget bus lines from Baltimore to New York, compared

A Baltimore Brew Guide - just in time for Turkey Day travel . . .

bus bolt bus

Bolt Bus on St. Paul St., near Baltimore’s Penn Station.

Photo by: Fern Shen

Looking for a way to to make the 190-mile trip between Baltimore and the Big Apple, possibly for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, without driving?

If you don’t want to pay Amtrak prices and are curious about the proliferation of budget bus lines serving Baltimore these days, here is a guide to what’s out there.

Many of the newer bus services offer free Wi-Fi, so if you have to sit in holiday traffic, why not let someone else do the driving and spend the time reading The Brew or doing a little online Christmas shopping?

Remember to buy tickets early online because popular departure times will sell out.

TIP: The first passenger to purchase a ticket for a given BoltBus or Mega Bus ride pays only $1 for his or her ticket.

For providers like BoltBus, the earlier you purchase your ticket, the more likely you are to get a ticket in groups A or B, which load first (This means you’re also more likely to snag not only a window seat, but also a row with a power outlet to get you and your laptop through the long, free-wireless ride).

BoltBus might be the best-known bus service, but there are plenty more under-the-radar options. Most of the following buses leave from or near Baltimore’s Penn Station, run around $20 for a one-way ticket (the earlier you purchase the cheaper it usually is), take around four hours (depending on traffic) and arrive in the NYC Penn Station area (some companies offer Chinatown drop-offs as well).

We focused on New York, for comparison purposes, but these lines go elsewhere in the region: DC, Philly
Richmond, etc. Just check their websites. We did most of the price research for this on 11/16/10 so prices and availability will have changed.

So here’s our round-up. We’re eager to hear readers’ experiences with these buses or any corrections or additions to this guide.

CHEAP-O BUSES

* Apex Bus – You can buy tickets on the spot, but online tickets are recommended. Unlike BoltBus, which allows you to just flash your confirmation email to the driver, Apex tickets must be printed out. Apex has no assigned seating and they recommend arriving 30 minutes before departure time. Their website says most buses have Wi-Fi. Prices are $20 one-way and $35 round-trip. (Still tickets available today (11/20/10) for the day before Thanksgiving (11/24/10)!).

Departure location: 5400 O’Donnell Street Cutoff. (Travel Plaza, in front of Baltimore Truck Wash/Cornerstone Grill). You have a choice between Chinatown and Penn Station drops offs in NYC.

* BoltBus : Probably the most well known and popular provider, Bolt tickets usually run around $20 (one way). 11/23 and 11/24 (Thanksgiving) are already sold out! A few times are left on Monday 11/22, as of 1:30pm today). Perks? Free Wi-Fi, power outlets (in certain rows), and typically cheerful, competent bus drivers. Go at least 15 minutes early to wait in line (There will still be a line even though tickets are classified by groups (A, B, C, etc)).
Departure location: Baltimore-Marc Penn Station – 1610 St. Paul St.

* Eastern Bus: Tickets are $20-25 (one way). Free Wi-Fi.
Departure location: 5400 O’Donnell Street Cutoff (NYC drop offs in Chinatown or Penn Station)

* Mega Bus (buses leave from White Marsh): Megabus tickets from Bmore to NYC can be as cheap as 1 to 17 dollars, but run around $30 the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (11/24). They’re slightly cheaper Thanksgiving day (around $20), but you’ll only pay $5 if you leave at 12:55am on Tues 11/23. Most buses have working Wi-Fi,
Departure location: White Marsh Park & Ride

* MVP
Tickets are $20 one way and $35 round trip from Baltimore to NYC and buses leave every 1.5-2 hrs. Most buses have free Wi-Fi (some exceptions on holidays and weekends).
Departure location: 4 blocks from Penn Station, at Hyundai Plaza 1910 N Charles St & E North Ave.

Google map of departure points for Amtrak, Apex Bus, BoltBus, Eastern Bus, Greyhound, Mega Bus, and MVP.

OTHER OPTIONS: AMTRAK AND GREYHOUND

* Amtrak
A one-way ticket from Baltimore Penn Station to New York Penn Station the day before Thanksgiving (11/24) runs between $100-$215. The 2 hour, 15 min. Acela Express train falls on the pricier end of the fare scale (The regional route takes around 2 hrs and 50).
Departure location: Baltimore Penn Station

* Greyhound: It pre-dates the lesser known low-cost bus services and is more expensive. A one-way ticket from downtown Baltimore to New York’s Penn Station the day before Thanksgiving (11/24) costs around $30. There are only three departure times that day, and two of them include connections and/or travel times of more than five hours! A plus? Most buses have bathrooms, Wi-Fi, and power outlets.
Departure locations: Downtown Baltimore (2110 Haines Street) or Baltimore Travel Plaza (Best Western Hotel, 5625 O Donnell St).

Be sure to check our full comment policy before leaving a comment.

  • Benj Burns

    I would suggest dc2ny bus as well.

  • John S

    My reason for *not* choosing Bolt is staring right out of that photo–they’re always parking in the bike lane! If they can get their drivers to move all the way over to the curb, I’ll consider them the next time I’m headed to NYC.

  • http://twitter.com/contactjeff Jeff Davis

    I’m using Superior Tours for a NY trip in January thanks to a Groupon deal they offered, so am wondering why they didn’t they make the cut. I believe they’ve been around a long time, so are they not considered a budget operation?

    • http://blog.cyclosity.com/ Liam

      Yeah, I’d like to know more about this. I’ve never heard of them. Can they be added to the post?

      • Anonymous

        Sure, we’ll look into them. Readers have already suggested a couple we missed. What’s your experience with these buses, Liam?

        • http://blog.cyclosity.com/ Liam

          Other than BoltBus and MVP, none. IMHO, BoltBus is all you need, but it would be cool to see what Superior is/where they operate out of.

        • http://blog.cyclosity.com/ Liam

          Just checked. They don’t even pick up in the city. Kind of like Megabus, that claim they go to Baltimore City but only drop you off at White Marsh. I say keep them off the list since you need to plan a trip just to get to their pick up spot.

  • Marc H.

    I took a Megabus to/from NYC 2 weeks ago. It’s a pretty good deal with some caveats. The bus was nice (double decker, clean, free wifi, electrical outlets, bathroom) and had good suspension so the ride up was smooth. On the way back either the driver was playing footsie with the accelerator or he was up against a governor, but either way we were jerking back and forth the whole trip back ultimately making me naseous. In NYC the bus pickup is on a street near Penn Station, but there is absolutely no cover for inclement weather (or bathrooms). So it’s less than ideal if lugging kids/elderly in foul weather. The drop off in NYC is a few blocks away from the pickup spot and is right next to a subway line. I would use it again, but would remember to pack an umbrella.

  • Max

    I had a recent experience with megabus that I’d like to share: despite having a Megabus reservation, I wasn’t allowed on because they had oversold tickets. The guy working there apologized profusely and told me to come back in an hour, promising that I’d be first in line. When I came back in an hour, he acknowledged me and then ushered three attractive young women (presumably friends of his) from the back of the line to the front of the line, ahead of me. The whole experience made me feel bad, and I’m going to try to avoid Megabus in the future.

  • flynn

    THANK YOU! This is the ONLY info I’ve found helpful in regards to buses that leave from/near Baltimore’s Penn Station. 

  • Lucky_munda1999

    what time is first bus leaving from baltimore to NY

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