Overland Travel In The United States
If the traveling the US is in the plans for your RTW, be prepared and budget appropriately. Simply put, there really isn’t a budget friendly way of getting around the US. It’s massive, and public transportation options are few and pretty expensive compared to the rest of the world.
Fares and rates are always changing, but here are a few sample round trip fares for train travel on Amtrak:
- St. Louis to Chicago: $48/person (5 hours 25 minutes)
- New York City to Boston: $98/person (5 hours)
- Los Angeles to Las Vegas: $110/person (6 hours)
Megabus is the best bet for budget travel, and if you book far enough in advance, many legs offer $10 tickets. Here are some sample fares for round trip travel:
- St. Louis>Chicago: $60/person (6 hours)
- New York City>Boston: $22/person (4 hours 15 minutes)
Here are a few sample round trip fares for Greyhound, another bus option in the US:
- St. Louis to Chicago: $30/person (5 hours 40 minutes)
- New York City to Boston: $40/person (4 hours 20 minutes)
- Los Angeles to Las Vegas: $61/person (6 hours)
Overland Travel In Canada
Canada doesn’t offer much of a change from the United States when it comes to overland travel. Trains and buses are the way to go again, and while they are both a great way to see the beauty of Canada, they will put a dent in the wallet.
Here are a few sample round trip fares for taking VIA Rail for weekend summer travel:
- Toronto to Ottawa: $161/person (4.5 hours)
- Montreal to Quebec: $113/person (3 hours)
- Calgary to Edmonton: $138/person
- Edmonton to Banff: $265/person
Greyhound also has bus service throughout Canada, and here are a few sample fares:
- Toronto to Ottawa: $100/person (5 hours)
- Calgary to Edmonton: $75/person (5.5 hours)
Overland Travel In Central America
When many travelers think of overland travel in Central America, the first thing that comes to mind are the infamous chicken buses. If you’ve never heard of chicken buses, they are basically old US school buses that are used for local travel throughout most countries in Central America. They are painted in bright, vibrant colors, and if you remember your childhood days taking the bus to school, you’ll remember that the seats aren’t the most comfortable or roomy. Add in the fact that they pack these bad boys to the gills with way too many people, animals (which is where the name chicken bus comes from), and goods, plus the poor road conditions, and it can make for an, ahem, interesting ride.
Luckily chicken buses aren’t the only mode of transport throughout Central America . They are obviously the cheapest way of getting around, and if you are only traveling within a country and not crossing borders, and your journey is only a few hours, enduring a chicken bus is not only dirt cheap, but highly entertaining.
If your budget allows, then consider taking luxury buses. These actually tend to be pretty damn comfortable and superior to Greyhound buses throughout the US and Canada. Seats that recline, air conditioning, bathrooms, and a major upgrade in comfort. Don’t let the word luxury throw you off. While not practically free like the chicken buses, the prices aren’t too bad, and for any long or overnight trip, it’s worth the extra cash.
Minibuses are another option and fall between the two as far as comfort goes. You may have a/c, and the seats may be more comfortable, but cramming 18 people in a 12 person minibus is not uncommon.
There are so many different companies in each city and country throughout Central America, and the vast majority of the time simply turning up at the bus station will get you a ticket on the bus you want to take.
- Guatemala to El Salvador: $20 (6 hours)
- Honduras to Mexico: $52 (overnight)
- Costa Rica to Panama: $37 (overnight)
Overland Travel in South America
If you’ve never traveled in South America before, the size may throw you off. It’s freaking huge, and getting around without flying takes time. With the Andes spanning much of the western side of continent, it’s slow going much of the time, but luckily the comfort level of buses in most countries is amazing. Save for Bolivia and parts of other countries, you will probably be quite surprised at the state of bus travel in South America.
Like Central America, bus travel is cheap, and the lower quality buses simply aren’t found throughout much of South America. Argentina is known for posh buses, and it’s not uncommon to be served hot meals with wine, have fully reclineable seats, and a/c and bathrooms. Bolivia is at the other end of the spectrum and compares better to the Central American chicken buses than the posh-ness of Argentine buses. Every other country has service and comfort somewhere in between. You can find nice buses in all other countries, and you can find some crap, too. It all depends on the company and region you’re traveling in. But overall, traveling South American by bus is quite nice and may surprise you.
Despite the different companies in the various countries throughout South America, it’s quite difficult to do anything online. Some companies have schedules posted, but booking online is just something most don’t do. Turning up at the bus station in some cases can get you a ticket, but you may want to go a day or so in advance to secure the company and route you want, especially in high season and when taking popular tourist routes. The vast majority of bus stations in South America have numerous companies going the same routes, so checking around for the best quality bus and lowest price is certainly advantageous. Keep in mind that English is not widely spoken at bus stations, so if you’re Spanish is weak or nonexistent, you may consider going to a travel agent. You will pay more, but it’s not exorbitant.
Don’t forget to check out the FAQ’s on the same subject, which asks all the right questions and offers tons of great information for getting around the world on the ground (or in some cases, over water).
For specific information on overland travel in each region of the world, be sure to check out the following guides, with resources and sample pricing for various overland journeys:
Overland Travel In Africa And The Middle East
Overland Travel In Europe
Overland Travel In Russia And Central Asia
Overland Travel In India
Overland Travel In China And Southeast Asia
Overland Travel In Australia And New Zealand