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Just hope you dont have a Megabum!
Member Name: Emma1973
Date: 05/10/11, updated on 05/10/11 (509 review reads)
Advantages: Cheap and cheerful
Disadvantages: Seats only really suitable for an ewok
Megabus first came to my attention about a year ago whilst looking for cheap ways to travel to Bristol from Manchester to see family. I'm no longer driving and with petrol prices costing return trips to cost up to a £100, getting my partner to drive me there was pretty prohibitive. National Express always seemed quite expensive and although I have a disabled railcard the train still costs me £43. So the search for an even cheaper alternative was on!
Its actually been around longer than I thought, 2003 to be precise, as far as I'm aware it started off with the Everywhere to London route but now connects to 50 places, from Inverness to Penzance if you fancy that journey! (I don't at well over 14 hours!) They are past of the Stagecoach group who are fast threatening their monopoly rivals First Bus and even cover the US and Canada! However they are nowhere near as big as National Express, so, for example Manchester has only 4 coaches a day going to Bristol.
You cant mistake a Megabus, their bright blue coaches with the cheery yellow chap in his conductors uniform smiling out at you. What had put me off before was that the Megabuses I had seen looked quite tatty and worn. And at that time I was sufficiently able to be a snob and go on the train! But they did appear to be improving, I was seeing more and more new shiny buses.
I'd also been out off by the times of some of the buses, they would leave at some daft mid-day time to arrive at stupid 'o' clock. Seeing the moths fly out of my purse I decided to take another look at the website. Aided along by the sight of that cheeky chappie on the side of the bus proclaiming fare to be from a £1
The website is easy enough to manoeuvre, click on UK, how many people, NUS or Concession (only available in Scotland), by bus or train, when you are going and when you are returning. Yes, I didn't write that wrong, apparently they also do tickets for the train. I'd be really interested to know if anyone has managed to get tickets to the train because I never have. I am informed that they release the train tickets 45 days in advance.........apparently.....and then its only from London to the South West.
Now this summer Megabus have been a bit sneaky. Indeed their prices do usually start from a £1 but they are throwing a summer extravaganza whereby an ticket booked 14 days in advance costs only £8 no matter the distance. Of course this means you cant get the £5 to London anymore! Although this seems subject to conditions as well as sometimes the £8 deal seems to last until about 2 days before you are due to travel. Thats the other thing with Megabus, the closer to the date it gets, the more expensive it gets , it can double if not triple.
There aren't really the discounts you get on the train or National Express, there's discounts for students and Scottish Concession Holders. But not for those with disabilities, family groups, etc, indeed its per seat so no discounts for children.
There is a phone number for booking but its in tiny numbers so they're obviously wanting you to book through the website which you can do with a debit or credit card.
The booking system promises to be a smooth, simple process. Smooth, simple process? I wish, I nearly lost the will to live using this website! Everytime I got to the booking form the flipping thing crashed. I should mention that I'd been unable to find the phone number at this point.
In fact it took so long that the price for our return journey had gone up from £8 each to £17. I was picking my son up in Bristol returning back to Manchester, then taking him back again a week later and I would come back up again. Hence the need for low-cost as its actually 2 returns for me.
I did ring up to try and get the cheaper price but was informed this was impossible, I've just had the phone bill and that call cost me £4 so beware!
I'm lucky enough to have a Disabled Railcard with 2 singles from Bristol to Manchester costing a total of £36 and an 1 1/2hr less journey it was worth the extra few quid to come back that way.
So I've paid my £8 to go down to Bristol on the first leg of my epic trip, there is, of course a booking fee of 50p. Quite nervously though they dont give you a ticket, just a booking number, you can get this sent to a mobile or they will send you an email with it in. But I get a bit agitated if I dont have a real life ticket to wave at an inspector or conductor when he's checking. I had to print off the e-mail and spent the whole way to Shudehill double-checking the details!
Right I'm booked on and at Shudehill bus station waiting for the bus which arrives 10 minutes early for people to stretch their legs, but it leaves exactly on time.
I wasn't expecting luxury, quite frankly I hadn't paid for it and I was neither surprised or disappointed. Luckily the bus was extremely quiet and I was able to put my bag next to me on the seat because by god there wasn't a lot of room. I only just touch 5' 6" and I had about 2-3" spare to move my legs in. Hence I spent Manchester to Birmingham being kicked in the back every time the person behind me moved.
So if you are on the tall side sit in the aisle seat so you can stretch your legs. Or sit right at the back where there's more leg room but you'll be next to the loo. If you don't have the choice of the above options may I recommend flight socks to reduce the chance of DVT?
The seats are covered in that horrible scratchy carpet-like material. On bare skin you'll end up with carpet burns but with none of the fun! I just had a childhood memory of school trips pop into my head where the school bully would grab someone's face and rub it against that material till they cried! With the space restrictions I'm also glad I didn't wear shorts as explaining the carpet burns on my knees could prove quite difficult when I arrived home.
The bus is spotlessly clean with perfect temperatures throughout. The toilet was clean, working, though a little cramped. I'm starting to think this bus was designed for oompa-loompas.
Both drivers we had were extremely professional keeping us up to date with some of the traffic issues. They also knew their way around with the exceptional case of us arriving in Bristol on time despite 2 junctions of the M5 being closed and initially taking a different route. They also made sure those passengers who got off the bus at Birmingham for a cigarette had returned before leaving. Although it was a case of 'Oi mate, back on or we'll go without you'
Aside from the website I did enjoy the experience, at least this time. I really wouldn't like to be on it when its full. Trains can get cramped but at least you can move about. I'm not of the smaller size persuasion and unless I'm sitting next to a small child I wont even be able to move my arms. In fact the very thought makes me feel quite nervous. I cant argue with the prices though, £8 is a bargain and when National Express have to stop the discount fares for disabled people on the 31st October I may have to go on Megabus more often. And if you're not too fussy about the times you leave or the length of the journey its ahead of the competition!
Summary: A low cost travel option.
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