USA Travel Without a Car: 10 Cheap Routes by Plane, Bus and Train

Zephyr train

The USA is the land of the automobile, but what if you’ve got no wheels or – shock horror – can’t drive? We’re here to help.

Below, we list your means of transport between major US cities, weighing up pricing and journey times for planes, trains and busses. Find the best option for your time scale and budget with our USA travel comparison guide…

A note about flight costs

We’ve taken an estimate of average cheapest fares using flight comparison sites Farecompare and Skyscanner. The costs below are an approximation of what you’d expect to pay, as prices can change depending on the season and how far in advance you book.

WEST

Los Angeles ► San Francisco

Distance: 556km

By plane: 1.5 hours. Prices from $80

By train:

There is no direct train from Los Angeles to San Francisco. To make the journey, you’d have to mix up Amtrak journeys with bus rides – the trip would be long and messy, not worth the time and money.

By bus:

Tours4Fun has a direct bus from West Valley Boulevard in LA stopping at San Jose, Cupertine, Oakland and the Bank of America in San Fran. There’s one bus a day, leaving at 10am. A one-way trip is $55 and takes about seven and a half hours. A round trip is £45.

The California Shuttle Bus runs from LA to San Francisco in two daily services: one from 11.30am to 8.30pm, the other from 11.20pm to 7.15am, taking around eight hours. The bus has free Wi-Fi and you’re allowed two pieces of luggage plus one carry-on inclusive in your ticket price. One-way trips start at $15.

Los Angeles ► Las Vegas

Distance: 367km

By plane: About 1 hour flight. Rates from $65.

By train:

There is no direct train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. To make the journey, you’d have to mix up Amtrak journeys with bus rides – the trip would be long and messy, not worth the time and money.

By bus:

Viator busses from Los Angeles to Las Vegas make one trip each way per day and have reclining seats and complimentary drinks and snacks. The journey takes five hours and costs from $87.99 one-way or $124.99 for a round trip.

For a cheaper option, GotoBus runs LA to Las Vegas busses throughout the daytime and evening. Trip time is five hours, and prices start at $25 for a single journey.

The Greyhound also has several routes between LA and Vegas, taking five to seven hours with prices starting at around $25 each way.

San Francisco ► Las Vegas

Distance: 669 km

By plane:

About 1.5 hour flight. Prices start from $100

By train:

There is no direct train from San Francisco to Las Vegas. To make the journey, you’d have to mix up Amtrak journeys with bus rides – the trip would be long and messy, not worth the time and money.

By bus:

Greyhound’s San Francisco to Las Vegas bus service totals at 15 hours of travel, and makes several small stops along the way. Prices start at $59.

Green Tortoise (which has hostels in San Francisco and Las Vegas) runs a Hostel Hopper bus service between San Francisco – Las Vegas on selected Fridays and between Las Vegas – San Fran on selected Saturdays. Busses run from April to October, with tickets priced at $62.

SOUTH

Miami ► Orlando

Distance: 314 km

By plane:

Flights last less than one hour. Prices start at $115.

By train:

Amtrak’s direct route from Miami to Orlando takes five hours and costs $43. Miami station is ten miles northwest of downtown Miami on the border of Miami and Hialeah. There are plans to move Amtrak departures to Miami Central Station in 2014.

By bus:

The Miami Beach 411 leaves from various locations including Miami Airport and downtown (follow the link for departure schedule). It costs $35 and lasts four hours. For $10/15 extra, the tour extends to Universal Studios or Disney World.

The Florida Express Bus has a regular departure schedule, taking between four to six hours depending on time of day and traffic. The cheapest fare is $25 .

EAST

New York ► Boston

Distance: 301km

By plane:

The flight lasts approximately one hour, with rates starting at $70.

By train:

Amtrak runs trains between NYC and Boston with trips lasting 3.5 to 4.5 hours. The cheapest ticket costs $49.

By bus:

Several companies operate NYC-Boston bus routes, including Peter Pan (with tickets starting at $1!) and GotoBus. The average price is $15 and the trip lasts four to five hours.

New York ► Washington

Distance: 327km

By plane:

About a 1 hour flight. Fares starts at $90.

By train:

About 3 hours on Amtrak, with tickets from $49.

By bus:

The trip takes about 4.5 hours and there are several NYC-Washington busses to choose from. The Washington Deluxe has different prices for weekdays – $ 21 – and weekends / holidays – $26, the Peter Pan has an average price of $17 one way and GotoBus charges $21.75 for the cheapest ticket.

Stopping in New York? See our NYC guide for ideas on what to do in the Big Apple and browse our top hotels for a cosy place to sleep.

Boston ► Washington

Distance: 629km

By plane:

Direct flights last less than 1.5 hours, and cheaper fares are approximately $88.

By train:

On Amtrak, the cheapest journey is 7.5 to 8 hours and costs $70.

By bus:

There are fewer bus options for Boston to Washington, but via Greyhound the journey takes 9.5 to 10.5 hours and the cheapest ticket costs $39.

USA flights

Some journeys aren’t just practical by train and bus. Here’s when to take a plane:

West coast to south flights

There are no direct train or bus routes from west to south, and routes that connect up various trains and busses are messy, expensive and time-consuming. Instead, get a plane…

  • Direct flights from Los Angeles to Orlando are five hours long, starting at $190.
  • Flights from Las Vegas to Miami also last five hours and cost from $236.

South to north-east coast flights

OK, so there is an Amtrak train route from south to east (the Silverlink Express), but travel time is longer than 24 hours and prices start at $166 – more than a plane! It’s best to fly…

  • Miami to New York flights are about three hours and cost from $120.
  • Orlando to New York flights cost $110 and take 3.5 hours.

East coast to west coast flights

The distance between New York to Los Angeles is almost 4000 km, so your only practical option is to fly.

  • A plane journey lasts less than six hours and prices start at $270.

Looking for USA travel tips? Check out our interactive map of the USA with tips and photos from locals. You even can add your own tips and photos too!

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Thanks to iagoarchangel for the image off Flickr. Please note, the image was held under the Creative Commons licence on publication.

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