Believe you can and you’re halfway there.
— Theodore Roosevelt —

Traveling the States by a long-distance bus

If you are too young to drive a car in the States or don’t want to rent one, there are long-distance busses available to get around. Keep in mind that there are far more stops within the north-eastern States compared to the central and western States. One option is the Greyhound Lines bus company. Its extensive network is visible on their homepage. Likewise, you may check out the providers Coach USA, Trailways, and other major companies with networks covering only specific states. There are also “Chinatown buses” and Mexican buses available for specific routes.

I recommend comparing prices of different companies before buying any tickets. Even if the reputation of long-distance buses has increased over the years, they till maintain a “dodgy” reputation. When I traveled in 2013, I already had a quite good experience. In my impression, not necessarily the buses but rather the stations and the service at the stations can be dodgy, I was happy to not start or end a bus journey during dark hours. Moreover, I was not traveling alone, so I felt safe even within weird bus stations.

Getting Tickets

Tickets for long-distance buses can easily be booked online. Just pay attention to select the correct date and time. Back in 2013, we had to print all tickets. Maybe there are even apps and QR codes available these days. In this case, I recommend checking the app stores whether such apps are a must and if they are available internationally. On another trip, I’ve already made the experience that specific apps are only available if you have a store-account linked to that specific country.

Sometimes, the buses are overbooked and even if you have paid for your ticket, you won’t get on the bus and are asked to take the following one. Therefore, try to be at the bus station at least one hour ahead of time and queue as early as you know the gate, to make sure to get your spot on the specific bus. In case you have any specific needs, consider even more time, since you might have to talk to staff even before queuing.


When I traveled using Greyhound in 2013, I didn’t pay particular attention to any accessibility restrictions. Doing some research on accessibility some years later, I found some very valuable information on the Greyhound homepage regarding customers with disabilities. On this page, there are many details on help for ticket-booking, priority seating, traveling in a wheelchair, assistance during stops and many more. It is said that all buses are equipped with a wheelchair lift to help you get on board. However, since you might have different drivers and staff along one route, make sure to inform everyone about your needs. Therefore, appropriate knowledge of the English language is a must.

What to keep in mind for traveling the States


German tourists had to apply for an e-visa before boarding a plane. This has been an easy online process of a few minutes. The circumstances and prerequisites might change over time and depending on your passport nationality. Therefore, check on the website of the US Embassy of your country regarding the most recent requirements.


If you travel through the States without a guided tour, you have to take care of your own food and dining experience. Coming from Central Europe, you will most likely experience American “bread” as a lot of air with only very little dough and some coloring. Well, every time I went into a supermarket, I realized how much more sugary, sweet and artificially prepared stuff there is compared to healthy and organic stuff. This is why we went out to restaurants quite often, the taste of prepared meals was much better and more filling.

There are many international food chains present in the States, don’t only expect McDonald’s or Burger King. However, the prices outlined on the menu of a restaurant often don’t contain the tax which is added on top. Therefore, consider the final price to be minimum 25% higher, as not only the tax but also a service fee (tip) is added without asking for your confirmation first. Quite frequently, the tip is the only money which the staff people actually earn, so be generous if the food and service was good. You will make your servant smile if you provide him more money than the service fee amount added to the bill.

Cities to check out

Within the following list, I will present the cities in the order I traveled. This does not correspond to my personal rating of how much I liked the places and if I would visit them again. My personal favorites are:

  1. Chicago
  2. New York City
  3. Niagara Falls
  4. Washington D.C.

I also traveled to Philadelphia and Boston, as they were on the route and worth checking out. If you are more limited in time or prefer to stay in, for instance, New York City for more time, you might as well skip Philly and/or Boston. I will introduce you to places to check out here, my two favorite places Chicago and New York City deserved an extra article each.

1) Philadelphia, the first capital city

We flew in to JFK Airport, NYC and took the bus to get to Philadelphia. Likewise, we planned to spend the last days of our trip in NYC before flying back after a total trip length of 3 weeks.

Sights to check out in Philadelphia

  • Penn’s Landing with some old ships
  • Benjamin Franklin Bridge
  • National Constitution Center
  • Independence Hall & Congress Hall
  • Liberty Bell

Hotel recommendation

Penn’s View Hotel

What to keep in mind

  • Shops closed quite early, keep in mind to do your major shopping before dinner
  • I enjoyed the Philly city more during dark hours, though this might be dangerous if you are alone or if you are at the wrong place at the wrong time
  • you might travel around central Philly by a (horse) carriage

2) Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is a must-see place within the States. However, this city doesn’t captivate with natural beauty or beautiful ancient buildings. Instead, the political center of the States presents its power through powerful buildings, memorials, and museums. As a fun fact, Washington, D.C.’s street names consist of letters and numbers, including the cardinal direction with respect to the Capitol. Thus, it is really easy to orientate within the city.

Sights to check out in Washington, D.C.

  • White House
  • Capitol
  • Washington Monument
  • Reflecting Pool
  • Old Post Office
  • Cathedral of Washington
  • Pentagon
  • Memorials: Lincoln Memorial, 2nd World War Memorial
  • Museums: Smithsonian Institution Building, Air and Space Museum, Museum of American History, National Gallery of Art

Hotel recommendation

Hostel “D.C. Lofty”

What to keep in mind

It is easy to orientate yourself within the Washington, D.C. logic of grid-pattern streets. Moreover, all important sights and places except for the Pentagon are in walking distance to each other. You will be walking a lot if you check everything out on foot, though, walking is a lot easier than taking any public transport.

3) Chicago

The trip from Washington, D.C. to Chicago took 20 hours (by bus). During the trip, we had stopovers in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) as well as in Cleveland (Ohio). I will share more information on individual sights and places to check out within my Chicago-specific article. The following list contains an overview of places to check out in Chicago.

Sights to check out in Chicago

  • Lake Michigan & Chicago River
  • the Loop (business center of Chicago, with many cool modern architectural skyscrapers)
  • Parks: Millennium Park, including the Cloud Gate (“the bean”), and Grand-Park, including the Jay Pritzker Pavilion
  • Art institute of Chicago
  • St Michael’s Church
  • buildings including home and studio of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Sears Tower (or “Willis Tower”) with Sky Deck
  • Old Town (former German quarter)
  • Lincoln Park
  • Zoo
  • Marshall Fields
  • variety of markets (along the streets)

Hotel recommendation

Chicago Getaway Hostel

What to keep in mind

Chicago is quite cool during dawn. However, there is no nightlive within Downtown Chicago, since all bars or pubs are located in the surrounding suburbs.

4) Niagara Falls

The town of Niagara Falls within the states is rather tiny. It is nothing more than houses and some guest-houses at the States side of the falls. In contrary to the States, the Canadian town Niagara Falls (Ontario) is a lot more touristy. We decided to reserve a guest-house within the States.

The view on the fireworks show (during dawn) was much better from the Canadian compared to the States side. Therefore, we crossed the Rainbow Bridge to get to Canada. I am not sure whether such fireworks happen every day, in our case, we visited the falls during the week of Labor Day, the fireworks were possibly related to Labor Day celebrations. I enjoyed the Canadian atmosphere a lot more than the States one.

If you travel to the falls, walk any paths possible to experience the falls from multiple perspectives. I perceived the falls as even more majestic from the cave of winds and the boat, as you literally feel the power of the water. We were provided some plastic-bag covers to protect ourselves. Those helped a lot, but didn’t cover us 100%. So, either bring your own waterproof clothing (to reduce the plastic waste) or expect to get a little wet, at least at the legs. 😉

Sights to check out at the Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls State Park:

  • Goat island
  • Horseshoe falls
  • American falls
  • Bridal veil falls

To get wet:

  • Cave of the Winds
  • Maid of the Mist (boat)

Crossing over to Canada

Before crossing the Rainbow bridge towards Canada, check which coins will be needed to get back into the States. In my case, two quarter Dollars were needed per person to pass the turnstile before you could enter the security- and passport checking area. Depending on your visa circumstances with Canada, you should also check whether only showing your passport is sufficient to enter the country. In my case, I only got Canadian stamps about entering and departing the country. The Canadian border security was far more relaxed than the States one. We even had to argue why we went to Canada and came back, presenting our e-visa we got in the first place.

When crossing the Rainbow Bridge, you have the chance to be in the States with one foot and in Canada with the other one. There is a marking on the bridge to take the famous photos at the rights spot. As soon as you are in Canada, keep in mind which streets you walked along, the orientation is a little difficult without a map, especially if you are trying to find a place to dine. Moreover, if you want to experience some Las Vegas feeling, with colored fountains, casinos, and plenty of lights, you will enjoy Canadian Niagara Falls town.

Hotel recommendation (States)

Wanderfalls Guesthouse & Hotel

What to keep in mind

Consider the required payment tp get back into the States as well as possible visa requirements for Canada or the States.

5) Boston

Within Boston, the Freedom Trail is a very good opportunity to check out many buildings and important sights by just following the red line on the walkway. In addition, Boston has many markets distributed across the city center, maybe even within outer suburbs. If you stroll through the markets, you might get in touch with true Boston inhabitants. During my visit, there were even plenty of shows next to the markets because of Labor Day.

Depending on the season, you might be successful in spotting whales close to the Boston coast. The boats approach Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, a rich feeding ground for whales, dolphins, seabirds, and other marine creatures. If you’re lucky, you might see one or the other humpback, finback and minke, or the critically endangered right whale. Obviously, there are different tour providers operating at the Boston Harbor. We went with Boston Harbor Cruises. Quality of tours and, more importantly, their focus on sustainability, might have changed over the years. Therefore, I recommend some research on TripAdvisor and other platforms to compare Whale Watching providers.

Sights to check out in Boston

I highly recommend walking along the 4 km long Freedom Trail (following a red line on the walkways):

  • Boston Common
  • Massachusetts State House
  • Park Street Church
  • Granary Burying Ground
  • King’s Chapel
  • Boston Latin school (first public school of the States)
  • Old Corner Book Store
  • The Old South Meeting House
  • Old State House
  • Place of the Boston Massacre
  • Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market
  • Paul Revere House
  • Old North Church
  • Copp’s Hill burying ground
  • USS Constitution
  • Bunker Hill Monument

Other spots in the city:

  • Old City Hall
  • Charles River, river walk and Fan Fier Park
  • Old South Church
  • Union Oyster House
  • Little Italy
  • John Hancock Tower
  • Fenway Park (Boston’s Baseball Stadium)

Checking out the campuses of Boston’s elite Universities

  • Harvard
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Hotel recommendation

40 Berkeley Hostel

What to keep in mind

After experiencing Philly, Washington, D.C. and Chicago with their grid pattern of streets, we were surprised to see the curvy city layout of Boston. Honestly, it is rather difficult to orientate within Boston without a map. However, the Freedom Trail is a very good opportunity to check out many buildings and important sights of the city by just following the red line on the walkway.

6) New York City

I will share more information on individual sights and places to check out within my NYC-specific article. The following list contains an overview of places.

Sights to check out in New York City

  • Times Square (M&Ms shop)
  • famous buildings: Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, GE Building, Chrysler Building, New York Public Library, Municipal Building, City Hall, Grand Central Station
  • churches: St Paul’s Chapel, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity Church
  • Wall Street & New York Stock Exchange
  • Central Park & Lake
  • Chinatown
  • Staten Island Ferry: Staten Island and Statue of Liberty
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • One World Trade Center, and 09-11-Memorial “Ground Zero” with the reflecting pools
  • 5th Avenue
  • Botanical Garden
  • Museums: MoMA (Museum of modern art), American Museum of Natural History, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (by Frank Lloyd Wright)
  • United Nations: guided tour through headquarters


During our travels in NYC, my friend and I stayed in the Greenpoint YMCA in Brooklyn. At that time, we got fairly good cost-effective rates. However, the quality seemed to have decreased since 2013, at least according to TripAdvisor ratings. You will find the YMCA on a busy street in Brooklyn, with many restaurants nearby. We picked a busy street to feel more save when coming back during dark hours.

What to keep in mind

If you intend to visit the Empire State Building, I recommend reserving your ticket early. Moreover, consider buying an Express Ticket. It saves you a lot of waiting time in the queue. Moreover, watching the sunset from the observation decks is stunning.

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