Bus Travel Made Easier with Wanderu

This photo shows passengers on a Bolt Bus

Road trippers, take note: A new travel comparison site, Wanderu, is on a mission to simplify the process of booking bus travel fares. And while it still has a few kinks to work out, it’s a promising new travel tool that I hope gets even more robust.

If you hate to fly (or hate to drive) and don’t mind traveling by bus, be sure to check it out. The site aggregates schedules and fares from select bus companies in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, consolidating options from multiple companies on one site/search results page: Think of it as the Kayak of bus travel.

To my knowledge, it’s the first site of its kind: While the travel industry is full of airfare, hotel, and rental car comparison-search sites, Wanderu stands alone in its focus on bus travel.

But like any pioneer in a given industry, it still has some growing to do in order to offer a truly comprehensive product. Don’t use it as a one-stop-shop (or to replace other travel sites) just yet.

Here’s what I found when I put Wanderu to the test.

The Pros

The search filters are off to a good start, with the usual parameters of price, departure time, carrier, and one-way or round-trip selections available, in addition to little-seen options such as trip duration and arrival time.

Search results offer very helpful features such as the exact address of where the respective bus company picks up and drops off (useful for several smaller lines that don’t contract with a given city’s central bus station). In addition to the street address, Wanderu also includes maps to help you find the location with ease – and those station maps and directions can be emailed directly to you.

The Cons

The site currently is not listing fares from Greyhound and Peter Pan, two of the country’s major bus lines. At press time, Wanderu had links to the two respective sites, but these dominant players in the travel space were not included in search results.

Not only are the big companies excluded, but so too are smaller, regional bus lines. For example, I tried to find my old college route from D.C. to my hometown in rural central Pennsylvania. The bus company that serviced my region (Capitol Trailways) is not featured in the search results – and in fact, the route stopped dead at the nearest major city (Harrisburg), without actually getting to my destination. Had I not been aware the regional company existed, and had I relied solely on Wanderu, I might not realize there was bus service to my exact destination.

Building off that omission, the Midwest coverage is grossly underrepresented, with no current listings for Chicago, Milwaukee, or St. Louis. I anticipate the coverage map will grow, though, as the company matures. In the meantime, though, if you’re based in the Midwest, you’re out of luck.

And because only North America is currently included, international travelers are also at a loss. Wanderu folks, if you’re reading this – start with popular European destinations ASAP, and expand to other continents soon, too!

Lastly (and this admittedly is nitpicky), you currently can’t conduct a general time search (e.g., morning, afternoon, or evening); you have to be specific by the hour. If you’re price-sensitive and seeking the lowest fare, this limitation inevitably adds more time to your search.

Who Should Use It?

Bus travelers in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and West Coast regions, be sure to bookmark Wanderu, as you’ll find a decent listing of routes, schedules, and fares from a decent roster of providers.

The Last Word

I think what’s most promising about Wanderu is its potential – with more robust destination listings, more participating companies, and expanded search filters, it can fill a large gap in the travel search space. I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

Add it to your travel comparison search sites – but, for now, make sure you check other sites, too.

Have you used Wanderu? What did you think? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

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Photo courtesy Michael Kramer via Flickr Creative Commons