How to Read Your BoltBus Ticket

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BoltBus driving in Portland, Oregon.
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(Steve Morgan / Flickr)

“Bolt” may be the last name of the fastest man in the world, but it’s also the name of a pretty speedy bus line. 

Founded in 2008, BoltBus serves the East Coast with stops in Boston, New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and beyond. For those on the West Coast, BoltBus also covers the Pacific Northwest with stops in Portland, Albany and Eugene (all in Oregon), as well as Seattle, Bellingham and Vancouver, B.C. And you can find cheap tickets on routes between all of these cities and more at Wanderu.

While it may take a little longer than 9.58 seconds (Usain Bolt’s record for the 100-meter dash) for BoltBus to get you where you’re going, the boarding process can be completed in about that time if you know how to read your ticket. Limber up with answers to your most crushing BoltBus questions.

Do I have to print my BoltBus ticket?

No, you do not have to print your ticket. Because BoltBus has mobile boarding, you simply have to show the bus driver your confirmation email (with the ticket attached) in order to board. That said, you can print out a hard copy of your ticket if you are worried about the confirmation email getting buried in your inbox, or your phone battery dying.

What happens if I forget my ticket?

In the event that you forget your ticket, or for any reason cannot display your confirmation email, simply wait until all boarding groups are on the bus, approach your driver and explain the situation. Show the driver your photo ID, and they should be able to confirm you have a reservation. 

Alternatively, you can retrieve a copy of your ticket at boltbus.com, or call BoltBus customer service at 1 (877) 265-8287. When you call, select Option 2, then give the operator your name or the name of the person who purchased your ticket. Customer service can then provide your confirmation number over the phone, or send it to you via email or text. 

How do I read my BoltBus ticket?

Your BoltBus ticket is packed to the brim (border?) with information that you’ll use on your trip. Find an example below, with call-outs for each section so you’ll know just what to look for.

This is a sample BoltBus ticket.

1. Displayed at the very top of your ticket, you’ll find the departure location (New York 230 W. 36th Street) and arrival location (Boston South Station – Gate 9 NYC-Gate 10 NW/PHL) for your trip. Note that sometimes the location will be curbside, along the street (such as the W. 36th Street example address in New York City), and other times the location will be in an actual bus station (as in the Boston South Station example). When a location is curbside, keep an eye out for BoltBus signage that designates the stop.

2. This QR code will be used by your bus driver to verify your ticket before boarding. If you decide to print out a physical copy, be careful not to crinkle the QR code, as it might make it difficult to scan. When boarding, present your QR code to the bus driver.

3. Your name should be listed here. BoltBus asks travelers to identify everyone in their party at booking, so if you’ve bought tickets for multiple passengers, each ticket will have a different name.

4. The date (8/12/2018) and time (04:45 PM) of your departure are listed here. Arrive within the suggested boarding window to ensure you don’t miss your departure. (Find details on how early to arrive below.)

5. This code (B04) represents your boarding group. The letter( “B”) is your group assignment, designating which group of passengers you’ll board with. The number (“04”) represents where within that group you’ll be boarding. So, in this example, you would be boarding fourth in group B.

While the exact group number is not very rigidly enforced, the group letter is important. Similar to an airline, BoltBus will board all of Group A before boarding any of Group B, and so on. When you arrive at your bus, ask around to see which group is queued up where, and make sure you get in the right line. This will not only save you time at boarding, but it will also save you the potential embarrassment of being that passenger who doesn’t know which group they’re in. 

6. This section denotes the estimated arrival of your trip (9:15 pm). While factors such as traffic and weather conditions will invariably influence your arrival time, this number represents the length of time the trip should take given typical conditions for that day and time. In this case, BoltBus anticipates the trek taking 4.5 hours.

7. Perhaps the most important part of your ticket, your confirmation number is listed here. This lets BoltBus staff know you’ve booked your trip, and if you didn’t print your ticket, you can use the confirmation number as your boarding pass. Simply show it to the BoltBus agent at your gate and they will be able to verify your booking.

8. This is the ID number (2072) of your trip. This number will be displayed at your gate, so make sure to check it before boarding to avoid getting on the wrong bus.

9. This symbol indicates that your bus is equipped with Wi-Fi. BoltBus offers free Wi-Fi on all their buses. Scroll further down to learn how to connect.

Where is my seat number?

BoltBus does not assign seats, which means seating works on a first-come, first-serve basis. That said, you must board in the order of your designated Boarding Group, so if your group is last, you’ll have to settle for whatever seating options are left.

How early should I arrive for BoltBus?

While the phrase “if you’re on time, you’re late” is usually reserved for high school gym teachers, there is a shred of truth in there when applied to BoltBus. That’s because BoltBus starts loading walkup and standby passengers five minutes prior to departure. If the bus is full and you arrive less than five minutes prior to departure, your seat on the bus could be given away to a walkup passenger. To make that doesn’t happen, we recommend that BoltBus passengers arrive between 15 and 30 minutes prior to departure.

Can I cancel my BoltBus ticket?

Unfortunately, BoltBus tickets are final sale and nonrefundable. However, for a small fee, you can change or exchange your ticket. Learn how in the following section.

How can I exchange my BoltBus ticket?

For $5 (a $3 rebooking fee plus a $2 transaction fee), up until the day before your scheduled trip, you can rebook for a different date or time. When rebooking your trip, you may also be charged the difference between your old fare and your new one. For example, if you originally booked a $20 ticket but want to rebook for a $25 ticket, the rebooking will cost you $10 ($3 for the rebooking fee, plus $2 for the transaction fee, plus $5 for the difference in fares). If your new ticket costs less than your original ticket, BoltBus does not offer credit to cover the difference.  

Unfortunately, you cannot rebook or exchange your ticket online — BoltBus only allows these services over the phone. To change your ticket, call BoltBus customer service at 1-877-BOLTBUS and select Option 1. Make sure you have all of your information (name, trip date, trip departure and arrival locations, and confirmation number) ready when you make the call, as this will make it easier for BoltBus customer service to locate your ticket and switch it to a new time.

What happens if I miss the bus?

BoltBus tickets are nonrefundable, so if you miss your bus you won’t be able to get your money back. Luckily, you can still use your ticket to become a standby passenger on a later trip. Standby passengers board based on how many seats are available, so you’re not guaranteed a seat, but there’s a chance you may get one if any seats remain or if other passengers don’t show up. 

In the event that you decide to pursue riding standby, find a different bus departing the same day as your originally scheduled ticket, and wait curbside or at the boarding gate until the bus begins to board. The bus driver will open the unfilled seats to standby passengers about five minutes before the bus’s scheduled departure.

If emergency circumstances occur that force you to miss your bus, you can also try calling BoltBus customer service at 1 (877) 265-8287 and pleading your case. 

How many bags can I take on BoltBus?

When riding BoltBus, you’re allowed to store one piece of luggage underneath the bus, which you are responsible for placing there yourself prior to the ride (and for picking up after). You can also bring two small carry-on bags onto the bus with you, provided they’re small enough to fit in the bus’s overhead bin. Additionally, BoltBus recommends tagging your luggage with your name, address, and phone number, as BoltBus will return properly-marked bags to their owners free of charge. 

For more details on the dimensions and other information regarding the BoltBus baggage policy, read more here.

How do I connect to BoltBus Wi-Fi?

BoltBus’s Onboard Entertainment program gives riders 100MB of Wi-Fi data free of charge, which is enough to post four photos to social media, download four apps, or send 35 emails. To upgrade to a faster service, you can pay $4 for 150MB of data, or $6.99 for 300MB of data. Once you’re on the bus, look for the Wi-Fi network called “BusWiFi,” then open your browser to activate the service. 

While BoltBus’s Wi-Fi is fast enough to stream video, it’s not recommended, as the connection is likely to be somewhat choppy with all the other passengers on the same network. Fortunately, BoltBus offers a selection of movies and TV shows accessible at tv.boltbus.com, meaning you won’t have to spend your limited data connecting to Hulu or Netflix.

What is the phone number for BoltBus?

BoltBus customer service can be reached at 1 (877) 265-8287.

While the information in this guide won’t make you the fastest runner in the world, you might just be the fastest BoltBus boarder, considering the new knowledge you’ve gained. 

Haven’t yet booked your next BoltBus adventure? Then dash on over to Wanderu — the simplest way to book bus or train travel, with service across North America and Europe. 

If you’re hungry for some new trip ideas, we’ve got you covered there. Discover what nearby cities you can snag cheap tickets to with our Explore by Wanderu tool. Or if you’re on the hunt for those elusive $1 ticket deals, let us show you how to find them with these travel hacks.

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About the author
Tom Gambardella

Tom Gambardella

While originally from the New York area, Tom has found himself in travel spots all over the world. Whether he's living it up in the big city or taking in the sights of a countryside, you can probably find him near the food.