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How does Wanderu work?

New to the world of Wanderu? Welcome! We’ll tell you all our secrets, and you don’t even have to buy us dinner first. When we say Wanderu is easy, we mean it.

But enough monkeying around. What is Wanderu? In simplest terms, Wanderu is the best place to book train and bus tickets in North America and Europe.

We specialize in intercity travel (as in long-distance, from one city to another) as opposed to intracity travel (like your city’s public bus system). We’ve got mega long distance trips, like Chicago to LA, quick trips like New York to Philly, and everything in between.

If you’re a fan of ground transportation, you already know it’s the most eco-friendly way to travel. It’s also far more interesting to look out the window on a bus or train, especially if you’re on a route known for its scenery. Sure, you might get some cool views during take-off or landing on a plane, but that’s only if the guy in the window seat isn’t napping with the shade closed. 

Anyway, the point is that Wanderu is for bus and train tickets what other sites are for hotels or flights: an aggregator. We’ll go over what that means, how we do what we do, and why we think it’s pretty cool. So if you want to learn about it, read on!

What is an aggregator?

We’re not talking about alligators who run farms—those would be agri-gators.

An aggregator is a digital collector of information, like your favorite food delivery app. Aggregators go through all the work of amassing pertinent info (like the menus and prices) and organizing it so you can see, sort, and purchase what you want. A food delivery aggregator isn’t actually making the food or running the restaurant, but it makes it easier for you to find the meal you’re craving.

Wanderu does the same for travel: we compile data from bus and train companies, like ticket prices and schedules, to show you a variety of options. This lets you search, compare, and purchase the best ticket without opening a million tabs. 

Travel aggregators are nothing new, but we take pride in providing the best possible booking experience for ground travel. Plus, when there are no direct travel options available, Wanderu’s unique routing technology builds travel itineraries that combine bus and train trips from different operators. That means you’ll have affordable and convenient options for your trip that are only available on Wanderu.

You might lose an arm and a leg dealing with agri-gators, but not aggregators. We’re all about making travel cheap and accessible for all. Now let’s talk about how we do it.

Where does Wanderu get routes and ticket prices?

All of the trip information on Wanderu comes from the companies that operate the routes and set the prices. 

Since 2013, Wanderu has built partnerships with hundreds of bus and train carriers, and we’re always expanding our coverage via new partnerships. 

When we find someone new, we do a little flirting, show off how effective and simple it is to use Wanderu, and eventually exchange digits. That is to say, when we formalize an official partnership with a carrier, they work with us to allow our system to pull data from their system. 

When you search for a trip, we show all of the available ticket options from all of the applicable carriers. We automatically sort results with our machine-learning-powered recommendations based on price, duration, and passenger ratings.

A partnership not only gives us access to all the carrier’s info, but also integrates our payment systems. When you book a Peter Pan ticket on Wanderu, for instance, you’re paying Peter Pan directly through us. Then you’ll get a valid, legit ticket from Peter Pan in your email – not a Wanderu ticket! Wanderu isn’t a bus company, we’re like a personal shopper getting you the best deal.

Our partners work with us because we help them sell more tickets. In return for facilitating your booking, a partner pays us a small percentage of the regular price of the ticket. You get the best deal, the partner carrier gets more passengers, and we get paid to keep working on the coolest app in ground travel. It’s a win/win/win for everyone!

How does Wanderu work?

  1. Fill in the search bar with your desired trip details. Let’s say you want to travel from Boston to New York on May 1st.
  2. Wanderu’s system combs through all of our partner data to retrieve every Boston to New York trip on May 1st.
  3. The results page shows all the available bus and train trips, sorted based on price, duration, and passenger ratings.
  4. You can further sort or filter the results, compare prices from different carriers, and pick the itinerary that suits you best.
  5. When you select and review a trip, Wanderu does a real-time check to make sure that the seat is still available.
  6. You checkout through the Wanderu system, and we handle the information exchange to our partner’s payment system.
  7. The partner’s system automatically generates your ticket and sends it to your email.
  8. You travel for cheap!

What’s the point of using Wanderu?

Wanderu saves you time and money on intercity ground transportation. That’s really the gist of it, but we can go into a little more detail:

🕑 Save Time:  There are lots and lots of train and bus companies, and Wanderu knows them all (just about). You probably already know Greyhound and Amtrak, but what about Vamoose or FlixTrain? It’s a competitive market, and each carrier has their own niche, area of service, and price tag. Instead of researching them all yourself, skip straight to Wanderu.

We’ve spent the time and energy picking through these sites so you don’t have to!  We lay out all the information nice and cleanly for you on our site, which functions perfectly on your phone or tablet, plus on our mobile app for convenience.

💰 Save Money: Instead of worrying about which buses go to which cities for what price, just search for your trip on Wanderu. We’ll show you all the possible options, both from the big brands and the little guys, so you can find the best time and price. 

Plus, Wanderu gets exclusive deals from our partners, so you might be able to snag a lower price with us than the company itself. And, since you’re paying the carrier directly, you can still earn rewards from companies like Amtrak when you book on Wanderu.

⭐  Bonus: Speaking of working together, we also team up with industry partners to provide the best deals on rental cars, hotels, and activities in your destination city. Our whole thing is providing affordable travel options, but we won’t leave you hanging once you get to your destination!

Why aren’t there more Wanderus?

We like to think it’s because we’re special. But that’s not the only reason.

If you ever book cheap flights, you know that there are a number of flight aggregators to choose from. It’s easy to aggregate flights because the information from airlines is all standardized and readily shared – which makes sense when you consider the organization needed for just one airport to handle its arriving and departing flights.

But it’s a different story for trains and buses. A lot of these ground travel companies began service decades ago (some nearly 100 years ago!) and developed their processes independently from their competitors.

Unlike flight data, ground travel schedules, routes, and pricing data are not standardized. Each bus or train system has its own idiosyncrasies; some companies receive government funding so they have different pricing rules, while others haven’t optimized their website to use on mobile devices yet. And all of that gets even more complicated once you’re aggregating across international borders.

So why aren’t there a million ground travel aggregators like there are for flights? Honestly, because it’s a lot of work. 

But it’s absolutely worth it to us. We’re determined to bring ground travel into the modern age and make the booking process simple, easy, and cheap. The only obstacle you should face when booking a bus or train trip is deciding where to go.

Is Wanderu legit?

We sometimes see cynical internet surfers wondering, “Is Wanderu legit?” And we sure think so. Obviously you may think we’re a little biased, but it is objectively true that we work with official partners and our data comes directly from the companies operating each bus or train trip. If you want to hear it from real-life Wanderu travelers, check out our super high Trust Pilot rating or read through some of our stellar Wanderu app reviews

If you’re fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes to power the Wanderu system, and you’re hungry to learn more about our API or the integrations we set up, it sounds like you’d be a great addition to the team. Check out our open positions or read a little more about us and our mission.

Or if you’re just here to learn about booking your next getaway via that app with the little green monkey (his name is Chiku!), it’s time to get planning. Search for a bus or train ticket by clicking the button below or get more travel inspo and info by surfing the Wanderu blog.

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About the author
Kaitlin Cabaniss

Kaitlin Cabaniss

Kaitlin is the SEO Content Coordinator with Wanderu and an avid traveler, having visited more than 30 countries so far. When not helping people find the best deals on bus and train travel, Kaitlin spends her free time hiking, drawing, and riding horses.

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