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A Complete Guide for Traveling by Bus in Canada
If you’re not keen on the idea of driving on foreign roads, but don’t like the expense and environmental damage of domestic air travel, taking the bus in Canada is the obvious alternative. Canada’s trains link up only a handful of destinations, whilst the long-distance bus network in Canada is expansive and its schedule large.
Connecting up the smallest towns and the biggest cities, taking the bus in Canada is also an inexpensive way of traveling compared to train and plane, giving visitors the chance to see more of the country than they would either driving themselves or from 30,000 feet up in the air.
Bus companies in Canada
Of the 24 bus companies operating in Canada, there are half a dozen long-distance bus companies to be aware of when considering traveling around the country by coach. While we go into the main players in more detail below, it’s first worth noting that the majority of services operate in the highly-populated southern reaches of Canada. The further north you go, the fewer bus services you will find.
Greyhound used to have the biggest share of Canada’s long-distance bus network. With a pedigree dating back to 1929, the carrier dominated passenger transport in central and western Canada. In May 2021, it permanently ended all its routes in Ontario and Quebec, stating that declining passenger numbers were to blame. Many routes are now available on alternative carriers.
Greyhound does still run several cross-border services connecting Canada with the United States. Examples include Vancouver to Seattle and San Francisco on the west coast, and Toronto to New York and Niagara Falls on the east coast. However, it's Jefferson Lines which runs the most international routes each week.
To the east of Toronto, Greyhound had always faced stiffer competition from a number of smaller companies, so their departure from this part of Canada was less of a problem. Although new to the country, German-born Flixbus is expanding its operations in Canada quickly. Currently centered on Ontario, it’s already possible to board a Flixbus coach for Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Toronto and St Catherines among other destinations in the province.
Megabus is another import, this time from the UK, where it is known for offering fares for as little as $1.50. Its buses operate in and out of cities such as Montreal, Toronto and terminals 1 and 3 of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Ontario Northland is one to look out for in the north of the province, connecting towns in the region with Ottawa, Winnipeg and downtown Toronto.
It’s Autobus Maheux that has some of the widest transport options in Quebec, especially to and from Montreal. The province of Alberta is best served by Red Arrow, whilst the Saskatchewan Transport Company operates the majority of services in this sparsely populated region.
The Canada Bus company meanwhile focuses on the country’s western regions and the Rocky Mountains, with destinations including Edmonton, Calgary and Banff.
Fares are similar across companies, with average prices working out to around 7c per kilometer.
Popular bus destinations in Canada
Love the idea of traveling around Canada by bus but aren’t sure where to start? Check out our favorite bus destinations in Canada right here for an introduction into what to see and do.
Toronto, ON Served by all the major bus companies in Canada, Toronto is perhaps the easiest city in Canada to reach by bus. Its lakeshore location makes for a fine backdrop to a downtown echoing the skyscrapers of New York, in between which you’ll find leafy parks, the CN Tower and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Book cheap bus tickets to Toronto
Ottawa, ON Sometimes overlooked, the Canadian capital is also well worth your exploration, and doing so is easy thanks to services operated by the likes of Flixbus and Ontario Northland. Because of its status as capital, there’s no shortage of cultural attractions, including the collection of the Canadian War Museum, which contains a staggering 3.75 million individual objects. A good number of universities also ensures a vibrant nightlife.
Find bus ticket to Ottawa
Montreal, QC To experience a little French-Canadian je ne sais quoi, there’s nowhere better than Montreal, a destination with a competitive range of bus options. Often considered the country’s cultural capital, Montreal has a unique blend of French and English traditions resulting in a number of internationally-important festivals each year in addition to ballet, opera and ice hockey.
Buy bus tickets to Montreal
Calgary, AB Best reached by using either Red Arrow or The Canada Bus Company, Calgary is nestled between the mighty Rocky Mountains and the stunning Canadian prairies. Attractions include Calgary Zoo (a.k.a. the country’s most visited zoo), the indoor Devonian Gardens, and skiing during the winter months.
Book a bus trip to Calgary
Edmonton, AB Ebus, Red Arrow and the Canada Bus Company all serve Edmonton. The capital of Alberta, the city hosts a range of things to see and do despite its northerly position, such as the Ford Edmonton Park living museum, which includes historic structures from indigenous and early European times.
Find deals on bus tickets to Edmonton
The most scenic bus routes in Canada
Traveling by bus gives visitors the chance to see Canada’s famed landscapes from up close. From sightings of moose and bears to the picturesque peaks of the Rocky Mountains, you won’t be disappointed with these scenic bus routes around Canada:
Toronto to Niagara Falls, ON
When visiting Canada, a trip to Niagara Falls is an absolute must. The famous Horseshoe Falls can be found on the Canadian side of the border with the U.S., with Rider Express and OurBus Prime both operating regular services from towns including St. Catherines (30 minutes) and Guelph (5 hours 15 minutes).
Book bus tickets from Toronto to Niagara Falls
Winnipeg, MB to Vancouver, BC
Part of the Trans-Canada Highway, a system of roads linking together all ten of Canada’s provinces, the Rider Express route from Winnipeg to Vancouver (replacing Greyhound services) is one of the most dramatic routes in the country. Running once a week and lasting just over a full day, the route covers 2,400 km through a myriad of Canada’s diverse landscapes and cities, including Regina.
Toronto, ON to Tobermory, ON
Jutting out into Lake Huron to form George Bay, Tobermory sits at the end of the Bruce Peninsula. Roughly 300 km, or 5 hours, from downtown Toronto, Parkbus operates services into the national park during the summer months, where sea views and intriguing rock formations, as well as an atmospheric heart to Tobermory, are the order of the day.
How to book bus travel in Canada
Whether you’re already in Canada or planning your trips by bus ahead of your arrival, the go-to way of making bus reservations and purchasing tickets in the country is online.
The majority of big coach companies have secure and easy to navigate websites, although you’ll find the Autobus Maheux website predominantly in French. There is an English language option, but it doesn’t always function correctly. That’s why, the fastest and most efficient way to find all available bus options in one place and book your tickets hassle-free is by using Wanderu.
What’s more, some companies, such as Megabus, insist on passengers pre-purchasing their tickets online or by phone. It’s generally not possible to purchase tickets from the driver for any bus company, but they can sometimes be purchased at bus stations – such as for Ontario Northland services – so long as tickets remain available. We advise you don’t risk being left off and book in plenty of time. To make it really easy, we’ve compiled a complete list of bus companies offering mobile boarding.
It can be difficult to know if you’re purchasing a company’s cheapest fare for a particular route, as often you will only be shown one price on their website. That’s another good reason why you should use Wanderu because on Wanderu you always get the cheapest available fare.
Tickets go on sale at least 45 days before departure, and popular days for travel such as the Christmas vacation period sell out rapidly. Prices usually rise steeply around a day before the departure date – another reason to buy your ticket beforehand.
If your plans change and you need to cancel or alter your bus ticket your options will largely depend on which company you were going to travel with. It is rare for companies to offer a full refund, with some saying tickets are entirely nonrefundable and others providing credit notes or vouchers for use in the future. Exchange fees of around CAD $20 usually exist for swapping to another service from the same company.
We recommend being sure of your travel plans before booking to avoid these fees. For a more in-depth look at all that’s involved, head to our guide on how to cancel or change a bus ticket. Before you book, it’s also well worth looking at the ranking of bus carriers’ cancellation policies from most to least flexible. There, you will see that Flixbus and OurBus have some of the most flexible cancellation policies, and Greyhound’s cross-border services to the U.S. some of the least flexible. All in all, it’s definitely worth considering trip protection for your bus journey if you think your plans could change.
Tips for finding deals on bus tickets in Canada
Unfortunately, significant discounts and deals are thin on the ground at most of Canada’s bus companies. It is therefore doubly important that you book your tickets as soon as possible to ensure you get the best price and don’t end up paying over what you could have been charged.
Ontario Northland offers a reduction of 15% versus standard adult fares for students in full-time education, seniors (60 years of age and over) and military personnel. Children (aged 2 – 12 inclusive) can board their buses for half the standard adult price if traveling with an adult. When traveling alone, children of this age are only entitled to a 15% reduction.
Many of the other major bus companies in Canada have similar, though not identical, deals for students, seniors and the military.
Daily/monthly cards & passes in Canada
Red Arrow offers 5% off multiple (five one-way) trips. However, each of the trips has to be on the same route, making their Flex Passes of little benefit to tourists to the country.
OurBus has a similar program, whereby passengers are able to save $15 per ride on three, five, or ten rides with SuperSaver tickets.
Book with Wanderu and you can always be sure of getting a great deal, without having to pay any additional fees or charges either!
Types of intercity bus services available in Canada
Legroom varies between operators, but is usually sufficient for all but the tallest of passengers. Companies will also usually accept at least one piece of hold luggage without additional cost. On occasion, this will be weighed, but it’s unlikely a visitor to the country will max out the scales.
Because of the distances involved, buses operating on longer routes will have an onboard chemical toilet. Others will make short stops every two or three hours so passengers can make use of restrooms. Breaks don’t tend to be long, so check with the driver if you’re not sure. It’s also a good idea to have another passenger look out for you so the bus doesn’t depart without you – it does happen.
In addition to its towns and cities, Canada’s airports are also relatively well connected by bus services. Megabus has services between Toronto and the city’s Pearson International, whilst the YVR monorail can be used to get between Vancouver and its airport, and local mass transit solutions connect many of the country’s other airports, including Calgary.
It may be tempting to use an expensive taxi instead for ease with your luggage, but check out our tips and tricks for taking the bus to the airport and you’ll be convinced the bus is also a viable option!
Getting to the bus station in Canada
Many departure and arrival points, such as Toronto’s New Union Station Bus Terminal (USBT), are very centrally located, meaning those staying in downtown areas won’t have far to travel with their luggage. In more rural areas, buses may only stop at a main road on the outskirts of town, so it’s always best to double check in advance.
Bus stations in the big cities will provide all you need to kick off your journey, with refreshments, newsagents and some seating. Information is usually easy to find, and normally in both English and French because of Canada’s two official languages. Out of the way departure points may be nothing more than a sign on the road side.
Buses will close the doors of their luggage holds at least ten minutes before departing from their terminus stations, and you should aim to board before this time or risk being refused boarding. It may seem like a waste of time, but arriving earlier is always better.
If you’re meeting a bus part way through its journey, we’d also suggest getting to the bus stop ahead of time. It’s not unheard of for buses to run a few minutes early, and whilst they should technically wait for their scheduled departure time at each stop, they may not, especially if they know they are going to get delayed by traffic later on in the journey. It’s not currently possible to live track services, but this is sure to take off in a big way in the coming months and years.
Most towns and cities of any size are well served with local bus routes connecting to bus stations. If the idea of tackling a foreign bus network worries you, you can also opt for a taxi or ride-hailing app like Uber, which is currently in 140 municipalities in nine of Canada’s ten provinces. For taxis, ask your hotel reception to arrange one for you, or hail one from the side of the street. It’s safe to do this. Uber is generally cheaper (up to 50% by some reports) but does rely on drivers being available.
Getting on the bus in Canada
E-tickets displayed on a smartphone or other electronic device are generally accepted as proof of purchase on Canada’s long-distance bus network. If possible, having a physical print out is also a good idea in case of problems with technology on the day. If you purchase your tickets at a bus station, it’s more than likely you will receive paper tickets.
You will also need to show some form of officially-recognized photographic ID to board a bus in Canada (or the U.S. if you’re crossing the border). It must be in its original form and not a photocopy, image or screen grab. Remember – if you are going on a cross-border trip, you must bring a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your travel dates. Also, if you hold a passport from a country different from Canada or the United States, you must make sure ahead of time that you have the proper visa to enter either country.
On-board experience on Canadian buses
The best onboard experience is probably currently offered by Flixbus, since they have a fleet of brand new coaches, having only just entered the Canadian market. However, generally speaking, reclining seats are standard.
The biggest companies also advertise free onboard Wi-Fi, although this can be slow or non-existent and shouldn’t be relied on to stream movies. Download anything you want to watch onto your device before departure. You can watch Netflix offline by having an up-to-date version of their app on your smartphone. Alternatively, make sure to book your bus trip in Canada with a bus carrier with onboard entertainment.
USB charging ports and power sockets are also increasingly common, although it still depends on which bus company you have a ticket for.
Some carriers provide complimentary basic refreshments. The Canada Bus Company, for example, gives passengers a bottle of water for the journey. You shouldn’t expect to be able to purchase refreshments onboard.
Thankfully, Wanderu makes it simple to check for Wi-Fi, legroom & more before you book. Most buses have a single standard class of seat, with few upgrades available.
Top coach routes in Canada
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With just a quick search on Wanderu, you can compare bus and train schedules and prices from hundreds of travel companies in one convenient place to find the trip that works best for you. Wanderu’s simple checkout process makes it easy to book cheap bus and train tickets hassle-free and with no additional fees. Most importantly, as Wanderu is an official partner of all leading bus and train companies, we always have the best bus and train deals out there.
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