A Cautionary Tale From The Forum Section “Chinatown Hell Bus: Eastern Travel”

From Park Road Guy:

Traveling with this corrupt company of thugs was a complete nightmare last weekend. By 9:00 pm Sunday, the New York Police Department arrived on the scene to attempt to negotiate a solution between Eastern Travel’s frantic, angry and confused driver and a group of even more frantic, angry and confused passengers who had been left stranded on the streets of New York with no ride as multiple Eastern Travel busses dropped off passengers and refused to pick them up. Fraud of the worst variety. Here’s footage:

I was one of the passengers and, once again, I had been severely burned by Eastern Travel and its corrupt and unprofessional ways. I don’t know of a single company that gets away with as much abuse of its customers as Eastern Travel. I implore anyone looking to travel on a budget to NYC to do their best to avoid using Eastern Travel. They have absolutely NO respect for their customers. It’s hard to even address their ethical standards, since they don’t have any. Where to even start?

To begin, my girlfriend and I decided to risk another round trip from DC to NYC with Eastern Travel even though we had been left stranded for hours waiting for our return bus at Penn Station a year ago. We needed to make it to NYC on a Friday morning by noon and Eastern Travel is the only option. This first episode included a bizarre shouting match between a passenger who had threatened to ‘get her knife out’ and one of Eastern Travel’s linguistically challenged ‘agents’ who was screaming at everything in sight. I could not believe the lack of professionalism in a travel company. It was hard to believe a business like this could survive, but then, let’s face it, Eastern Travel is an unbelievably cheap option. We decided to chance it once more to save a few bucks and get to NYC on time (I’ve since decided the marginal difference is worth it for a company that actually has a semblance of customer service. Story continues after the jump.

The NYPD vs Eastern Travel fiasco began after our weekend in New York. Our Friday morning trip from DC to NYC went off without a hitch, as usual. But when we headed to Penn Station for our 7:30 return trip the following Sunday, I began to get a bit uneasy about the situation. Everything is a bit anarchistic at the bus stop. People stand around not knowing exactly where to line up, or even if there is a line, or who’s in line and there is not a single Eastern Travel rep there to explain the process. Everyone just relies on one another to make sense out of the situation.

We arrived, reservations in hand at 7:10 pm. Eastern Travel’s reservations state that you must arrive 20 minutes beforehand or you will forfeit your place as WELL as your money. The irony of this policy became increasingly blatant around 9:00 pm, as were were still waiting for our 7:30 bus. As those around us became increasingly angry and impatient, people tried repeatedly to contact Eastern Travel’s office. No one was picking up and we were left agitated and confused about whether we were even going to make it back to DC that evening. It had been nearly two hours since we arrived and I was growing tired and increasingly pissed off.

Finally, around 9:00, an Eastern Travel bus arrives and the driver hops out to let out a group of passengers who had just arrived from DC. We, and our impatient fellow passengers begin crowding around the door hoping to grab a seat. The driver, in broken English, explains that he’s not making a return trip down to Washington and that there are no more buses that evening. Unbelievable! Unbelievable! . After two hours and we get this treatment! Hell no! People around us start to yell at the driver and demand that he contact Eastern Travels office. He makes a few failed attempts to contact them but can’t seem to get through. Wow, is that even possible? What kind of customer service IS that? Is that for effing real? You actually do that Eastern Travel? Infuriated, people start climbing into the bus and take their seats. “I don’t care where they take me, but they’re going to be taking me somewhere tonight” yelled one guy.

Around then, about six New York Police officers show up. Surrounded by the angry customers and trying their best to negotiate a solution, the police propose that the driver take all of those waiting back to DC. Unfortunately, the driver has to be up at 4:00 am to make a trip from NYC down to DC. It seems there’s no solution. Another Eastern Travel bus shows up and the police ask the new driver if he’s making a trip down to DC. Nope. It’s hopeless. The police make a few proposals, including having the Eastern Travel driver take everyone down to Chinatown in New York but he refuses.

At this point, the group of forty that had been standing at the stop has dwindled down to 15 or so and people realize that there’s nothing they can do.

To our great fortune, a Bolt Bus is waiting nearby waiting to rescue us. Relieved, I make a mad dash to an ATM to get cash and board the decked out Bolt Bus. I’m writing this review using the Bolt Bus wifi. I will NEVER take Eastern Travel again!!!

17 Comment

  • I have used them a number of times to go between Richmond and DC. I always found the bus to be clean, the drivers to be nice and only once was it late due to traffic.

    I think what you have to understand that the reason they are cheap is because they have little over head, very few busses (maybe only one) and if they get tripped up with traffic, then it throws there whole schedule off.

    I am not trying to apologize for them, they should have had a better answer, but you get what you pay for.

  • There are like a trillion cheap bus companies, so I don’t really understand the people that still choose the Chinatown bus companies. Washington Deluxe has a bus that leaves at 7:30am as well, so its not like Eastern is the only option early in the morning. And you can always buy one way tickets. Story sucks, but caveat emptor, and the Chinatown buses are well known to be big on the “caveat” part of that saying.

  • Isn’t that the bus that’s like $25 or something? What the hell did you expect? You’re like the ghetto momma screaming about poor service in a Wendy’s. Idjit. By comparison, I used to do Greyhound to NYC and they generally were just fine.

  • boltbus and megabus are awesome, and cheaper or just as cheap as the other buses. i would stick to those two companies, or just pony up the cash to take a train. in fact, megabus has 3 buses that will get you in NYC by noon on a friday- leaving DC at 5:15, 6:15 and 7:15am.

  • Echoing the sentiment that with all the inexpensive buses out there, why choose Eastern again. I love vamoose and bolt (plus bolt has internet!)

  • agreed. im vamoose all the way. never had a single problem with them

  • I stopped using Eastern to come back to DC from NYC …going up usually I have no problem as our chinatown is nothing compared to the crazy chinatown of NYC. I would recommend Washington Delux or Today’s for going up. Washington Delux for sure coming back to DC. Seriously, avoid picking up a bus in NYC chinatown.

  • Megabus is owned by a company called Coach USA. Coach USA purchased Eastern in September. Maybe, over time, Eastern’s service will improve to a level comparable to Megabus or Boltbus.

  • Coach USA is also planning to buy Today’s Bus.

  • the only and ONLY time i used a chinatown bus, a similar incident happened, only we were stranged on the side of an Interstate for over 6 hours!

    i learned my lesson and have never since taken a chinatown bus. always bolt or dc2ny. washington deluxe and vamoose are reliable too.

  • I used to date a girl in NYC for two years, and went there every other weekend during that time, so I’m quite familiar with the Chinatown bus. There’s no way to afford a train when you’re going up that much and, at the time, there wasn’t a whole lot of competition from other bus lines. I don’t find Chinatown buses any worse than Greyhound and, yes, I’ve had my horror stories. Like no air conditioning on a 95 degree day or no seats on a holiday weekend even though I had tickets or winding up lost on the way up. There are too many people going up and down to be able to only use the newer/nicer lines though and, honestly, some of this stuff can happen to any sort of service.

    I do have some advice: if you’re coming back from NYC, always try to get picked up from a bus company’s first location if they have two pick ups. Get there 45 minutes early. If things aren’t working out, walk over to another bus company.

  • Request a refund from your credit card company, and write complaints to the US, NY, and DC Departments of Transportation, as well as the FTC and state consumer protection agencies.

  • I’m a New Yorker living in DC for 6 years and taking eastern for about 4 years. I go to NYC at least once a month and have only had a problem once when the stupid driver got stuck at gas station about 3 years ago. Other problems include: bad traffic, people with smelly food and loud people on the phone. For 35 dollars roundtrip AND Wi-fi connection Easter is a steal!, that is if you don’t find cheaper options with bolt or mega-bus.

  • fool me once….

    there are several other legit companies that provide the same/better service for almost the same price. perhaps file with the better business bureau.

  • There’s a hot trannie (not really but kind of) mess of a ticket-taker lady w/ a jade pendant in DC when they pick up on H Street. THE most abusive sweatshop manager-type: she yells at you when taking your ticket, unless you happen to be a black male, in which case she attempts to refuse you service. TEH-ribble.

  • Chinatown’s Apex bus is great, except I recently used their new bus service MVP Bus, and they stop way inside Baltimore instead of the travel plaza, so that added about a whole hour each way, which was aggravating. I haven’t taken any other Chinatown buses, but the one Greyhound trip was a nightmare, so I’m willing to try even more despite my good luck with Apex. Penn Station is a *real* gamble with Chinatown buses, because your only other options are the more expensive Mega/Bolt/Vamoose. However it’s not that much of jaunt (unless the stupid 14th street station is closed for construction) to take the subway down to E. Broadway for the other Chinatown buses. I think that if my bus were an hour late, I’d move on to the next bus in line and then instigate a charge-back when I got home.

    Mega, Bolt, and Vamoose are OK, and I know that Vamoose is worth the extra cash, but Bolt’s WiFi is a joke, and I think some Bolt riders had trouble contacting their customer service when they got stranded.

  • dc2ny.com


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