More than 17 million people ride on Greyhound buses each year – are you ready to join them? Like all new things, riding a Greyhound bus for the first time might seem intimidating, but the company makes it incredibly easy and user-friendly to book a ticket and board a bus. Compared to the hassles of boarding a plane, taking a Greyhound is a breeze.

First Steps: Booking Tickets

Like most modern companies, Greyhound has embraced technology and makes it easy to book tickets through a variety of methods. Passengers can book tickets by phone, at a station, on Greyhound's website or through its app. (Avoid booking by phone if possible; Greyhound charges a $15 fee for this service.)

Greyhound uses three classes of fares. Economy and Economy Extra passengers pay nonrefundable fares, are charged $20 to make ticket changes, and get one free carry-on and one free checked bag. Economy Extra passengers also get priority boarding and earn more rewards points than Economy passengers. Flexible fares are refundable, and making changes is free, plus these passengers get two free checked bags and even more rewards points than those in Economy Extra.

When you're booking tickets, be sure to use the sorting options to view the shortest route, cheapest fare and earliest departure. Those factors will help you find the right itinerary. If saving money is your primary concern, book a ticket for a ‌Tuesday‌ or ‌Wednesday‌ – they're the cheapest days on the ‌Greyhound bus schedule‌. Be sure to take advantage of discounts that Greyhound offers to children, students, military members or veterans, and senior citizens.

Next Steps: Preparing for the Trip

Greyhound bus tickets‌ that are purchased online can be printed at home, but it's even easier for smartphone users to pick the E-Ticket option. Just make sure to check in on your phone within 2 hours of your departure time (your confirmation email will provide instructions on how to check in) to receive the E-Ticket.

Travelers also have the option to pick up tickets at the station, either at the ticket counter or from a self-serve kiosk. Both options will add a few minutes to your journey, but this is the best option for anyone who doesn't have access to a printer or a smartphone. You'll need your confirmation number and ID.

As far as packing goes, the Greyhound rules are pretty lax. Company policy prevents travelers from bringing alcohol or weapons in carry-on or checked bags, and sharp objects, glass containers, sporting goods and tools are only allowed in checked bags – but there are currently no standard luggage screening procedures at Greyhound stations. You won't be able to access checked bags during the trip itself, so make sure medications and anything you can't stand to lose are with you in a carry-on.

Checked bags may weigh no more than 50 pounds, and their combined length, width and height may not exceed 62 inches.

Finally: Boarding the Bus

Boarding starts about 20 minutes before a bus departs, but passengers who aren't checking bags can also just walk right up to the gate at departure time and walk onto the bus. Get to the station at least 30 minutes in advance if you need to print your ticket or check bags. If you are checking bags, see a ticket agent to get luggage tags. The driver can also help with this if there's no ticket agent on duty.

Greyhound bus seats‌ aren't assigned. Passengers who bought Economy Extra and Flexible fares get priority boarding, so they choose their seats first. When boarding starts, passengers who are checking bags will hand them to the driver or porter just before walking onto the bus. Expect to show your ticket and ID before boarding, but there are no airport-style screening measures.

The bus will make stops at other stations, unless it's an express, and may also stop for rest breaks. When you arrive at your stop, the driver will retrieve any checked bags.

More to Know About Greyhound

If you haven't ridden Greyhound in a while, you might be pleasantly surprised by the experience. Buses now have free Wi-Fi for passengers to use, plus most seats have outlets. Greyhound seats are leather and recline a bit, plus, you'll have more legroom than you would on a plane.

Greyhound also now offers more than just bus tickets. By partnering with other booking sites, the company promises its customers discounts when they book hotels, event tickets and even station-adjacent parking through Greyhound.

Finally, keep in mind that Greyhound is an international company that operates in Canada and Mexico as well as the United States. Passengers traveling across the border in a Greyhound bus should be prepared to show proof of citizenship.