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What Is the Chinatown Bus?

Many travelers and residents of major metropolitan areas have heard of the Chinatown bus, but for many of them, what the Chinatown bus is isn’t exactly clear. As its name suggests, the Chinatown bus runs from Chinatown to Chinatown across major cities in the United States. However, the Chinatown bus is not a bus at all, but rather a generic term for a series of bus lines.

The Chinatown bus is often owned and operated by people of Chinese descent, and their office locations are usually housed in or around Chinatown. As such, you will find that many travelers on the Chinatown bus speak Chinese, and many of them may actually be Chinese given that the history of Chinatowns across the United States was that of a ghetto for Asian people. For better or worse, regardless of the variety of Asian people who now live there, these areas are referred to as “Chinatown” as a remnant of America’s past.

Today both “Chinatown” and “Chinatown bus” are culturally accepted terms, and they continue to be used as one might use the term “Little Italy” in referring to a related commercialized immigrant ghetto with a similar cultural past.

When you take the Chinatown bus, you will usually find that the tickets are printed in both Chinese and English. This is due to the changes in the Chinatown bus’s ridership, which has broadened to include members of all ethnic and regional backgrounds. Therefore, though you may find that the bus owner, driver, and ticket attendants all speak Chinese, they will also invariably speak English just as well and are happy to accommodate your preference for either language.

Many Chinatown buses are not wheelchair accesible. If you or your companion requires special services, you may need to call the bus line in advance so proper preparation can be made if possible.

Because the Chinatown bus is usually so inexpensive, you find that typical travelers are ones who ride and then return that same day. Chinatown buses are a great choice for day-trippers. Others with extended stays also take advantage of these buses, but do so less often when they have luggage. The reason is simple: Chinatown buses drop you off in Chinatown, not at a hotel or near a cab depot where your chances of getting a cab easily are great. However, extended-stay travelers with just a backpack or a single light suitcase usually do well.

The current fare for Chinatown buses from one major city to the next nearest city is around $20 for roundtrip travel and about $10 to $15 one way.

For more Chinatown bus information, visit the Travel Resources section of the MidAtlantic USA website on BellaOnline.com.


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