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On the cheap bus: A trip on the Megabus from Las Vegas to L.A.

My Megabus trip between Vegas and L.A. did not include a stop at that fabled Mickey D’s in Barstow. Fine by me, but bad news for the restless teenager in front of me. He had a Big Gulp and a Flintstones portion of popcorn — the size that Sam’s Club convinces you you’ll need when the apocalypse comes. Careful, I thought, you’re going to need some water, and the downstairs bathroom doesn’t have a sink, just sanitation lotion. Sure enough, a few hours into the ride, he was asking if anyone had water he could “borrow.” One sympathetic passenger gave in, on the condition that the kid leave no backwash.

I was the 16th passenger aboard the double-decker bus, so I didn’t snag a seat at one of the two tables on the bottom level. But with a capacity for 81, I had no trouble finding a place.

Megabus began operating in mid-December, offering inexpensive rides between Vegas and Los Angeles, depending on how early you get your tickets. I live on the cheap, so I’ve made the trip there and back several times and have yet to pay more than $20 either way (sometimes the fares are lower). I’m curious to see if the prices go up as Megabus hits its first summer-travel season, especially since Greyhound is beginning to offer some competitive prices.

You meet intesting people on the bus. Personal favorite so far: the young lady who had just left her boyfriend after he was busted for dealing (she assumed his newfound wealth as a Pizza Hut delivery driver was due to his exclusive route in Beverly Hills), and the busker who feels its time Vegas has a look at keytar-inspired Sex Pistols.

Price aside, Megabus does have a few strong points for travelers, especially as compared to Greyhound. One of my pet frustrations with Greyhound is that the moment it’s time to find a seat, there’s a free-for-all, even though Greyhound has started numbering its tickets. At the LA Station on a recent weekend, when they announced,“OK, Nos. 1-10, please line up,” more 60 people went through the barrier. I’ve experienced none of that with Megabus. And the coaches are pretty comfortable.

On the other hand, although Megabus advertises wi-fi, I’ve found it pretty iffy. And the company is strict about luggage: one piece of luggage and one very small carry-on. That’s it. Greyhound is a bit looser, for those of you who travel heavy. Lastly, after riding Megabus between LA and Vegas several times, it’d be nice if there was a reward program. Greyhound has one.

Still, it’s comfortable enough and gets me where I’m going — and for $20 or less, you’d have to be a real crank to complain too much.