Whether you hate the hassle of airline travel or want to see more of the world from the ground, buses and trains offer a cost-effective alternative for reaching almost any destination. Of course, planning a trip that utilizes these public transportation resources has traditionally been challenging, requiring review of multiple carrier websites to find and compare routes and costs. Fortunately, this is no longer the case—thanks to Wanderu.
RewardExpert spoke with the ground travel search engine and fare aggregator’s CEO and co-founder, Polina Raygorodskaya, about the inspiration behind Wanderu and how you can use it to book bus or train tickets for your next adventure.
Everything Ground Travelers Need—All in One Place
Launched in 2013 by Raygorodskaya and the company’s COO, Igor Bratnikov, Wanderu was inspired by a journey the pair took in 2011.
“We joined a group of young professionals who were traveling across the country on a mission to raise awareness about national parks and forests,” she recalled. “Since the campaign had an environmental theme, we used exclusively shared rides to go from place to place in a bid to reduce our carbon footprint. During our trip, a driver who was supposed to take us to our next destination cancelled on us at the last moment, stranding us in the middle of rural Virginia.”
Because Raygorodskaya and Bratnikov had no way of easily figuring out which buses or trains they could catch to continue their journey, they wound up having to rent a car instead. “There wasn’t a single go-to place online where we could find and compare all available bus or train options for traveling between any two points in the U.S.,” she continued. “We had to go to all these different carriers’ websites and manually search to see if any of them served the area and if there were any routes going to our next stop.”
While they had to deviate from their original plan in order to continue the trip, they had a new business idea as a result and later set about creating Wanderu to make it easy for others to find and book the best deals on bus and train travel. “Now, with the help of Wanderu, travelers can easily find the most convenient and cheapest bus and train tickets through more than 20 countries across North America and Europe,” Raygorodskaya said.
The company’s official partners include major ground transportation providers such as Amtrak, Greyhound, Megabus, Boltbus, Peter Pan, Adirondack Trailways of New York and Red Coach. She said that these providers cover 90 percent of the U.S., most of Canada, key destinations in Mexico, and much of Europe.
“Over time, we have come to discover that a lot of people prefer to take a bus or train over flying, even for some longer distance trips,” she said. “In fact, some of our most popular routes include Los Angeles to Las Vegas, New York to Chicago, Paris to Berlin, and Amsterdam to Copenhagen.”
40 Million Travelers and Counting
Since its launch, Wanderu has helped over 40 million people find and book deals on bus and train travel. Raygorodskaya said the company’s core demographic is Millennial travelers, mainly students and young professionals between 16 and 34 years old.
“Statistics show that more young people are opting out of driving in favor of alternative forms of transportation, and with airline tickets being quite pricey and requiring additional arrangements such as expensive commutes to and from the airport, bus and train travel has really taken off as the preferred way of travel for Millennials,” she said. “However, our user base is much broader than that, as Wanderu is the ideal solution for anyone looking for an inexpensive and reliable way of getting where they need to go.”
Finding and booking a bus or train ticket on the website or accompanying mobile app (AppStore or Google Play) is simple. Just enter the start and end points of your journey as well as the date you intend to travel. In seconds, the search engine will generate a list of results that you can then sort by shortest travel duration, cheapest fair, earliest departure or latest departure. You can also narrow the list to show only direct trips or carriers offering specific features such as Wi-Fi or extra legroom.
Once you’ve found the route you want, you can purchase the ticket securely online without leaving the Wanderu website. “The good thing about bus travel is that, even at the last moment, you’re still able to snag a pretty decent deal,” Raygorodskaya concluded. “However, as is usually the case when booking any travel, the earlier you do it, the better price you are going to get. Book as far in advance as possible to get the best deal.”