Renting a car can be a significant travel expense. We have written about tips to cut rental car costs before, but doing without a rental car can really cut back on travel expenses. And now there are some great transportation alternatives to rental cars in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest that can help you eliminate car rental expenses altogether! Here are four of our favorites that might be new to you.
The first option, Bolt Bus, traverses the I-5 corridor, taking riders between Portland, Albany, Eugene, Bellingham, Seattle, and Vancouver, BC. The Bolt Bus is clean, efficient, and comfortable, offers free wi-fi & power outlets, and, best of all, it’s cheap! They offer fares as low as a dollar if you’re really lucky! Fares do get more expensive as your travel date approaches, so plan ahead if you can — even if it’s just a few days. Join their free My Bolt Rewards program to get in the first boarding group.
Another great bus service, the POINT, operates five routes around Oregon: Portland-Eugene, Bend-Ontario, Redmond-Chemult, Portland-Astoria, and Klamath Falls-Brookings. With free wi-fi and onboard power outlets, the clean, comfortable POINT buses are similar to Bolt buses, with a few more stops along their regional routes. For example, the Cascades POINT route between Portland and Eugene offers stops in Oregon City and Woodburn (shopping at the outlet stores, anyone?) in addition to Salem and Albany. Both Bolt and POINT buses provide storage for bicycles and luggage, too.
We enjoyed our trip from Portland to the Oregon coast via the Northwest POINT route, and found it to be easy and inexpensive. It heads out US 26 from downtown, stopping in Beaverton, Elsie, Necanicum, Cannon Beach, Seaside, Gearhart, Warrenton, and Astoria. The one-way fare was less than $20 per person and we had plenty of room to stretch out and relax while we let someone else handle the driving.
If you’re looking to head up to Mt. Hood, the Mt. Hood Express bus departs the Sandy Transit Center several times a day (with extra routes in winter). The bus makes about ten quick stops between Sandy and Timberline Lodge and costs only $2 per person each way! We took the bus to Mt. Hood for a snowshoeing trip and it was terrific. Lots of skiers were on the bus with us as well — there’s a special storage spot for skis and snowboards in the back. We were so happy to have someone else put the tire chains on the vehicle while we sat inside and watched it snow! Getting to Portland from Sandy via public transit is also possible, but it’s about a 90-minute trip from downtown. So, if you’re carless, downtown, and planning to take the Mt. Hood Express, factor that in or perhaps hire a taxi or Lyft to get out to Sandy.
The newest option is the Columbia Gorge Express bus that runs from Portland’s Gateway Transit Center to Columbia River Gorge sites Rooster Rock State Park and Multnomah Falls. It’s scheduled to run every weekend during the 2017 summer season. If you’re visiting Western Oregon, you have to see Multnomah Falls, and this is a great way to get there! This is just the second year of this service, but it was extremely popular last year, carrying over 30,000 passengers! Due to that success, it now uses even bigger buses than last year, departing twelve times a day from the Gateway Transit Center (accessible from all over Portland by bus or MAX train). Additional buses to Multnomah Falls depart Rooster Rock regularly. The round trip ticket from Portland costs only $5!
Of course, Greyhound traverses the Pacific Northwest as well, with its buses following the interstate highway corridors of Oregon and Washington. While we haven’t yet used Greyhound or the Columbia Gorge Express, we’ve had great experiences on the other bus services mentioned above, finding them to be great budget alternatives to driving.
If you’re planning a trip to Portland or the Pacific Northwest and want to do a little extra adventuring without renting a car, try one of these options! We think you’ll be impressed, and you’ll almost certainly save money over a car rental.
Enjoy your next transportation adventure, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!