The Times' favorite summer vacation photos from readers in 2014

'Chinatown buses' make tourism inroads in Sin City

BusinessTrips and VacationsTravelCompanies and CorporationsTransportation Industry

They were an underground hit almost from the start.

The cut-rate transportation services called "Chinatown buses" originated about a decade ago in the Northeast. At first, they were an inexpensive way for Chinese restaurant workers to commute to jobs in nearby cities. Fares as low as $10 between New York and Boston were common.

Soon Chinese students began to hop aboard, and other students followed suit. Then savvy budget travelers noticed, and suddenly Greyhound was facing a new form of competition: low-overhead bus companies that thrived on a no-frills, shoestring approach to service.

Instead of picking up passengers at terminals, Chinatown buses picked them up — and deposited them — along curbsides; instead of maintaining ticket offices, they sold space online; instead of offering numerous routes, they offered only the most popular.

The bus lines, most of which are owned by Chinese immigrants, are common in the Northeast, but similar low-cost services also can be found in the West.

The online booking service, launched five years ago by Cambridge, Mass., businessman Jimmy Chen, handles reservations and helped put the low-cost bus trend on the road. now accounts for 1,000 scheduled departures a day throughout the country. Besides the low-cost players it now takes reservations for major sightseeing companies, such as Gray Line.

The expansion offers travelers a range of travel options. "Some of the tours we list are twice as expensive as others," Chen said, adding that the hotels are usually the most important factor in price: Costlier tours stay at higher-end hotels.

But economy travelers can find a wealth of cut-rate deals on the website.

Riders can choose transportation alone, paying fares as low as $25 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas or $45 between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Or they can choose vacations that include accommodations, such as a two-day trip from Los Angeles to Ensenada, Mexico, for $95; or a three-day trip from L.A. to San Francisco and Yosemite for $120.

Prices and tour components fluctuate — the $99 Las Vegas-Grand Canyon itinerary described in the accompanying story, for instance, is now available from various companies for prices ranging from $114 to $127, but a different Vegas tour is available for $99 that includes two nights in Sin City.

Info: (617) 354-2101,

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
BusinessTrips and VacationsTravelCompanies and CorporationsTransportation Industry
  • Bomb detected
    Bomb detected

    BOMB DETECTED: Iron, a German shepherd trained to sniff out explosives, weapons, wires and other threats, and handler Sgt. Joshua T. Rose, right, wait as military explosives experts investigate a bomb that Iron found south of Baghdad.

  • On the job
    On the job

    ON THE JOB: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Blake T. Soller follows his explosives-sniffing dog, Pluto, in a home being searched for bombs southeast of Baghdad.

  • Viewer Picture by
  • 5-day-old

    Broward Sheriff firefighter/paramedic Gisela Bass brings a five-day-old newborn to a waiting ambulance Monday night.

  • 9. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Philadelphia 76ers, Game 5 NBA Finals, May 14, 1980.
    9. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Philadelphia 76ers, Game 5 NBA Finals, May 14, 1980.

    The setting: With 33 seconds left in a tie game, Abdul-Jabbar scored on a dunk and was fouled by Julius Erving. Abdul-Jabbar made the free throw and the Lakers won, 108-103, at the Forum. The significance: Abdul-Jabbar sprained an ankle late in the third quarter and limped to the locker...

  • Witness to history
    Witness to history

    WITNESS TO HISTORY: Schlesinger, second from left, watches TV in the White House in 1961 with Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy as Alan Shepard becomes the first American to fly in space.