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Coach vs Bus

Some people call it a bus. Others call it a coach. Is it interchangeable?

The answer, technically, is no.

The difference, officially, between a bus and a coach is simple. A coach has storage underneath.

The vehicle you take for a tour or from place to place where you can store your luggage in a separate compartment under the seats is a coach. The vehicle you take within a city or town where you take your luggage with you inside regardless of size is a bus.

Useless information to make you a more informed traveler. And proof I have too much time on my hands.

Posted by
613 posts

I must disagree. . My sense was that English English used coach & USA English used bus. So I split the difference & Googled Canada. 74M hits for bus tours but only 24M for coach.

Posted by
5547 posts

A bus in the UK is a regular service that runs to a timetable and anyone can board for payment of the fare either onboard or by a pass. A bus can be single or double decker.

A coach is a single decker private vehicle that runs private outings that must be booked and paid for in advance. You can’t just pitch up and get onboard, with the exception being National Express coaches. A few continental coaches are double decker. You tend to get more legroom on a coach as they are used for longer journeys and they usually have bag storage underneath. You can’t stand on a coach, but you can on a bus.

Posted by
5019 posts

Emma, everyone I ever knew always called them buses in the States, but I've noticed lately some travel groups are using the term "coach" to suggest a classier ride. Some of our friends travel regularly with one of these groups, and when they describe their trip they hesitate just a bit before the word "Coach." As in "There were 50 people on our ... coach."

Posted by
11288 posts

Jane is right. In the US, the word "bus" was used in the past for everything, whether a local city bus, a long distance bus between cities, or a tour bus. Now, it has such a negative connotation that tour companies always use the word "coach" or "motorcoach" - anything to avoid seeming like Greyhound!

Posted by
7602 posts

And to make matters more confusing, the British “Coach” is, in French, a « car » !!

And the Italians say “Pullman”! (At least my husband and in-laws do)

Posted by
2916 posts

I've always called anything that looks like a bus a "bus." The company that operates the bus I take from where I live to Boston and Logan Airport is called "Concord Coach Lines," but they always refer to their vehicles as buses.

Posted by
7191 posts

The drivers on Greyhound Buses use the word coach "no smoking loud music on the coach".

Posted by
4693 posts

Hi Frank,

I’m curious... Where are you traveling now?

In Sicily there a multiple bus companies and the buses are referred to as, “autobus”.
All the buses I took had a luggage hold on the bottom (except for the local city buses)

Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
8626 posts

The vehicle you take for a tour or from place to place where you can store your luggage in a separate compartment under the seats is a coach.

Shouldn't then 'bus' be the correct term?

B ags
U nder
S eating

'coach'

Posted by
8626 posts

The vehicle you take for a tour or from place to place where you can store your luggage in a separate compartment under the seats is a coach.

Shouldn't then 'bus' be the correct term?

B ags
U nder
S eating

When I think of 'coach', I imagine what the Queen or Cinderella rides in

Posted by
21721 posts

OK --lets consult the authority -- MWebster -- Bus -- n., 1. A large motor vehicle for passengers. (A couple of other definitions when used as a verb) Coach -- n. 1. a large, horse drawn, four wheeled carriage 2, public motor bus. (And several others related to class of service and sporting activities.)

Posted by
8889 posts

Ah but Websters is a US dictionary, so doesn't count.

I agree with the above posts for the difference, though I wouldn't say the criteria was where you put the luggage.

  • A bus is a vehicle that follows a route, picking up and dropping off passengers. It may be within a town or a rural bus between villages.
  • A coach is a long distance vehicle. Travelling non-stop or limited-stop between towns. It may be a group chartering the coach (like the tours run by this website), or something like Flixbus where you buy intercity tickets on the internet.

They are two different types of vehicles, distinguishable at first sight. A coach is usually more luxurious fitting for longer journeys.

Posted by
11250 posts

Okay, let me get more technical......in the travel industry, in which I spent a number of years working, when you wanted to rent a vehicle to transport a large group of people the choice was a bus or a coach. (There were actually more choices like minibuses, mincoaches, etc. ) If we needed to transport luggage, we rented a coach. If not, we might rent a bus but would still more likely rent a coach because it was more comfortble.

You can call it anything you want, but technically the difference I wrote is what is accepted in the travel industry.

Is it a cab or a taxi? Is it an auto or a car?

Priscilla...I leave Monday for my next 11 week adventure.....the first three weeks are planned. After that, well, I've been procrastinating. Mostly Scotland, England and maybe Northern Ireland.

Posted by
3491 posts

Greyhound uses vehicles that have storage underneath not reachable by the passengers while in motion. Isn't that the exact definition of coach? Yet they have always referred to themselves as bus. Currently, their official title is "Greyhound Lines."

A city bus has no luggage storage because it wouldn't work for most routes they cover with multiple stops every few blocks. The driver would spend all of his time taking bags in and out of the storage.

To me a coach is more like a Greyhound. You go from one point to another with no or very limited stops along the way. The trips I have been on that went from town to town, village to village, city to city have always used what you should call coaches. The ride from my local gathering place to the football stadium is always on a bus with no luggage allowed. The city bus allows passengers to stand during the ride when there are no more seats available. Coaches do not mainly because the aisle is too narrow for the comfort of those standing.

Posted by
3355 posts

Not to be confused with "TheBus Company" in Honolulu! 😉

Posted by
204 posts

And to make matters more confusing, the British “Coach” is, in French,
a « car » !!

Ah, thanks, Kim – I am reading a «Petit Nicolas» book right now and the boys at camp are going by car – which had me scratching my head ... a 'coach' makes more sense than a 'car' :-)

Posted by
31471 posts

Frank II,

I generally use those terms to describe "Bus" and "Coach" but sometimes get lazy and use the terms interchangeably. I've always thought that a Bus was somewhat like a city bus, while a coach was something like a Greyhound that goes between cities (not that I can remember what a Greyhound vehicle looks like, as we don't have them here anymore). The vehicles on RS tours would (IMO) be called a "coach".

Posted by
8626 posts

The vehicles on RS tours would (IMO) be called a "coach".

But, if you look at the RS tour Itineraries, its called a 'bus'; the guides always referred to it as the 'bus', and by whatever name, it got us where we were going

Posted by
11250 posts

And what Rick Steves refers to as "guides" are technically tour directors or tour managers.

Here is how the tour industry sees it:

Tour Guide: Tour guides offer specific narration in a destination and are often called step-on guides. When a tour group arrives at their planned destination is an advantage in having a local guide join the group for the day or even a few hours. Living and working in the destination provides for a more intimate connection and these guides can add a personal glimpse of the community into their commentary.

Tour Director: Tour Directors are responsible for the on the road logistics, confirmations, planning, unexpected delays, damage control, and group dynamics. They travel with the group for the entire tour and can be away from home for weeks or months depending on the tour. During a tour they are available 24/7.

So, Rick calls his "tour directors" guides so he can compare them to other company's guides and not tour directors who are usually professionally trained and licensed.

You can call these things anything you want. If you call a coach a bus, you can do it but you are technically wrong. If you call a tour director a guide, you can do it but you would be technically wrong.

But more importantly, why do I bother?

Posted by
7602 posts

@Laura — yes it is far from being an intuitive use of that word for us anglophones!! Glad that the topic came around just as you were wondering about it — kismet!

Posted by
8115 posts

In Germany, they would call the vehicle taking tourists from place to place a coach, but for public transportation, it is called a bus. Hop on Hop offs are called a bus.
I call them all a bus.
Who cares really?
Had always assumed coach was a word adopted from the UK. Go to Spain, they are called Autobuses. I like this old word: Omnibus. So, bus is an old word describing a vehicle for taking large groups of people. A coach is for smaller groups, like a stagecoach.

All tour directors are also guides, but not all guides are tour directors. So, there.

Posted by
3491 posts

The vehicles on RS tours would (IMO) be called a "coach".

Yes, and many of the coach drivers on the tours will get very annoyed if you call them "bus" drivers. They seem to look at the jobs as being quite different with coach drivers being more professional than mere bus drivers.

Posted by
4684 posts

In the UK bus industry, the traditional deciding factor is that a coach has high-backed seats while a bus has seats with backs that end below the average person's neck.

Posted by
3304 posts

The words are interchangeable.

BoltBus and MegaBus offer luggage storage in the belly of the buses. Very inexpensive means of transiting between NYC and the eastern seaboard. Greyhound buses too.

Posted by
4693 posts

Hi Frank,
Whether you take a bus, a coach, a cab, a taxi, a train, a ship, an airplane or a flying carpet... I wish you a wonderful trip!

Posted by
70 posts

Bus is a contraction of “omnibus” which is latin for “for all”, referring to the fact that it is a means of public transportation. The word omnibus comes from french, though, the French originally borrowed the word from latin.