Green Tortoise for alternative travel

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of May 9-16, 1996
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Green Tortoise for alternative travel
Question: I am considering taking a trip with Green Tortoise Expeditions. Most of their trips are on the West Coast and through Central America. Do you know anything about this company? I believe they've been around for many years. Thanks.

Roy McClymonde
Elk Grove, CA

Zen and the art of bus touring
Adventure Adviser: As long as you're not big on personal space (because there is none) or, for that matter, showers (you'll average one a week), a Green Tortoise bus/camping trip may well be one of the most affordable outfitted trips out there, and probably the most unusual.

This San Francisco-based travel company has been around since those heady days during the early '70s when underground, unlicensed hippie buses ruled the highways. While most of its like-minded, free-spirited competitors have long since folded, Green Tortoise prevailed, priding itself on taking its mellow time getting from coast to coast as its footloose riders hike trails, swim in rivers, and climb mountains along the way.

While they're probably best known for their classic route--an 11- to 14-day Boston to San Francisco (or vice versa) trek--which runs from about $370-$430 per person, including all meals--they also offer a nine-day desert Southwest experience (about $260), a 35-day Alaska tour ($1,750), and a 16-day loop of western national parks (about $620).

Accommodations and amenities, like the shoestring travelers and adventurous foreigners who frequent the Tortoise's fleet of ten, 20-plus-year-old coaches, are chummily laid-back and, well, just plain spartan. Most often you'll be sleeping beside 38 strangers (who will probably quit being strange after the first couple of nights) in big communal bunks, and pitching in with the vegetarian stew or after-dinner dishes. While showers will be few and far between, you can expect to swim most every day--even if it means skinny-dipping in the Delaware Water Gap in front of gawking morning commuters.

For a catalog of Tortoise trips, call 800-867-8647, check them out at, or take a gander at "Riding the Tortoise" in the Destinations section of our August 1993 issue.

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