Walt Disney World Bus System
(Please also see the page covering the Disney’s Magical Express airport transfer service)
Last Updated February 2017
The Walt Disney World theme parks, water parks and other entertainment areas can attract hundreds of thousands of visitors per day, and moving them around the property efficiently is a major logistical challenge. While you can drive your own car if you prefer, Disney operates an extensive fleet of more than 300 buses which can (and usually do) transport guests quickly and efficiently from the resorts to the theme parks and other destinations within the Walt Disney World area.
The buses start running by 7am (later for Disney Springs) until roughly 1½ hours after each park has closed, or until the last guests have been picked up to make sure that everyone gets home safely. A bus for every destination should arrive at least once every 20 minutes, and more frequently during peak demand periods. Special buses for guests attending early character breakfasts used to be provided but these have now been discontinued and you’ll need to use the regular services instead (possibly including a change of bus) so perhaps consider taking a taxi if you need to get to another resort hotel especially early.
Once the buses leave the resort area after all the local pickup stops, the journey times are fairly short. You should be at the Magic Kingdom within about 10-13 minutes, Epcot or Disney Hollywood Studios will take about 9-12 minutes, while Animal Kingdom is the furthest away at nearer 20 minutes.
The two Port Orleans resorts share some common bus services, although at busy times — such as at park opening or just after a fireworks display at park closing time — each resort will operate separate direct buses. Disney uses a GPS tracking system to monitor its fleet and they also check the current queue lines to determine when and where extra services are needed, so you should never be left waiting for too long – although after a long day walking around Epcot, “too long” can become a somewhat subjective term!
To help improve waiting times during busier periods of the day, in August 2014 work was carried out to modify the bus stop kerbside areas to allow the use of double-length “bendy buses” at Port Orleans, which are now in fairly regular use, especially for the Magic Kingdom route during the busier parts of the day. Also in August 2015 an Internal Shuttle service was introduced, running in combination with the Disney Springs bus route.
Trialled initially for a couple of years at the Riverside South Depot, as from early 2016 all of the Port Orleans bus stops now feature a dedicated Wait Time screen which displays the currently expected arrival times for buses for each destination. The system is pretty accurate but of course there can still be occasions when times change if a bus becomes full and gets diverted, or when they add an extra bus to a route.
Port Orleans French Quarter Bus Stops
The “Blues” and “Jazz” bus stations at Port Orleans French Quarter are located right outside the main Port Orleans Square building, just on the right hand side as you exit from the main building.
The first station (A) is the stopping point for buses to Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Disney Springs while the second station (B) handles the buses destined for the Magic Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios. For Blizzard Beach change at Animal Kingdom, and for Typhoon Lagoon use the Disney Springs bus.
Please be aware that when a combined service is operating, French Quarter will be the first stop but collecting from the four Riverside Depots can add a further 10-15 minutes to your journey time before the bus finally heads off to its destination.
Port Orleans Riverside Bus Stops
The main (South Depot) bus stop at Port Orleans Riverside is located to the right as you exit from the Sassagoula Steamboat Company main building, just outside the rear exit of Fulton’s General Store. For the theme park bus services, this is usually the final pickup before the bus departs for its park destination.
The first station (Blue Bayou Platform) is the stopping point for buses to Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Disney Springs while the second station (River Delta Platform) handles the buses destined for the Magic Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios. For Blizzard Beach change at Animal Kingdom, and for Typhoon Lagoon use the Disney Springs bus.
There are three smaller bus stops located clockwise around the Sassagoula Circle perimeter road, with about a two-minute drive between each Depot.
- The first stop is the West Depot, serving Alligator Bayou Lodges 24-26 and 28-35.
- The second stop is the North Depot, serving Alligator Bayou Lodges 36-39 and also Acadian House.
- The third stop is the East Depot, which is located behind Magnolia Terrace and also serves the rear sections of Oak Manor and Parterre Place.
The other buildings are probably best served by the main South Depot, but please check the resort map to see which stop would be closest for your particular room.
The Routing Dilemma
The routes taken by buses used to vary significantly by park, but as from December 2015 a new simpler routing plan has been introduced. If a combined service is operating, the shared buses will call first at French Quarter, then progress on to the Riverside stops. Within Riverside, theme park buses now call at the West Depot first, then North Depot and EastDepot, and finally the South Depot before departing for the park.
In an effort to reduce overcrowding and wait times during the peak demand period, it was announced in December 2016 that the service from Riverside to the Magic Kingdom would be operated using two separate buses from roughly 8am until 11am. The first bus will serve the South Depot only, and the other will cater solely for the three outlying circle Depots, West, North and East. This should make using the outlying stops a much more attractive proposition for guests visiting the Magic Kingdom in the morning.
Disney Springs / Internal ShuttleThe Disney Springs service is the only exception to the above rule, calling first at French Quarter and then Riverside South, West, North and East, then finally adding an extra stop back at French Quarter before heading back to Disney Springs. The marquees on the buses will update to read “Internal Resort Shuttle” upon entering the resort area and then switch to read either “Disney Springs / Typhoon Lagoon” prior to 1pm, or just “Disney Springs” for the rest of the day. Note: Disney Springs buses now ONLY travel to the newly-opened central ‘Landings’ bus terminus located behind Planet Hollywood, between the two multi-story parking garages.
The dispatch system is computer assisted and the buses are tracked around property using a GPS locater system. New buses can be added to a route if a driver reports that there are long lines at a particular location and guests are being left behind, and routes can also be adjusted based on other factors such as driver shift changes, etc. Sometimes a completely full bus will not even visit all of the remaining stops (other than to drop off existing passengers) instead calling for an additional bus to be sent out. So think of these as not so much Rules but more Guidelines.
It might help to explain how the Disney bus system works if you realise that the buses do not technically run from a resort to the parks and back, but rather from a specific park to the resorts and back. While this might sound like a purely semantic difference, the operational ‘Hubs’ from which the buses are dispatched are located at all of the parks and at Disney Springs (plus a few backup locations, one of which is at French Quarter by the way). Thus a bus which comes from Animal Kingdom needs to return to its own base hub, even if there are a lot of guests at the resort waiting to go to a different destination. The buses are routinely re-routed from their hubs, based on demand, but generally cannot switch to a different park destination once they get to a resort.
When Do the Two Resorts Share Buses?
The theme park buses officially start operating at 7am, although sometimes you might find buses commence a little earlier than that. Many routes operate independent services for French Quarter and Riverside (especially at busier times of day) but shared services calling at both resorts generally operate as follows:Magic Kingdom: Shared service very first thing in the morning only (for early character breakfasts)
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Shared service very first thing in the morning only (for early character breakfasts)
Epcot: Shared service very first thing in the morning (for early character breakfasts) and also during the middle of the day, 11am—4pm
Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Shared service 11am—park closing. Change at Animal Kingdom for a Blizzard Beach bus.
Disney Springs: Shared service from around 8am until 2am, also incorporating an Internal Resort Shuttle service for travel within Port Orleans. The Disney Springs bus also serves Typhoon Lagoon until 1pm, after which time you will need to change to another bus when you arrive at Disney Springs.
At all other times, the two resorts operate independent bus services. The switch from the initial early-morning POFQ/POR shared service back to the regular morning routing does not seem to happen at any fixed time, depending instead on factors like which parks have early Extra Magic Hours and the current level of demand. However you can expect the shared service to operate until at least 8am, possibly a bit later.
All of the theme parks and Disney Springs have separate waiting areas clearly marked for every resort. During shared periods, just look for signs indicating the “Port Orleans” waiting area. Otherwise, watch out for separate signs for “Riverside” or “French Quarter”. The destination will also be indicated on illuminated displays on the front of each bus.
Return buses will continue to run for about an hour and a half after park closure (including any Extra Magic Hours) so it’s sometimes worthwhile hanging around in the park for a while longer rather than exiting with the rest of the crowds immediately after a fireworks finalé. The Disney Springs return service finishes at 2am.
Getting to the Walt Disney World Water Parks
During the morning (up until 1pm) the Port Orleans to Disney Springs bus service will additionally stop at the Typhoon Lagoon water park en route. After 1pm, guests will need to get off at Disney Springs and change to a dedicated Typhoon Lagoon bus from there.
Similarly, there is no longer a direct bus service catering for guests travelling from Port Orleans to the Blizzard Beach water park at any time. Instead you will need to catch a bus to the Animal Kingdom theme park first, and change there to a dedicated Blizzard Beach bus.
Transferring Between Disney Resort Hotels
Unfortunately, while Disney’s bus service is generally pretty efficient at getting you to the parks, it’s not so well designed for quick transportation between the various resort hotels.
If you’ve got a meal booked at one of the other resort hotels for example, the only way to get there by Disney transportation is to first take a bus to one of the theme parks, or Disney Springs if the parks have already closed, and then change to a second bus to get you to your required hotel. Generally, it’s a good idea to allow yourself around an hour and a half for most routes to be safe, and try to avoid changing at any of the theme parks close to their closing times as you may experience long waits.
If you’re trying to get to an early Character Breakfast at another resort hotel and you don’t have access to a car, I would strongly suggest you consider taking a taxi, which will probably cost you around $15 but will make your morning a lot less stressful than trying to catch two buses before 8am.
If you’re going for a meal at the Contemporary Resort — such as Chef Mickey’s — first get a bus to the Magic Kingdom and then walk over to the Contemporary, it’s only a few minutes away from the bus stop.
For the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness you may find that catching one of the small local ferry boats which dock just in front of the Magic Kingdom will be quicker than waiting for a second bus. The monorail is also a good option for the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian (with stops occurring in that order).
For the Epcot area resorts — Yacht and Beach Clubs, Boardwalk, Swan/Dolphin — first get the bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then take the free ferry boat service from the dock just outside the theme park gates (there is also a walking path which takes about 20 minutes). The Hollywood Studios option will usually be easier than the alternative of getting the bus to Epcot and walking through the park, and it does not require theme park admission.
Waiting Times and Tips
One of the problems with the Port Orleans resort is its sheer size. There are more than 3,000 rooms spread out over a very large area, with a total of five bus stops servicing them all. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that there are occasions, especially when the parks are very busy, that the bus service can become a little... well, shall we say “strained”? (See also the FAQ entry on this subject)
- If you are planning something time-critical — such as seeing a show or getting to a dining reservation on time — you should allow yourself at least one hour from arriving at the bus stop to allow for having just missed a bus, a bus turning up full, additional stops around the resort, and any delays getting through security and into the park. If you also need to change transportation, for example to get to another resort hotel, you should allow at least an hour and a half for safety.
- The most obvious place to catch a bus is the route’s first pickup point, but if that bus then progresses on to each of the four Riverside Depots in turn then your journey time could easily be doubled. However choosing the last pickup point runs the risk of there being standing room only, or even no room at all. If this happens, Disney are usually quick to allocate extra buses to the route — but that doesn’t help you much if you’re waiting impatiently to get to the Magic Kingdom to watch the night-time parade in 30 minutes and one bus has just gone past full. I would suggest allowing yourself a little extra time at especially busy periods, and adjust your waiting-point strategy depending on your destination (see above).
- If you really need to get to your destination as quickly as possible you may wish to consider using a rental car if you have one, or taking a taxi, as this will often prove faster than taking a Disney bus (since there will be no queues, no wait for the bus to arrive, and no interim stops). The one exception to this is when you are traveling to the Magic Kingdom, in which case you need to make an extra journey by monorail or ferryboat from your car to the theme park entrance which can delay you a bit. Uber is also becoming a very popular choice, and is generally reported to be cheaper than getting a regular taxi.
- At the end of your day when you’ve just watched Wishes and you’re heading back to your hotel room, please remember that there will be thousands of other people who have the same idea. Disney do mostly run separate services for each resort at park closing times, but even so the lines for Riverside in particular can get pretty long during peak summer or holiday periods — even with some buses arriving seemingly nose-to-tail. If the lines for Riverside become too lengthy, it’s sometimes worth catching the first bus for French Quarter and then walking back over to Riverside — it’s not much more than a ten minute walk, and even shorter to some of the mansion buildings.
Also, do remember that no-one is forcing you to leave the park just yet. Stay a while and enjoy those thinning crowds and the beautiful evening illumination, or perhaps do a bit of late-night shopping (believe me, Disney will happily take your money until at least an hour after the official park closing time). Then meander your way back to the now emptier bus stop after all the other sheep have departed and you’ll probably have a much more pleasant journey home.
- If you are worried that you may have missed the last bus back to your resort at night, speak to one of the Disney Transportation cast members and they will try to find a way to get you home.
- All Disney buses are very disability friendly. If you or a member of your party needs to use a wheelchair or an ECV (electric vehicle) you will be given priority and loaded on and off the bus before any other passengers. Access is via the middle doorway, and each bus has a platform lift and a dedicated area to park and lock-down wheelchairs so that the user does not need to transfer.
For more information on any of the Disney bus routes or timetables, call 1-407-WDW-RIDE (1-407-939-7433).
Note: There are separate pages providing information on the Disney’s Magical Express airport transfer service, the Sassagoula River Ferry to Disney Springs, and for other Ground Transportation options such as taxis, rental cars, public bus services, etc.