Walt Disney World Bus System

(Please also see the page covering the Disney’s Magical Express airport transfer service)

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 at approximately 6:45am (7:50am for Downtown Disney) until roughly 1½ hours after each location 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 — or perhaps consider taking a taxi if you need to get to another resort hotel.

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 12-15 minutes, Epcot or Disney Hollywood Studios will take about 10-12 minutes, while Animal Kingdom is the furthest away at about 20 minutes.

The two Port Orleans resorts often share a common bus service, although at very busy times — such as first thing in the morning or just after a fireworks display at park closing time — each resort may 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. As far as I know these are not in regular daytime use, but can be brought into service to help with periods of high demand.

Port Orleans French Quarter Bus Stops

The two Port Orleans French Quarter bus stations

The two Port Orleans French Quarter bus stations

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 Downtown Disney while the second station (B) handles the buses destined for the Magic Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios. Note: the daytime Downtown Disney buses stop at Typhoon Lagoon en route, while the Animal Kingdom buses also serve Blizzard Beach.

French Quarter bus information signage

French Quarter bus information signage

Please be aware that when a combined service is being operated and French Quarter is the first stop, collecting from the four Riverside Depots can add 10-15 minutes to your journey time before the bus finally heads off to its destination. If French Quarter is the final pickup, the journey time will be faster but you do run more risk of there being standing room only.

Port Orleans Riverside Bus Stops

The Riverside ‘South Depot’ bus stops

The Riverside ‘South Depot’ 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. It is one of the few locations on Walt Disney World property that is trialling a new Wait Time screen, which displays the currently expected arrival times for buses for each destination.

The first station (Blue Bayou Platform) is the stopping point for buses to Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Downtown Disney while the second station (River Delta Platform) handles the buses destined for the Magic Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios. Note: the daytime Downtown Disney buses stop at Typhoon Lagoon en route, while the Animal Kingdom buses also serve Blizzard Beach.

There are three smaller bus stops located around the Sassagoula Circle perimeter road, with about a two-minute drive between each Depot (whether these are visited before or after the larger South Depot varies by destination, but the buses always travel in a clockwise direction).

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

Last Updated 17 July 2015

Bus Wait Time screen at Riverside’s South Depot (at 12:02pm on 22 Aug 2014)

Bus Wait Time screen at Riverside’s South Depot (at 12:02pm on 22 Aug 2014)

The route that the buses normally take around the resort is listed below, but this can vary somewhat as 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 existing passengers off) instead calling for an additional bus to be sent out. So think of the following as not so much Rules but more Guidelines.

French Quarter and Riverside always run separate buses for the Magic Kingdom route, and for the other theme parks at opening/closing times only. A combined service picking up at both French Quarter and Riverside operates for the other parks during the remainder of the day. Downtown Disney always runs a combined Riverside/French Quarter service.

Generally speaking, Riverside guests are probably best to choose either the South Depot or the stop closest to their room, but for the Magic Kingdom route in particular there is a lot of merit in selecting the outer stops over the South Depot, as that way the bus is less likely to already be full when it arrives at your stop. The East Depot is usually the least crowded — but remember, Guidelines not Rules!

Port Orleans to Magic Kingdom:
Magic
Kingdom
 →
West
Depot
 →
North
Depot
 →
East
Depot
 →
South
Depot
 →
Magic
Kingdom

(French Quarter always runs its own separate bus service)

Magic Kingdom bus services commence at 6:45am and run from the resorts until park close. After the final Port Orleans pickup, the ride to the park takes roughly 12-15 minutes.

Port Orleans to Epcot:
Epcot
 →
French
Quarter
 →
South
Depot
 →
West
Depot
 →
North
Depot
 →
East
Depot
 →
Epcot

The bus service to Epcot runs from 6:45am until 10:30pm, with separate routes operated at the start and end of the day and a combined route operated from 10:55am until 8:49pm. After the final Port Orleans pickup, the ride to the park takes roughly 10 minutes.

Port Orleans to Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
The ‘North Depot’, between the Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend areas

The ‘North Depot’, between the Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend areas

Hollywood
Studios
 →
French
Quarter
 →
South
Depot
 →
West
Depot
 →
North
Depot
 →
East
Depot
 →
Hollywood
Studios

The bus service to Disney’s Hollywood Studios runs from 6:45am until park close, with separate routes operated for several hours in the morning and at park close. After the final Port Orleans pickup, the ride to the park takes roughly 10-12 minutes.

Port Orleans to Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
Animal
Kingdom
 →
Blizzard
Beach
 →
South
Depot
 →
West
Depot
 →
North
Depot
 →
East
Depot
 →
French
Quarter
 →
Blizzard
Beach
 →
Animal
Kingdom

A combined bus service to Disney’s Animal Kingdom runs from 6:55am until park close, with separate routes operated for several hours in the morning. Animal Kingdom buses also serve the Blizzard Beach water park, so expect to make an extra stop there (in both directions) during water park operating hours. After the final Port Orleans pickup, the ride to the park takes roughly 20 minutes.

Port Orleans to Downtown Disney:
Downtown
Disney
 →
Typhoon
Lagoon
 →
West
Depot
 →
North
Depot
 →
East
Depot
 →
South
Depot
 →
French
Quarter
 →
Typhoon
Lagoon
 →
Downtown
Disney

This is a combined route all day, starting at 7:50am and running until Downtown Disney closes. Downtown Disney buses also serve the Typhoon Lagoon water park, so expect to make an extra stop there (in both directions) during water park operating hours. Currently there is a lot of construction work at Downtown Disney so ride times can be a bit variable, but probably somewhere in the 20+ minutes region. Avoid using Downtown Disney as a hub to change routes if possible.

Operational Information: It might help to understand 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 Downtown Disney (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.

Return Transportation

All of the theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney have separate waiting areas clearly marked for every resort. With the exception of the Magic Kingdom and busy hours, Disney mostly operates a combined service for the two Port Orleans resorts (see above) so just look for signs indicating the “Port Orleans” waiting area. During busy periods however — such as at park opening or closing time — the two resorts may have their own direct services, so watch out for waiting signs for “Riverside” and “French Quarter”. The destination will also be indicated on illuminated displays on both the front and the sides 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.

Transferring Between Disney Resort Hotels

An Epcot bus arriving at the ‘East Depot’ in the Magnolia Bend area

An Epcot bus arriving at the ‘East Depot’ in the Magnolia Bend area

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 Downtown Disney 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 it is a good idea to avoid changing at a theme park around its closing time 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. This will mostly be quicker than the alternative of walking all the way from the front of Epcot, 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)

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 Downtown Disney, and for other Ground Transportation options such as taxis, rental cars, public bus services, etc.