Friday, September 9, 2016

Guide to Long-Distance (Overnight) Buses in Europe

When it comes to mode of traveling in Europe, bus travel is not on the top of your list. I get it, most visitors to Europe wouldn’t want to deal with the double-digit travel hours and risk arriving at their dream destinations looking like a total wreck. But the truth is, in most countries in South East Europe especially, long-distance bus travel is unavoidable. In some case, it might even be the only transportation option you’ve got! Long-distance bus travels could be enjoyable (It doesn't have to be miserable, really!). There, I’ve said it. And on top of that, it is the cheapest way to travel through Europe!
Europe long distance bus,megabus, flixbus.
I am going to make a bold statement: Bus travel is the best and among all bus companies galore, I absolutely love Megabus (now a part of Flixbus). Here are my reasons: 

1. It is cheap 

Although I admit that traveling by trains is more comfortable and flexible, bus trips usually cost only a fraction of trains and it makes it the top choice for budget travelers. 

2. It is time-saving 

If you are an avid traveler, I guess you can relate to this: getting from the airport to the city center can be a pain in certain cities. Let me gives you an example— London. If you fly into London with the budget airlines, you’ll be arriving at Gatwick Airport. The most time-efficient + least confusing way to arrive at the city center will cost you 19 pounds (Gatwick Express). It totally makes a huge difference when one is arriving directly at Victoria. 
** Although there are a lot of different methods to get from Gatwick to the city center.  

3. They have good facilities onboard. 

Wifi and power sockets are available on board. They have toilet in the bus as well.  

4. Off the beaten path

There are some really small stations where trains can’t get to, and buses are there to fill in the gap. Some of these bus rides are included in your rail pass but some aren’t. If a bus ride is indeed covered by the rail pass, it is usually timed to depart according to the train schedule. That means, if you miss one connection, you’ll have to wait until the next train arrives. So, when you have a choice to board a Long distance bus, arriving at your “Off the beaten path” destination without all these hassles, why not? 

I am not gonna lie. Although there are some advantages traveling by bus, some travelers may still hate it due to the following reasons. Cons: 
1. Long travel hours. 
Sure, the journey takes longer, sometimes up to 26 hours (Paris-Oslo)!
2. Uncomfortable seats.
Some seats don't even incline! But this largely depends on your luck. 

3. Shady Bus stations
Here is the thing I dislike the most about bus travels. Bus stations in Europe can be really scary at times, especially at night. While the bus stations in Munich Milan and Paris are okay (descent buildings), others might be just an open parking lot located at the edge of the town and that could be a problem, especially if you are arriving at the "station" in the middle of the night being a female solo traveler. 

4. It is not for everyone.

This is true especially for those easily affected by motion sickness. 
Tronchetto, Venice, Flixbus station.
The bus station in Venice do not even have a roof. But it was okay because of the beautiful view. 
I've survived a number of overnight buses in Europe, and according to my experiences, it really wasn’t as bad as it sounded. Here is a short review of the most interesting journey I've had with the Megabus. 

Bus Company: Megabus  
Megabus is a low-cost carrier in Europe, now under the management of Flixbus. They have extensive routes in the UK and Europe, especially Italy. 
Route: Paris- London
Price:  €6
Time taken: 10 hours
Departure From: Paris, Quai De Seine Art Megabus, 208 Quai de Bercy, 75012 
Arriving At: Victoria Coach Station 
The station is located at the junction of Buckingham Palace Rd and Elizabeth Street, 10 minutes walk from the Victoria Train Station. If you are not sure where to go, there is an information desk at the main entrance

My experience: 

The bus arrived at the station on time. After showing the bus driver our tickets, we boarded the bus, choose our seats and then we were on our way to London in no time. 
We managed to grab 2 seats each so I was able to lie down comfortably (one of the many perks of being short!), so did a lot of other passengers. Somehow, the bus was not packed that night. 
Although the driver did not speak good English, he was friendly and helpful. He told us what to expect on this ride and helped us to load our luggages into the bus. 
Food and drinks are allowed on the bus so we bought some sandwiches, drinks and 1 kg of peaches (Yea, I know, please don’t judge us.) During the first hour of the journey, I logged into the megabus wifi portal and started planning my day in London. I fell asleep quickly. The next thing I knew, we were already at the border. 4 policemen came on board to check everyone’s passport. For those who collect stamps, here is a bad news for you as there were no cops or stamps given out. The process took less than 5 minutes.  
Next, the driver drove up to the port and our bus went into a ferry. Passengers were required to exit the bus and leave the parking area. As it took the ferry 90 minutes to cross the English Channel, we managed to get some sleep during that time. Inside of the ferry is pretty big with quite a lot of doors and stairs, so it is easy to get confused. I suggest you to note down the nearest exit/entrance from your bus so that you won’t board the wrong one when the ferry docks at the port. 
At around 5am, we were welcomed by the amazing sight of the London Eye at the Thames River and thank God, sunshine (so rare for London!). Finally, the bus driver dropped us off at Victoria Station.  
Most beautiful street, London, Miss Happy Feet, Vivian Lee
Reached London after 10 hours and apart from my eyes being extra tiny that day, I think I still look okay. 


I would happily repeat this experience. 

Tips to survive an overnight bus ride: 

1. Food and drinks.
Some buses don’t stop at all as they bring you directly to your final destination. So be sure to grab a bottle or 2 before boarding the bus. 

2. Learn some stretch exercise. 

You seriously won’t want your blood to clot from staying in the same position for too long. I am not joking, deep vein thrombosis is real and it can be fatal! Straighten your back, extend your neck, stretch your legs. It helps to learn some in-seat foot exercises: rotation, extension, flexion…

3. Bring a travel pillow

A neck pillow is a staple carry-on item for any overnight journeys, no matter it's a bus ride, train journey or flight. It is crucial as it provides support to your neck. I personally bring an inflatable pillow to save space (a good investment). 

4. Better yet, bring a sleeping bag.

A sleeping bag not only keeps you warm, it also acts as a safe! Just put your valuables inside your sleeping bag while you sleep to avoid losing anything to petty thieves while you are fast asleep. (at least this is what I do. ) 

5. Prepare a playlist of your favorite songs. 

Check out my favorite songs while on the road here!

6. Download some games

I am not talking about Pokemon Go. 

7. Watch a movie on your iPad. 

Check out some of my favorite movies to spark up my wanderlust!

8. Bring Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones.
Extremely useful especially if your seat were surrounded by high school teens on their graduation trip… tell me about it! However, I totally get it, I’d totally stay up all night when I travel with a whole bunch of friends too! 

9. Talk. 
Make friends with your neighbors and now other passengers would need a pair of earplugs. However, don't overdo it, everyone needs rest. 

10. Just close your eyes. 
Sleep. or at least, try to sleep.   

Some word about the Ferry Ride

it was drizzling when we docked in London. 
- You don’t have to drag your luggage down but it’ll make the crossing more comfortable if you bring your sleeping bag or blankets as you might have to sleep on the floor. 
- If you are not too tired, I suggest you walk around as the interior of the ferry is pretty interesting. 
- There are a cafe and a restaurant inside the ferry (Just go up the stairs and you’ll see them.)
- It's quite confusing inside the ferry but as long as you stay close to the main staircase, you will be fine. 
- Note to self: Stop thinking about Titanic.  


Image courtesy of Megabus
- It is possible to find a $1 overnight bus ride if you book early. 
- Always ask the driver if you'll need to transfer before boarding the bus. If so, don’t miss your change. 
- Some bus stations close down during the night. To avoid standing outside in the cold at some godforsaken hour while waiting for your connection, I suggest you check properly before booking the ride and plan accordingly. 
- Some bus drivers do not speak English. I highly recommend you to download offline google translate app just in case. 
- If your luggage is huge, you might have to pay a fee to check it in. 
- The company also operates low-cost bus rides in USA and Canada

📌For more travel tips, like Eat Love Travel Breathe with Miss HappyFeet. 
📌Subscribe to the monthly newsletter for exclusive travel deals, tips, free E-books, monthly giveaway and travel coupons! 

Thank You for Reading!
 This post is based solely on my honest opinion or personal experience. 
Feel free to share your thoughts/ experiences with me by commenting below!

1 comment:

Hanis Amanina said...

I am the one who get motion sickness with bus ride. :D haha, but I prepared myself well if taking the bus is my only suitable choice. Bring a motion sickness bag to vomit in case (usually I took it from the planes), put some ointment, try hard to sleep and not watching out of the window for a long time (sadly this helps for me T_T)