Friday, September 30, 2016

Bus Travel in Europe-- All you have to know.

So, I've told you all about my experience with the Europe Rail Pass in my last article HERE. I loved the flexibility and the comfortable seats, but I also hated the high reservation fees, especially in Italy! That was how I discovered a better alternative to train travel -- Bus Travel in Europe!
Bus travel in Europe

Here are a few reasons to justify my love for Bus Travel!

1. It's cheap!
I know the adjective "cheap" is subjective. But I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I describe $1 for an overnight bus ride as cheap! Click here to find out how I scored these cheap tickets!
Bus travel in Europe

2. There are always night buses, and you don't have to pay any "seat reservation fees".
If you are on a really tight budget trip, try to book into a night bus to save on accommodation. And it gets you to your destination wayyyyyy earlier than the mass tourist. Double win!

3. Delays are seldom.
Unlike trains which is very much dependant on the condition of the train tracks, buses are more flexible because they can always reroute when the traffic seems bad on the original path.

4. They have good customers' services.
I've had no luck trying to ask for refunds from most train companies. The only train company which graciously refunded me was SNCF (France Railway), however, it took them 3 months to do so. Read about my experience on SNCF Refund HERE. Bus companies in Europe are more responsive to inquiries on their social media platforms, email, and phone calls.
Bus travel in Europe, Flixbus

How did you compare prices for bus rides?

Introducing a God-sent website, GoEuro!
I use GoEuro to plan all my train, bus, and flights in Europe.  
I found it very easy to use and the information stated are precise and straight to the point. As soon as you've found your preferred bus tickets, wait no more and click “select” on the website! It'll redirect you to the official booking page of the bus travel company, and from there you'll proceed with the payment. No catch, no hidden fees, you do not have to pay the website anything! By using GoEuro, I managed to grab a lot of 1 Euro bus tickets. Even my cross-border-bus-journey from Milan to Paris cost only 6 Euro!

Where did you use Bus Travel the most?

The land of Gelato! In my humble opinion, Italy is one of those countries best discovered by bus! 
My route goes like this: Venice- Naples- Sorrento- Capri- Naples- Procida- Naples- Rome- Pisa- Milan. After Milan, I crossed the France-Italian border with the Megabus to Paris.
Read all about my Italy adventures here!
Venice Italy, solo travel, Miss Happy Feet, Vivian Lee
Photo taken in Venice, Italy. 

Are there any cheapest buses that I need to know? 

To name a few: Megabus, Flixbus, Deinbus, National Express, Eurolines, IDBUS, PolskiBus, Student Agency Bus. Those are just the bus companies I rode with. There are a lot more companies offering budget bus rides out there!

What do I need to know about traveling on buses in Europe?

About bus tickets
You can buy the tickets online and have the ticket sent to your email, or buy them at the self-service ticket kiosks (no every places have this though!). 
You do not need to print out any bus tickets as long as you have your booking number with you. Save the trees! For Flixbus, do not need to print out your ticket but you still have to keep a PDF copy on your smartphone, the driver will need to scan your e-ticket before allowing you to board the bus.
bus in europe
The driver checks your ticket before letting you enter the bus.
About your luggage
If you have a huge luggage (usually check-in luggage) you'll have to pay extra. You will not be allowed to bring even that small cabin bag with you to your seats either. You'll either have to put it down at the luggage boot or on the luggage rack at the front. According to the drivers, this is due to safety reasons. But don't worry, bag-stealing seldom happens on European bus, but if you are doubtful, take precaution by bundling them up.
On Megabus, you will be given a bag tag, just like those handed out by airlines. Whereas on Flixbus, you'll have to print out your own luggage tag, but it is totally up to you! Another bus smaller companies do not have a luggage tag for you.

About the facilities on the bus
I've been on Megabus, National Express, Deinbus and Flixbus... all of them have a washroom in them.
I love Megabus the most because they provide 1 power socket under every seat and on the newer bus, there are even USB chargers on the wall. In comparison, Flixbus has only 1 charger port for every 2 seats. National Express has bigger and more comfortable seats and best thing about it -- It always departs on time. (at least according to my experience)

About the services
I must say Megabus recruits the best drivers of all bus companies. I am not biased and I have no reason to be biased, but bus drivers on Megabus are passionate, fun and entertaining compared to some grumpy bus drivers I've met on other buses. However, of course, there are exceptions. My bus driver from Brussels to Köln was so highly irritatable he looked like he was ready to bite anyone with extra questions (I was about to ask him for help, but I backed off. ) One example of good drivers: I still remember my ride from Milan to Paris, our bus driver was telling us via the microphone how he loves the view of the Alps on our way to Paris, describing his job driving pass the Alps as the best job ever. He sends a smile on my face every time he talks!
Food and drinks are allowed on the bus as long as you don't make too much of a mess! In some buses, for example the Student Agency Bus, free snacks, coffee and tea are served throughout the journey. 
Italian soft drink
I always buy this drink to enjoy on the bus, don't ask me why. 
About the wifi on the bus
I lost count of the times when the wifi connection on Flixbus got on my nerves, but compared Megabus, Flixbus has faster internet service (when it does work!), allowing you to watch videos, download maps and listen to music. Megabus has generally more stable wifi services, but too bad it has a surfing Quota! Out of my 12 rides, I only remember this one particular ride when the wifi was not working from Milan to the France border. The driver was so apologetic, he kept telling us to be patient, as soon as we crossed the France border, the driver immediately announced that the wifi came back on track. Wifi on Deinbus, National Express, and Student Agency work well, I have no complaints!

About customer service
Both Megabus and the Flixbus take care of their customers well. Both are very responsive on facebook, however, compared to Megabus, Flixbus has slightly slower reply rate. While the Megabus responses well to Email, you need to call the Flixbus service center in order to get a good response.
I emailed the Megabus once due to their bus delay at the middle of the night. I got their email first thing in the morning saying my future 2 rides will be free of charge, no question asked!
When I experienced the same thing with Flixbus, I called the customer service, only to have to listen to their "Flixbus theme song" about a group of teenagers wearing green clothes going to Berlin. I have no comment on their weird lyrics but as time goes by, the song became really annoying. Finally, I got compensated after listening to the song for the 5th time and received some help from a kind local. 

About transiting
All bus trips are rather direct while Flixbus tend to have a long transit in some station before proceeding to the final destination.

Which bus company is your absolute favorite?

I would have named "Megabus" the winner, however, on the second day of my travel, my bus driver on Megabus announced that Megabus was bought over by "Flixbus" and it's now under Flixbus's management. Well, I really hope Megabus will keep it's standards and perhaps Flixbus will be able to do better now with my favorite bus company under their wings.

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

1 comment:

SfaFazlyana said...

Thank you! Useful information :-)