8 Reasons European Bus Travel is the Best
Greyhound, Megabus, Peter Pan, and the now (thankfully) defunct Fung Wah Bus have long been the butt of jokes. When it comes to regional travel, most people seem to have the attitude that buses should only be considered under dire circumstances, as a last resort when planes, trains, and driving your own automobile are not options. They take a long time, especially if there’s traffic. They aren’t particularly comfortable. On-board entertainment options are dismal, unless of course you count the drama provided by other passengers. Frankly, the benefits seldom outweigh the costs.
In America, at least. In Europe, buses are a perfectly viable way of getting from point A to B without the need to worry about loss of life, limb, or sanity. Here’s why you shouldn’t write them off:
Buses are dirt cheap. This one should be obvious. Moving right along.
7. Consistent Fares
With buses, there's room for spontaneity and fares are consistent. Budget airlines are often a great deal, as we’ve already covered, but it can be difficult to catch a good fare. And booking close to the departure date? Forget about it. It’s the same with trains. With buses, travel can be arranged truly at the last minute, and without punitive hikes in the fare price. Additionally, bus tickets are relatively stable in price across the calendar year. Price gouging is a well-known and guaranteed headache during peak holiday times with flights and hotels in particular, but I have never experienced this with buses.
Buses can take you places planes and trains won't. Think cities that are too small to have their own airports, or towns in the countryside. Buses make it possible to really explore a country.
Bus stations are usually pretty central. If it’s not located in the center of town, the station will inevitably be close by and connected to public transport.
via Hans Engbers / Shutterstock
Cancellation and rebooking policies tend to be much more forgiving than those of airlines or train operators. Furthermore, tickets can be purchased on a walk-up basis, which is cost-prohibitive with air travel.
On trains, luggage is with you for the duration of the trip, which means you need to be mindful of it to prevent theft. On buses, large suitcases are placed in a locked holding compartment underneath the bus, so you don’t need to babysit your valuables. Additionally, unlike the baggage fees associated with checked luggage on planes, it’s usually free to travel with one such bag on a bus, and bringing a second bag will only cost 5-15€ in most cases – and it could even be free.
“Youths” (usually up to 26) and students can often get a discount, generally 10%. Sometimes, you’ll get really lucky and come across seasonal sales too. You don’t need to be on any mailing lists to find out about these – they’re published clearly on the companies’ websites and may even be included in the fare options at the time of booking.
via kaarsten / Shutterstock
1. Extra Perks
Some buses provide the bare-bones experience of carting you from one place to another, which is still fine considering price. Others may offer free coffee and tea, entertainment systems with recent movies in the back of every headrest, and even WiFi. It just depends. You’ve saved a bunch of money either way.
Where to start:
Eurolines has routes across continental Europe and is a good place to start. For trips in specific countries or regions, these bus operators are the way to go (and often make for a better travel experience):
UK: National Express (UK)
Western Europe: iDBus (France + abroad), ALSA (Spain + abroad), Berlin Linien Bus (Germany + abroad), Mein Fernbus (Germany + abroad), Westbus (Austria + abroad),
The Baltics: Simple Express (Estonia + abroad)
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