The good thing about Europe is that there are many ways to travel in between countries and cities. One of this options is to travel Europe by bus. We’ll explore this option to see its pros and cons and the cheapest bus companies.
Pros of traveling Europe by bus.
Let’s begin with the good things first. What are the advantages of using the bus in Europe? For me the most important is
Yep, most of the time buses are cheap, at least if you compare it with the prices of trains. There are better prices for international routes if you book in advance (one month or more).
I haven’t found many overnight train trips as bus trips. They are especially recommended if you have to take a long trip, this way you can sleep the whole trip. An overnight bus allows saving the money of a hotel night.
It seems that there are always buses available. I have bought tickets even some hours before departure. People in Europe don’t use the bus that much, especially when they book in advance and get good prices for trains. Of course, you can book in advance to get a better deal. But if for some reason you delay, don’t panic, usually, you can get tickets for buses at the last moment.
(Almost) no limits for your luggage, and most of the times you can bring them with you free of charge. Unlike the flights (some low-cost companies only allows a carry-on), in buses, you don’t have to worry about paying extra for carrying a big suitcase. Try not to exaggerate with your luggage anyway.
Many companies options
When I traveled to Europe for the first time, there seemed to be only one or 2 bus companies for international travel. But luckily every time there are more options. Later I will mention some of the most important or cheapest companies that you can use for your trips.
Do you know all the accommodation options in Europe? Find out in Hotel, hostel or apartment? A complete accommodation guide
The cons of traveling Europe by bus
There are also some unpleasant things about traveling Europe by bus. Among others, here I list the most important for me:
Buses are the slowest option of all. In Some countries or companies trains can be as slow as the bus but in general terms, trains are usually faster. But if you have time to kill, no hurry or a low budget, the bus is a good option.
I mean, they are as comfortable as the tourist class in flights but less comfortable than trains in my opinion. I don’t know where you live, but where I live buses are quite comfortable and well maintained; at least long trip buses. In Europe, the buses I’ve taken (except few exceptions) are usually not that comfortable, even if they are for long trips or international routes. Of course, it all depends on the company. In Spain, I once took a nice bus which included individual screens for entertainment. If the bus is full will be less comfy too.
Customs and migration control
Other things I’ve experienced when I travel Europe by bus that I haven’t experienced in trains are the customs and migration controls. You know that in the Schengen area is possible to travel without pass migration every time you enter a different country (in theory). But when traveling by bus this is not like that, you will have to show your passport in every border.
There are also sometimes customs controls at a random frequency and they can be annoying. Nothing to worry about but sometimes you are sleeping and they wake you up to go down the bus or open your suitcases, not nice at all. And this control can take hours, literally, which delays your bus.
If you are planning a trip to Europe, check my 10 travel tips for your first trip to Europe
Bus companies for international travel in Europe
There are many companies that operate in Europe. Some offer trips in a specific area, but others cover a wider range of countries. Here is a list of the most popular or with more routes available.
This is the company I have used the most to travel around Europe by bus. Although they are not exactly a company but a network of coach companies cooperating with each other. That’s why they include many international trips and also local routes. They cover 600 destinations in Europe and Morocco and they have their headquarters in Brussels.
As they include many companies, the service can vary from one country to another. They offer many promotional prices if you book in advance. If you can plan your trip ahead of time you’ll get good deals.
They also offer passes for unlimited travel between 48 countries for 15 or 30 days. I’ve never could make this passes work for me on my trips though. Here you can check their routes, services, and promotions.
Flixbus is a company that has been growing rapidly. They also run in cooperation with regional bus companies all over Europe. It was founded in 2011 in Munich, Germany, where they have their headquarters. Since then they didn’t stop growing.
In 2016 they purchased the British company Megabus and in 2017 they acquired the Austrian bus company Hellö. Recently at the beginning of 2018, they added the polish company PolskiBus to their lines. Besides, they added rail connections too! (Is there anything impossible for these guys?). Flixbus now offers connections to more than 1000 destinations in 27 countries.
Their prices are sometimes cheaper than Eurolines. In my last trip to Prague, I decided at the last moment to travel by Eurolines just because the departure time was more convenient for me. But the prices of Flixbus are very attractive. For example, they have trips from London to Paris as cheap as €15 euros depending on the time and day of departure. Check their routes and services here.
OUIBUS, formerly known as IDBUS is a subsidiary of French state railways SNCF. The company was founded in 2011 and although first, they offered service just in France, they soon expanded their routes. Now they run through several destinations in Portugal, Spain, UK, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland.
Their prices are competitive, almost the same as those of Flixbus, but they have fewer routes and departures. You can compare the prices with this company before taking a decision. In their official site, you can check their routes and timetable.
It’s a British company that operates not only coach services but train, tram and local buses as well. They were co-operating with Eurolines for international trips until recently. I am not so sure but it seems they will partner with OUIBUS instead. Anyway, they offer destinations in the UK and other European cities like Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, and Brussels. In this link, you get more information about their routes and prices.
Regiojet (Student Agency)
This is a Czech company that offers bus and train service. They operate mostly through the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with less frequent trips to other major European cities. I’ve never used their services but I’ve heard that they offer a drink free of charge and that their coaches are quite comfortable. Here is the link to their site.
Alsa is a subsidiary of the British company National Express. Their coaches operate in Spain, where the company began, but have extended to other European destinations and Morocco. It’s the bus company that cooperates with Eurolines in Spain. They have discounts and promotions like their own passes. In Spain is the main company you’ll find to travel among big cities. check their site for more information.
Baltour is the subsidiary of Eurolines in Italy and the Adriatic zone. It offers discount cards like the pass to travel through Italy. In their site, you can check more information about their passes and destinations.
When to travel Europe by bus?
As you can see traveling Europe by bus is a good option to consider if you don’t mind to travel a bit slower and you want to save some money. There are no destinations that you cannot reach by bus, and in some cases, it’s the only way. For example, I didn’t find trains in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, at least none useful for me.
If you don’t mind getting off the bus for customs checks and border control then this option is totally for you. And if you are traveling with a big suitcase (which is my case) the bus will be the least expensive option.
I hope this post was useful for you. Let me know if you like to travel by bus in the comments section, or if you want to add something that I missed. I would love to know about your experiences! And if you enjoyed the post, help me by sharing on your social media. Happy trips!
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