Travel: Europe by Coach
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BUS ABOUT EUROPE
In recent years I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively through eastern and now western Europe by train, ferry and bus. Today it’s the latter I’m going to focus on. The main players currently are: Eurolines, Flixbus and a couple of local biggies like ALSA in Spain, Polskibus in Poland, Ouibus in France and LUX Express in the Baltic States.
As with the airlines it’s hit and miss on who will carry all my/your bags or only one and charge for the other. For this reason I tended to avoid Flixbus for my journeys through the Baltic countries but later found them to be ok, though not entirely flawless – Hello Barcelona Nord ticket office who don’t seem to like opening ever! And who charge a booking fee yet mysteriously don’t in Bilbao or Biarritz.
BUISNESS AS USUAL
But this in itself is not my sole gripe; there is something else at play here. Usually a bus will make a pit stop enroute at a convenience store or services but Ouibus in particular take this to extremes stopping three times in fairly quick succession.
Could they be in cahoots with, in this case, Bonjour? Ok you can expect a degree of wheeling and dealing between businesses, expecting anything less is plain naivety, however it goes without saying that the reason most people would travel with these coach companies is for a cheap ride.
The routes are often long as is but to stop multiple times for no reason than to shell out for over priced and often bland sustenance is taking the cake (in the negative). This in turn has a knock on effect meaning you will arrive later at your destination, sometimes too late for a metro or tram which incurs further expense, not least for a taxi or hotel as was the case in Andorra.
WHAT’S WITH THE WIFI?
So is the rather cool and sassy Ouibus (now Bla Bla Bus) worth it? Nope. Not surprising when you consider their parent company is none other than French rail firm SNCF. I’d be happy if they just got us there with reasonable time to connect to local transport especially when arriving in a city unknown to me at night.
The next thing that gets on my nerves (to put it mildly) is WiFi. Either supply it or don’t. Again Ouibus are big offenders here. Mid way it conks out saying I’ve used my allotted time! You may think I was gaming or downloading movies though far from it. Again a major inconvenience. So while I avoided Flixbus at the start it looks like I’ll be avoiding Ouibus at its end.
BACK IN THE UK
For the final voyage back to Wales I used Eurolines from Brussels to London, then Megabus from London down to Cardiff. Both were ok, nothing special but did the job. As an aside National Express were charging £17 the day I wanted a ticket down to the ‘diff. Booking both Megabus or NE online in advance is better.
Winners? LUX and Flixbus. ALSA were ok too – again nothing special but got me where I was going. Loser? RegioJet who decide to sell me a ticket which I think includes my bags. WRONG! Having waited at Bratislava they wait til departure time to tell me I have to pay extra, luckily on thumbling through my pockets I had the correct change.
Somehow I manage to leave something on the bus and not realise until unloading at my residence in Budapest. Does RegioJet send me an email (as they know whose seat it was)? No. So that’s my verdict. Travel safe fellow travellers and choose as wise as you can do.
THE WOES OF LONDON TO WARSAW BY COACH
Travelling back up to London, it’s the Megabus (again) and then onto Warsaw, Poland by Sinbad which I don’t recommend. Their customer service at London’s Victoria is ok, but the onboard procedure at the actual station was a little shambolic or confused.
The biggest problem was personal comfort. I alight at one stop in Germany barely able to walk! And then there is another stop just over the border in Poland where my (everyone’s) bags were taken on a trolley to the far end of the station.
No one knows which bus is the onward one to Warsaw and there is generally a feeling of uncertainty. All ended well but anyone could have placed something in my or anyone else’s bags without knowing. The WIZZ air of bus operators.
If you’re one of those people (like myself) that frets about someone nabbing your bags from the open hold, Portugal’s Rede Expressos have cameras installed so you can check whenever the bus stops assuming you can find your bag on the image feed or you’re not asleep or dead.
Over the border in Spain, ALSA (and I love the ALSA) are taking the pee on fares, example from Seville into Portugal, don’t think doing a skip to Huevla will make any difference – the fares are almost identical. Same in Portugal where EVA and Rede Expressos charge almost the same from Albufeira up to Lisbon as Faro to Lisbon. Don’t say I don’t keep you informed here, meanwhile, as always, stay tuned.
PLAYLIST AND CREDITS
Thanks for reading here. Should anyone be interested in my work; principally writing, photography, and teaching, please see my MEDIA and UNIVERSITY pages. Meanwhile, stay tuned with Kulture Kiosk via The Atlas or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and 500px (Kelvin Hayes) where you can see some of my photos from around the world. Playlist and credits follow…
On a Bus – INXS
Hazy Jane II – Nick Drake
*I always think of this when I see the ALSA bus above.
National Express – The Divine Comedy
Bus Ride – Mental as Anything
Photo credits: KH