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7 Reasons to Travel Europe By Bus

It isn’t always easy to travel Europe on a budget. One of the biggest ways I saved on my overland journey across the Mediterranean coast this summer was sticking to long distance buses as my means of transportation. Flying might have been easier. Trains might have been more romantic. But my shoestring budget had other ideas, and I found that bus travel actually has plenty of its own charms. Why should you travel Europe by bus?

I sometimes have trouble sleeping on planes, but can easily doze off on a bus, giving me all the more energy for exploring Milan in the morning.

Comfort

Flying may be quicker, and the plethora of budget airlines in Europe might not even break the bank. But long distance buses in Europe are considerably more comfortable. While I haven’t pulled out a tape and measured, I’d put money on the fact that the average bus seat is larger than the average plane seat. Bus seats are also only two to a row – no dreaded middle seat. And on many of the buses I took in Europe, the coach was not fully booked, so I was often able to have an entire row to myself. In 10 years of flying, that has happened to me maybe twice on an airplane.

Convenience

Aside from the seats themselves, there are lots of little ways buses are more comfortable than planes. When packing, you don’t need to worry about your liquids. You can simply pack your bag and go. There’s no security line to wait through. You don’t have to take off your shoes and x-ray your laptop and grovel at the TSA’s feet to get to your destination. Checking your bag and reclaiming it on arrival are five-minute processes, not hour-long waits. Many buses in Europe have on board WiFi and power points so you can charge your electronics – huge plus! I’d rather have that as a perk than a plastic wrapped airline meal any day.

When I missed a bus in Croatia, getting on the next one was a snap. Try doing that with a flight.

Spontaneity

In Eastern Europe especially, where online booking is less common, you can simply go to the bus station and hop on the next departure. It is not nearly as easy or affordable to book a last minute flight. Travel by bus is ideal for the traveler who likes to wing it.

Scenery

Like travel by train, travel by bus comes with excellent scenery. When you travel overland, instead of flying, you see so much more of the country you’re in. I’ve gotten to enjoy views of everything from rolling hills in the south of France to turquoise waters off local beaches in Croatia.

Location

Airports are never in the middle of the city center. Bus stations and stops can be. Even the farthest I’ve been dropped off from my hostel is only five kilometers. I may have grabbed a taxi or local bus for convenience, but when I feel like stretching my legs, I can walk that far without much problem. I’d probably never be able to walk all the way from an airport to a central hostel.

Barcelona’s bus station is right near the Arc de Triomf. The airport is miles away.

Economy

Many of these perks are shared by train travel, and a lot of folks will tell you to shell out for a Eurail pass. I love trains and there’s certainly a romance to a continental train journey that a bus ride will never be able to match. But getting from point A to point B for just 10 euro is worth the cost in romance! Flixbus in particular has rock bottom rates all over Europe. You just can’t beat the price of traveling by bus. You can also book overnight buses, much like overnight trains, and save yourself a night of accommodation expenses. Traveling overland is economical in every way.

Kindness

One of the most unexpected ways I’ve found travel by bus to differ from flying is the people. It was the best kind of culture shock to board an overnight bus from Montpellier to Paris and have the gentleman in front of me turn around and ask if it was alright for him to recline his seat. I think if that happened on an airplane, the world would stop turning! But this was something of a norm on buses. I’ve certainly encountered nice, helpful people on planes, and I’ve had a nightmarish seat mate on a bus ride before. But overall, people appear to be much more considerate of one another on long distance buses than they are on planes.

In Bosnia, trains don’t even operate anymore. Bus is your only option for overland travel.

More comfortable than flying and cheaper than trains, traveling Europe by bus hits a sweet spot for budget travelers. In Western Europe, book with Ouibus whenever possible. The seats are the most comfortable, I’ve never had a late bus, and the power points are between seats, so the aisle seat occupant doesn’t have to reach over the person in the window seat to plug in. Where Ouibus doesn’t cover you, Flixbus will. In Eastern Europe, don’t worry about booking online. Just head to the station and go. For planning overland travel – getting time and cost estimates, or ideas of where to go – use Rome2Rio and its corresponding app FetchMyWay.

Want to see the bus-heavy overland travel route I planned through Europe? Read about my planning process with Rome2Rio. 

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22 Comments

  1. We enjoyed traveling by train and bus so much more these days! Less stress!

  2. I went to Europe last year and I mostly travelled by plane and train. I really wish I had read your post before taking my trip! I’m definitely doing bus next time I take a Euro trip. I also had so much fun reading about your experiences 🙂

    • Danielle Bricker

      February 3, 2017 at 7:17 am

      Thanks Rimsha. I had thought long and hard about getting a Eurail Pass and wound up unable to justify the expense – I just don’t travel fast paced enough to really get my money’s worth. So it may have been a choice made out of necessity, but it’s still one I’m glad I made.

  3. I’m generally more of a train traveller but I’ve been on bus trips a few times in Germany and Austria as it can often be the only way to reach the mountains and was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable it was. Not the same as the awful buses we have here in the UK!
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    • Danielle Bricker

      February 3, 2017 at 7:13 am

      Interesting! I haven’t been up in the Alps before – I had no idea train travel was limited there. I guess I just always think Swiss Alps, where it’s all trains all the time.

  4. Excellent post! I have to admit that I havent traveled much by bus before but as we move to Europe in a month, I definitely will give it a go. You totally convinced me. Legroom, good prices, no middle sea, power points. win!

  5. I get kind of restless on buses, but I do have to agree they are incredibly convenient in Europe. I went all over in one, myself. Lots of useful info here for anyone debating between trains and the bus.

    • Danielle Bricker

      February 3, 2017 at 7:12 am

      That’s understandable. Personally, I do everything I can to not be on a bus (or train) for more than 10 hours. Unless it’s an overnight trip and I know I’ll be sleeping. There are a few cities I never would have visited were it not for my little self-imposed time constraint.

  6. I feel like you’ve opened up a whole new world of travel to me! I hadn’t even considered bus travel before but this past summer we spent so much time traveling to/from airports. It was exhausting!

    • Danielle Bricker

      February 3, 2017 at 7:09 am

      I know exactly what you mean! After my overland route through Europe, I had a very flight-heavy stretch of my RTW trip. I never disliked going to the airport before, but after a couple months of only flying places, I was so sick of it.

  7. wow this is super helpful! I’ve been to Europe a few times and have never traveled long term by bus! Looks like I need to try it out 🙂

    • Danielle Bricker

      February 3, 2017 at 7:08 am

      This year was my first time traveling long-term by bus as well. Coming from the US, there’s kind of a nose-in-the-air feeling about bus travel. But it really wasn’t gross or uncomfortable at all. (Well, except for that one time I had a creepy seatmate. But that wasn’t the bus’s fault.)

  8. I agree that it isn’t easy to always travel Europe cheaply! I’m from Croatia (not living there at the moment) and a massive portion of it doesn’t have good train connections, just like Bosnia. Buses are often great!
    My favorite cheap bus option so far was definitely PolskiBus that takes you to SO MANY PLACES with very low budget! 🙂

    • Danielle Bricker

      February 3, 2017 at 7:06 am

      Thanks for the tip Marijana. Croatia was so beautiful and there were definitely a lot more bus companies that I wasn’t familiar with once I crossed into the country.

  9. It never occurred to me to travel Europe by bus! And yes, cost is deterrent for me to roam Europe … hmmm…

    • Danielle Bricker

      February 3, 2017 at 7:04 am

      It gets very little attention. But yes, if you’re on a shoestring budget there is no beating Flixbus’ 10 euro fares.

  10. This is such an interesting post! I always travel by train in Europe, but I might have to look at bussing next time!

    • Danielle Bricker

      February 3, 2017 at 7:03 am

      I would love to travel Europe by train, but bussing can be much more practical and really not as bad as it sounds. I’d recommend heading to the Balkans. There are fewer train route options there, so you’d have to go by bus anyway!

  11. Although it surely takes more time when traveling by bus, bus is still my primary choice when moving around Europe. I just love seeing the view from outside 🙂

    • Danielle Bricker

      February 4, 2017 at 5:30 am

      True. It’s definitely the slowest option. But it’s kind of nice to be forced to slow down, even if just for a few hours. So many buses have WiFi so you can stay entertained or get a bit of work done. Often times, long bus rides are the only time I actually get to sit down and just read.

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