Traveling Europe by Long Distance Bus

Budapest city view

Budapest, Hungary

Riding around on a bus may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you start dreaming of a backpack adventure.  But short of hitch-hiking, which I wouldn’t recommend, it’s the least expensive way to see the most of Europe.  Eurolines is a registered non-profit bus cooperative that offers coach service between a whole slew of European cities.  It’s an amazing alternative to flying or taking the train because it’s:

  • Easy

  • Affordable

  • Comfortable

 

Easy

You can buy a pass online that is good for unlimited travel for 15 or 30 consecutive days on a vast network of routes.  Unlike a train pass, the bus pass is truly unlimited, so you can maximize the number of cities you visit within the designated timeframe.  The only thing you need to do is reserve your seats online ahead of time.  When I was traveling this way, it was never necessary to book more than a couple of days in advance, which makes it easy to keep a flexible schedule.  You never know which city is going to capture your heart.  I visited Budapest twice!

 

Affordable

Here’s a comparison between a Eurolines bus pass and a Eurail train pass:

Eurolines versus Eurail Price Comparison

 

As you can see, the savings are significant.  Not to mention the fact that you have the opportunity to see about a million more places by using the bus pass.  Eurail isn’t all bad though.  I’ll be posting soon with some tips on train travel in Europe.

 

Comfortable

These aren’t school buses or run down city buses.  They are roomy, air conditioned, long distance coaches.  Your big luggage gets stowed underneath the bus and hand luggage can be stored above you once on board.  The seats recline and you have a table, just like on a train or an airplane.  There is a bathroom on board as well but if you can avoid it, I definitely would.  Buses usually stop at fairly regular intervals and you can get water, snacks and have a bathroom break at that time instead.

eurolines coach

Surprisingly comfy long distance coaches

 

Caveats

Eurolines buses are awesome but here are a couple of drawbacks you’ll want to know about:

  • The buses stop mostly in larger cities so you’ll need to make your own way if you want to see smaller towns.
  • Eurolines is a cooperative that links several independently operated bus companies together for ease of traveling between countries.  Therefore, the quality of buses can vary a bit from place to place.
  • Not all cities are included on the bus pass route and it seems to change from year to year.  The participating countries list on their website for 2016/2017 does not include Austria, Slovenia or Poland, among others.  When I traveled on a Eurolines pass a number of years ago, we couldn’t use it to get to Switzerland.  If you wanted to go to there, you needed to buy a separate ticket for that route.  We made do with a few quick pictures of the Swiss hills, snapped out the bus window as we drove through without stopping…
Interior of Eurolines coach bus

Enough room on the bus to eat your apple strudel

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