Uncovering Europe's best budget hotels since 2001.
Last month’s air travel mayhem across much of northern and central Europe prompted many travelers to rediscover long-distance bus travel. Networks such as those managed by Deutsche Touring and Eurolines suddenly found their services much in demand.
Although in practice Eurolines’ routes are operated by more than 30 independent companies, the Eurolines web portal allows would-be travelers to plot routes that criss-cross the continent.
Book early: Discount fares for all
As with many rail services, there are often deep discounts on the regular bus fares for travelers prepared to book a month or two in advance. A modest reduction on the regular fares, around 10 percent, is offered to younger passengers (usually under 26) or those over 60, but these age-linked reductions are tiny compared with the real savings to be made by advance booking.
Here are some typical Eurolines fares we found recently:
London to Amsterdam
Funfare booked two months in advance: £19
Promo fare booked one week in advance: £25
Full fare booked on day of travel: £41
Berlin to Copenhagen
Aktionspreis (i.e. “special deal”): €22
Full fare booked on day of travel: €38
Eurolines also sells bus passes valid for 15 or 30 days for unlimited travel between more than 40 cities across Europe. Prices for a low season 15-day pass start at €175 (under 26) or €205 (adult). Details at www.eurolines-pass.com.
From basic buses to luxurious lines
Particularly in central and eastern Europe, long-distance coaches cater to the needs of a very mixed clientele, including migrant workers, those on a limited budget and travelers with a taste for adventure. Yet some international long-distance buses have a very upmarket feel.
The new Berlin to Prague business class bus launched this month is faster than the train and boasts lots of legroom and free Wi-Fi. In the Baltic States, Lux Express offers premium services between Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn as well as an onward link from Tallinn to St Petersburg.
Long hops across Europe
If, like us, you have stood at Geneva’s bus station and watched the twice-weekly bus leaving for Moldova, you will instantly understand the appeal of the coach journey that crosses half a dozen countries en route for a distant land. Really dedicated long-distance bus travelers can travel from London to Moscow, Lisbon to Sarajevo or Copenhagen to Athens with just one change of bus. Eurolines services are generally for international journeys only.
Many European countries have efficient domestic bus networks that complement the international offerings of Eurolines and other companies.
Berlin-Linien-Bus is one example within Germany. The company connects Berlin with 350 destinations across Germany and beyond, with one-way fares starting at just €9. Deutsche Touring (DT) runs a daily Romantic Road bus service, aimed mainly at American and Japanese tourists. The bus service winds through Bavaria from Würzburg via Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber to Munich and Füssen. DT also has a very useful night service that links Heidelberg directly with three major German airports.