Last month, EuroCheapo chief Tom Meyers popped the train versus plane question…. does the savvy traveler fly or take the train around Europe? But it is not a straight either / or choice. Many leisure travelers, and many business types too, realize that long-distance coaches present a credible alternative to air or rail travel on many itineraries.
The Eurolines network
The most convenient network of services for travelers looking to travel around Europe by coach is coordinated by Eurolines. This is not one company but a strong alliance of coach operators who coordinates their timetables and provide integrated ticketing for international journeys across Europe. This gives a continent-wide brand for marketing purposes and allows passengers to plan complicated itineraries that criss-cross Europe.
There are of course many long distance coach services in Europe that are not part of the Eurolines network. For example the Czech company Student Agency runs some two dozen routes from their hub in Prague. PolskiBus has a network of eight routes from Warsaw, the fledglng company’s growing network now also serving Vienna, Berlin, Bratislava and Prague. There are many itineraries where these non-Eurolines operators precisely fill a gap, but for its Europe-wide reach to over 500 cities, Eurolines has no serious rival.
Useful long-distance links
Eurolines does offer some intriguingly long routes. For example, service 350 operates thrice weekly direct from Amsterdam to Lisbon (“Lisboa” in Portuguese), a 36-hour journey that connects two cities some 1,500 miles apart. Even longer direct routes link cities in western Germany with provincial centers in the Russian Federation.
Good for shorter hops too
The Eurolines network thus often steps in with a convenient direct link on a routing that would require several changes of train. With Eurolines, you can board a bus in Switzerland and travel directly to Macedonia or Moldova.
But such long hauls may not be for everyone. And we find that Eurolines-affiliated services are also perfect for shorter hops, particularly in those parts of Europe where rail services are sparse. For example, comfortable long-distance coaches, most of them operating under the Eurolines umbrella, are far better than trains for journeys between the capitals of the Baltic States: Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius.
And there are times where it is just fun to travel by road for a change. There are several Eurolines coaches each day from London to Paris and other French cities. While most Eurolines schedules from London to France use the Eurotunel vehicle shuttle service, some are routed via the P&O Ferries link from Dover to Calais – always a great way to cross the Channel. And with return fares for the London to Paris run starting at just £39, the coach option can make good sense for budget travelers.
Bookings can be made online for most journeys, usually on the website of the Eurolines affiliate in your country of departure. But that does NOT mean that you need to know which particular company flies the Eurolines flag in each country. The organization maintains an excellent web portal, where you can click on the country of departure to be redirected to the relevant national site.
Here are some sample travel times (with the travel time of the fastest direct train shown for comparison):
Although Eurolines coach services are principally intended for international journeys, in many countries you can also use Eurolines services for domestic journeys that cross no international borders. And many of the participating companies in the Eurolines family also have comprehensive national networks which allow you to switch seamlessly from international to national services.
For example the UK participant in Eurolines is National Express. And you can use the National Express website to book a through journey from many provincial spots around Britain to the continent. A single ticket (for example Manchester to Paris) covers travel on a National Express coach to London where you connect onto an onward Eurolines service for the continent.
More on Eurolines
Now that we’ve introduced Eurolines coach journeys, it’s time to take a little closer at their fares. Read our next post on Eurolines passes, with some tips on getting the best deals, and see how a coach pass can allow you to roam at will across Europe on Eurolines services.
Rail pass options
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