Mönchengladbach (dpa / tmn) - The train ticket was expensive, the nearest airport was too far away, and there was no car ready - but Anja Beckmann did not want to miss the weekend in Antwerp, Belgium.
The travel blogger went in search of a quick, inexpensive and environmentally friendly alternative. After a short research, she had the solution: a long-distance bus.
Beckmann should have changed trains twice. The Flixbus coach drove directly from their home in Mönchengladbach to Antwerp - for 20 euros there and back.
Explore Europe by long-distance bus? That sounds complicated to many. Today, a lot of travel destinations in other European countries are easily accessible by long-distance bus. Flixbus is the market leader. The provider took over the competitor Eurolines in 2019. Blablabus, Deinbus.de, IC Bus from Deutsche Bahn and Regiojet are also relevant.
Bargains for early bookers
The fastest way to get the tickets is online or by app. If you want to get a cheap price, you should book as early as possible. A few euros can also be saved if you book at less popular departure or arrival times, for example a journey with arrival at night. For example, from 19 euros you can get from Düsseldorf to Paris.
When booking, however, not only the price and departure time count, but also the duration of the journey and the number of transfers. Routes with a long journey time are often cheaper than a direct connection due to several transfers.
Combined offer for five travel destinations
Flixbus offers the “InterFlix” offer for European trips: For 99 euros, five cities across Europe can be combined, regardless of how far the start and destination are from each other. The Flixtrain, the Flixbus train offer, can also be used.
If you choose a long-distance bus, you have plenty of time to plan your stay on the go. There are usually sockets and free WiFi on the buses. With Flixbus and Blablabus, certain seats can be reserved in advance for a fee. In general, however, every passenger is guaranteed a seat.
Not for strict schedules and weak bubbles
A European trip by long-distance bus also has its disadvantages. On the one hand, flexibility in terms of time is required. Delays are quite common because the bus can be stuck in traffic for longer.
Another problem is lost luggage. "Most companies force passengers to store their luggage in the cargo hold," says Johannes Parwulski, a lawyer at the European Consumer Center (EVZ). However, the cargo compartments are not visible and are opened at intermediate stops so that passengers can take their luggage out. Thefts often occur.
Traveling without a toilet
During breaks you can stretch your legs briefly or go to the restroom at the rest area. The toilet on the bus is often blocked on long journeys because it has limited capacity and cannot be emptied while driving. "Long-distance bus travel is not necessarily comfortable, especially for people with physical impairments," says Parwulski.
Anja Beckmann also had to endure a blocked toilet on her trip to Antwerp. This experience has had a lasting impact on her future travel plans: she will only travel to nearby destinations by long-distance bus. The Netherlands, Belgium and France are currently at the top of the list.
Information from the Lower Saxony Consumer Center on long-distance bus travel