I’m going to make a very bold statement here:
8-hours non-stop on a coach across Europe isn’t so bad.
There you go. Just don’t expect me to repeat that out loud!
Last year I figured it was about time to return to Paris (you can read why here!) and I really wanted to get the Eurostar. One look at their website and I realised that for £100 I really didn’t want to get the Eurostar.
Both RyanAir and EasyJet offered flights from London to Paris for around £30-£40, which is great if you don’t count the extra £15 or £11 charged respectively for hold luggage, plus the £30 it would cost me to get to London on the train from Portsmouth, plus the fact that RyanAir’s flights fly at ridiculous times from the furthest London airport from my home.
So, it was time to check the bus timetables!
P.s. this article covers my experience with Megabus and Eurolines – for a comparison of iDBus and Eurolines read the article – Travelling Europe by Bus: iDBus vs. Megabus.
Megabus: London – Paris
Departure Time: 10.30am
Arrival Time: 7pm
Departure From: Victoria Coach Station at the junction of Buckingham Palace Rd and Elizabeth Street
- Victoria Coach Station is a ten minute walk from Victoria Train Station, and once there you will find the Megabus information and check-in counters opposite the very last gate so make sure to walk all the way to the end.
Arriving At: Porte Maillot Coach park
- The entrance to Metro line 1 at Porte Maillot is opposite the drop off point and this is definitely the easiest way to get to your hostel from there as the taxis that line up outside aren’t keen to do inner-city runs due to the high levels of Parisienne traffic.
- If you need to get to Gare du Nord then take the M1 towards Chateau de Vincennes and change at Charles de Gaulle (after 2 stops) for the M2 to Gare du Nord (in the direction of Nation). To see the metro map of Paris click here.
After umming and aahing about possible transport solutions to and from the airports in London and Paris I remembered a friend of mine telling me that he would often get buses or coaches around Europe for half the price of flights.
After checking out the Megabus website and mouth-dropping at the sight of £20 tickets straight to the border of Paris (not out of town like the main Airport) I booked my seat and prepared for a long day of reading and sleep.
If you missed it, make sure to check out my recent post: Ten Books To Inspire Wanderlust.
Four hours in to the journey and I was fed up. I couldn’t get in to my book without nodding off, as any kind of transport seems to send me to sleep! And when I wasn’t sleeping the views were less than impressive. Just motorways and motorways.
I’m not sure what I was expecting really, except a brief stop every few hours to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. There were no stops (luckily I had grabbed a big bottle of water and sandwich that morning!) and by the time I bundled myself off the bus my legs were so cramped and I was miserable!
I have to say though that the drivers were very friendly, the information at Victoria Coach station was easy to follow, and there was free wifi which wasn’t too shabby! I even had two seats to myself, as did most other travellers on the bus.
Eurolines: Paris – Rotterdam
Departure Time: 9am
Arrival Time: 4.15pm
Departure From: 28 Avenue Du General De Gaulle, 93541 Bagnolet
- If arriving by Metro you want to get the Metro Line 3 to ‘Gallieni’ Station. Once you get off there will be signs for Eurolines on the platform going in the opposite direction to the exit most others will take.
Arriving At: Rotterdam Centraal Station.
- There is a drop off point for all coaches behind the Rotterdam Centraal, so if you need to get a connecting train or metro just head on inside the station for more information. For the Rotterdam metro map click here.
Needless to say, after my first non-stop 8-hour couch journey had left me in a miserable state vowing never to set foot on a bus in Europe again, I did in fact end up another bus from Paris to Rotterdam, this time with Eurolines, as on the day I needed to travel there was a not-so-convenient rail-strike going on in Brussels.
At €43 the bus was more expensive than Megabus, and the wifi wasn’t nearly as good. Another benefit that Megabus had over Eurolines was the provision of plug sockets for each row – really useful at times when I was neither sleeping nor reading and guilted myself in to getting some work done and not completely wasting a whole day’s travel.
On the plus side however, we stopped! At least twice! It really is the little things sometimes… Outside the bus it was cold and dull but being able to breathe in the fresh air and stretch my cramped legs was a huge advantage over the previous Megabus journey.
The first stop was even at a rest-stop, so those who hadn’t brought food with them could go and grab a bottle of water and snacks. I had obviously learnt my lesson with Megabus the week before and come prepared with croissants!
Megabus vs. Eurolines
Overall, my experience with Eurolines exceeded my experience with Megabus, purely for the fact that being able to get off the bus and walk around in the fresh air makes such a difference.
However, they both have their good and bad points. For example, I recently booked another trip from London to Paris with Megabus, as they are cheaper and faster – a benefit I am guessing of not stopping! Also, the Megabus for Paris leaves a little later than the Eurolines bus and gets in to Paris earlier, leaving me a little less rushed in the morning.
The bus you decide will be based on personal preference, just like my decision to travel again with Megabus, but either way I have listed a few tips for travelling Europe by bus below.
Tips for Travelling Europe By Bus
- Always pack a large bottle of water and a packed lunch. You don’t know if the bus will stop, and if it does it may not be at a rest-stop where you can buy food.
- Make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes early for international departures. Megabus actually advise arriving an hour before, but as the check in didn’t open until half an hour before I’d say give yourself at least 45 minutes in advance.
- Wear very comfortable clothing. Trust me, if you’re sat in one position for 8 hours you do not want to be wearing your tightest jeans that chafe behind the knees.
- Use your common sense when picking your timetable. European bus stations can be a little out of the way and very quiet at night. For this reason, even though an overnight bus feels like less of a waste of time, I chose not to get an overnight bus from Brussels that left at 11pm as I didn’t want to be hanging around the streets that late alone.
- If putting luggage in the hold under the bus, wrap a bright scarf around the handle so you can quickly whip it out and go. I had a small roller case with a bright red handle which I managed to grab and go before half of the other travellers had left their seats.
- Each country that Eurolines covers has their own website, and you will need to book your travel with them depending on the country of your departure city. For example, to leave from Brussels you need to book on their Belgium site. Some of their sites can be tricky to translate on mobile so I always suggest finding an internet cafe or using hostel-provided computers to book bus travel.
- Always print a copy of your booking and any PDF tickets you are sent by the company. To cross borders in Europe you will still need a paper copy rather than an e-copy.
Map of My Travels, with coach station spots and recommended hostels
London: If you want to spend the night in London before leaving early by bus for Europe, I’d really recommend Safestay. It’s not too far from Victoria Coach Station and offers a calm environment if, like me, you can’t stomach travelling with a hangover! You can read my review of Safestay here.
Paris: A great hostel not too far from Porte Maillot is Vintage Hostel. Located right in the heart of Montmarte and just one stop short of Gare Du Nord on the M2 it has the perfect location and the staff are fantastic! You can read my review of Vintage Hostel here.
I have only mentioned two different bus lines here, but if you’d like to know more then make sure you check out the Budget Traveller’s Guide to Bus Companies in Europe.
I highly suggest travelling Europe by bus as it is extremely cost-effective and whilst it takes longer than rail… well sometimes you need a rest day!
Lots of love,