Is Flixbus Good?: an Honest, Unbiased Review of Europe’s Largest Bus Company
Europe is well known for its train infrastructure, rightly so. Trains in Western Europe especially have a commendable network not only between cities, but between countries. The European Union makes travel seamless between borders and often trains are faster than cars and sometimes even faster than planes, if you consider the time spent in security and at the luggage carousel.
But what many travellers don’t know is that European bus routes are also world-class. In many cases they take longer, but the price difference is often well worth the extra hour or two- if you’re not in a huge rush.
The main choice for bus tickets is between Flixbus and Eurolines. To be honest, we haven’t used Eurolines yet because their website doesn’t seem to work for us whenever we try to compare prices. No matter, we’ve taken a liking to Flix and here is a list of pros and cons to see if this bus company is for you!
This is IT for many budget travellers. For example, from Hamburg to Berlin it costs €10 each way on the bus whereas the train tickets start around €25 on the DB website. When we travelled from Hamburg to Copenhagen, it cost €40 roundtrip on the bus INCLUDING the ferry. If we took the train, the trip would have been 1.5 hours shorter, but also cost over double.
Larger cities offer numerous departure options throughout the day that come with different price variations. Smaller cities will have fewer options but be confident in knowing you CAN and WILL get to where you need to be.
You can bring two free luggages on board! They’re not very stingy, either. We often have two bags, fanny packs, and a little plastic lunch sack so our bus food doesn’t get squished and haven’t had any issues.
Many of the buses have free wifi. It’s sort of like gamble and you can’t book a bus knowing for sure if it will have any (for an extra charge, for example). But when the buses do have wifi, it’s decent and secure! Each bus also has a bathroom onboard and overhead bins. Some buses have smaller bins than others. I’ve been on some where I can put my pack in and others where my winter coat was a tight squeeze. Again, luck of the draw.
On a higher note, the seats fold back, there are charging ports, and little foot rests can be used under each seat. The seats lean slightly farther back than airplane seats to give reference.
Booking and keeping track of tickets is made easy with the Flixbus app. It has real time updates so you can see where your bus is, map information for where you need to catch your bus, and keeps track of all your future and past tickets. For the spontaneous travellers out there, it also has a master schedule of all the next buses leaving from the nearest bus depot. Magical.
Flixbus is as safe as they come. The booking is secure and the luggage is locked underneath like any charter bus. They have emergency procedures for the unlikely event of an accident and also the drivers often speak more than one language. Not that you will have to talk to them often. Europe as a whole is safe in general, but on the bus is certainly no concern.
Okay, so there is a lot to like and we use this service a lot, but what sort of review would this be if there wasn’t a downside?
Well I am pleased to tell you that we’ve found few negatives, we still want to share the few with you!
Time and Space.
Some of the busses do take a much longer time but you can’t expect anything else, really. If you’re in countries with great trains at affordable prices, it is always favourable, in our opinion, to take the train. They’re faster, have more than one bathroom that are usually larger and better equipped, and have more space in general to move around. The busses are built comfortably, don’t take us wrong, but they cannot compare to the flexibility and space of a train.
As we mentioned before, some busses have tiny overhead bins that don’t even fit a small bag. You can stow your luggage underneath, no problem, but if you want any food, electronics, books, water, valuables, etc, with you, you must be prepared to have them on your lap on under your feet for the duration of the journey. Some of the busses will have empty seats that then become storage but others are full and everyone is cradling their day packs. Not comfortable at all especially for larger folks.
We learned this the hard way. When travelling across borders it is normal for a passport check to be conducted. The difference between trains and busses is that if there is an issue with someone they take that person out of the train and the schedule continues as normal. On some of the busses we’ve been on there have been issues with passengers and instead relieving the rest of the bus, the entire group has to wait for paperwork to be sorted. Also to be noted that trains between countries in the EU never make you get off and scan your bags and passports at a customs office. On busses, however, they can make you do that. When we travelled from Copenhagen back to Hamburg our bus was held for almost 2 hours while border officers scanned everyone’s bags and documents. They checked the entire bus to come up with nothing and send us on our way. We weren’t given an explanation as to why we were held for so long as the physical scanning process only took approximately 30 minutes. Just a heads up for you, sailors, in case it happens to you!
Drivers are focused people and often aren’t able to zone in on what’s happening on the upper deck or back of the bus. That’s when you suffer at the hands of THEM. While THEY still come on trains, you can move away from them easier than on a bus full of people as trains are more spacious. Who are THEY? The people who decide to call their friends or family and speak out loud to them for more than twenty minutes. They are the people who don’t turn on the closed captions or bring headphones but play their music or video games or movies on full volume. If no one has the gall to outright tell THEM to stop, they usually don’t notice the huffing and eye rolling around them. Who knows if they’d stop, anyways. What are you going to do about it?
Overall, Flixbus is great! A few tips before we sign off:
You don’t need to reserve a seat. If you want to sit with someone, just arrive a few minutes early to get in line.
There are some people who reserve specific seats, like the back of the bus or the tables that some Flixbuses have on the bottom deck, and you can avoid uncomfortable conversations or language barriers if you look above the seats to check for a green sticker. If there is a green sticker, you’re free to sit there. If there is a red sticker, you might run into someone who has reserved that specific seat.
Match the bus number on your ticket with the one you’re taking. Don’t get on the wrong bus because sometimes the company has multiple busses going to the same final destination but on a different route to smaller towns. Usually the drivers will prevent this form happening as they have to scan your ticket, but be aware so you’re not waiting in the wrong lineup for nothing!
Some cities don’t really have charter bus stations. There might be a sign on the road stating the buses stop there or some indication but there also may not be anything. Read the map carefully, comparing the stop with the local street names and landmarks, and when you’re booking a ticket double check which station your bus is going to in relation to your accommodation. Some larger cities have two or three bus stations and it would be a drag to get off at the one another 1.5 hours from your hostel when you could have jumped off at the central one.
That’s it! We wish you the best in your bus adventures, sailors! Keep working hard 💪