You tend to opt for the quickest route when travelling abroad, but there are always other options to consider. I decided to take the coach to Paris instead of flying or going by Eurostar mainly because prices during the UK’s summer bank holiday were more than I wanted to pay. I’d forgotten the number of routes into Europe coach companies offered and although it’s not necessarily the quickest route, it was one that suited my budget. So after my experience, here are my 10 tips for coach travel from London to Europe.
1. Where to look and book
There are a few places that specialise in coach travel to Europe from London. If you don’t know where to start, try the following first:
• National Express
National Express is known for travel in and around the U.K. but it also has routes to places in Europe such as France or Bruges. With regular departures, depending on where you’re going to, it’s quick and easy to book and they sometimes have good prices if you book in advance.
• Flix Bus
Flix Bus is a low-cost coach service which has routes to more than 25 countries. If you’re on a budget, this operator is a good one to look into. You can get some really good prices that are a lot cheaper (mostly) than going by train or plane. There’s also reasonable time slots which should suit your schedule.
Another service that provides coach travel in and around Europe is OUIBus. They offer routes to places like France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. This company also works with National Express on some of its routes during busy times. If you book via National Express, don’t be surprised if you find yourself on a OUIBus instead. That happened to me when I went to Paris.
Don’t assume all coach companies offer routes to the same destinations or even the same drop-off locations. Make sure you check since each service will differ.
If you’re short on time try using a comparison website. They will do a wide search across some of the same coach companies mentioned, all in one place.
GoEuro is a comparison site that searches not only coaches, but also trains and planes if you want a sense of what you’ll be saving. It has a simple filter function to narrow down your search results and you can easily look at more than one coach operator at one time, their departure times and fare.
Busbud, as the name suggests, only deals with bus and coach travel, so if you’re looking to narrow your search down then Busbud is one to try.
2. Travel the night before
Here’s why you should consider night travel if you take the coach to Europe…
1. Travelling at night can sometimes reduce the daytime hold ups like traffic jams. It’s not to say you won’t get held up – any night roadworks or going through customs could easily do that – but you’re more likely to have a smoother journey.
2. A lot of passengers will sleep on a night route –the time of day tends to help with that! Many passengers may be tired, less chatty so prefer to relax and zone out.
3. Travelling at night means you’re more likely to get to your destination pretty early so you’ll have most of the day. It also means you may not need to take a day off as holiday and then spend most of it travelling.
3. Fully charged!
Most coaches provide plug sockets or USB charge connectors. Even though the majority of coaches will have U.K. 3-pin sockets on board, some actually will not, so remember to take your European travel adaptor with you on the coach. I travelled on OUIBus and noticed their plug sockets were actually European 2-pin. Luckily I carried my adaptor in my bag. So if you end up going via OUIBus, remember to take an adapter just in case.
4. Euro tunnel or ferry?
You’ll not always know in advance if your coach will cross into Europe via the Eurotunnel or ferry. If you’re prone to getting queasy if you travel by boat, you may want to factor this in and bring anything with you that will help your seasickness.
5. Headphones… or earplugs!
Don’t forget to take your headphones with you. Apart from listening to your own music some coaches have TVs so may have the option to watch shows, movies or music videos. If you’re a light sleeper, you might also want to carry a pair of earplugs, because even on a night route the coach can sometimes become quite noisy.
Don’t forget your passport! I’ve seen people almost in tears because they forget theirs and only realised it at the airport. As you’re going by coach it may easily slip your mind as it’s not a natural association.
You’ll need it to get through customs for the crossing.
7. Lush luggage allowance
The best thing about traveling by coach is the generous luggage allowance you get and the fact that you don’t have to cram your toiletries into a small clear plastic bag! Allowances may differ but for example, National Express lets you take one bag weighing 20kg max and two small pieces of hand luggage. And for free too!
8. Book in advance
It’s useful to look and book your tickets in advance as soon as you know your travel plans. You’ll often find a few better deals the further ahead you book even though coach fares tend to be a better deal anyway.
9. Departure time
One of the good things about travelling by coach is that you don’t need to arrive two hours before departure. Usually you’re asked to be at the departure point 15-20 minutes prior to leaving. This may differ across companies, so double check. At least you don’t have to get there so early and stand in front of an airport departure board.
10. Final destination transportation
Lastly, if you’re travelling overnight, then remember to take into account your transport at the other end as you’ll get there very early. Although I was meant to arrive after 6am, we reached Paris nearly an hour earlier. Luckily the metro was open by the time I got off and got there, but remember to check local transport routes before you leave for bus and train journeys or factor in the cost for a shuttle or taxi.
If you’re thinking of going to Europe, why not consider going by coach next time. Not only is it a lot cheaper, but there are a few other benefits in doing so too!
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