Coach travel Europe is a budget-friendly way to find your way through the European continent. Coaches are one of the oldest and most cost-effective modes of transport around the world. The big advantage is that, unlike other forms of transport such as air or rail, bus coaches will take you to almost any corner of Europe, be it a remote village or a mountain getaway. Moreover, traveling by a coach is perfectly suited for a cultural enthusiast who likes to interact with locals and absorb their culture while traveling in a foreign country.
To add to it, traveling by coach can also help you lower your accommodation cost, as you will not have to book rooms in hotels or motels for overnight stays. In fact, it is highly recommended that you book your tickets for overnight travel by coach to save on accommodation. Just sleep on the bus. However, traveling by a coach takes longer than air travel and the risk you take is, that it may be slightly uncomfortable at times, especially if co-passengers are not very thoughtful.
Long haul Coach Travel Europe
You can make sure that your European coach travel experience is pleasant and comfortable by packing a few essentials in your luggage. To begin with, you need to take plenty of drinking water and snacks with you, as buying edibles along the way can be expensive.
That aside, you should carry a clean pillowcase, a light blanket, a few small towels, and some soap for the journey. In addition, if you are traveling alone, it will make the journey more pleasant if you carry some entertainment such as an MP3 player or a book with you just in case the sights along the trip do not interest you much. Many coaches have entertainment in the form of movies at night time.
That aside, you should remember to pack earplugs and an eye mask in your luggage if you plan to travel via coach during nights and do not want the reading light or the chitchat of your copassenger to interfere with your sleep. You can plan coach travel Europe better by arranging for the tickets in advance and even save more money by asking for discounts, promos, or special offers that you can avail when purchasing your ticket.
Coach travel Europe is an affordable as well as comfortable way to take a tour of the continent. You can opt for a prearranged coach tour, also known as a coach vacation that is essentially a themed, multiday excursion, or plan your own itinerary after gathering information on European coach travel. European coach travel is a unique way to witness the wonderful sights and sounds of Europe while on a shoestring budget.
So where in Europe would you like to go? Here are some options:
Domestic bus and coach travel in Austria
Domestic buses are most useful for getting to some of the ski resorts in the Tirol and Vorarlberg regions, and international routes (especially routes to eastern Europe) are also handy and more likely to be used by travellers.
ÖBB Postbuses are operated by both the post office and the rail network, however it is not possible to use your railpass for travel on the Austrian Postbus network. The Postbus is by far the most comprehensive domestic bus service with over 40,000 bus stops throughout Austria served by 900 bus routes and 30,000 daily services.
Domestic bus and coach travel in Belgium
Most domestic buses in Belgium are operated by TEC and De Lijn, although the train is generally a much easier way to get around the country.
De Lijn serves the Dutch/Flemish speaking areas with services between major cities as well as operating local public transport systems in Aalst, Antwerp, Bruges, Genk, Ghent, Kortrijk, Leuven, Mechelen, Ostend, Roeselare, Sint-Niklaas and Turnhout.
Domestic bus and coach travel in Denmark
Domestic bus services in Denmark are rarely used by travelers as the train is generally a much more convenient travel option. However international bus services can save you a bit of money when traveling further afield.
Bus and coach travel in France
Bus and coach travel in France has long been considered an inconvenient travel option for longer journeys, however recent deregulation of the French bus and coach industry has now made coach travel a viable low-cost alternative to the rail network.
Prior to 2011, bus and coach travel in France was restricted to regional bus services (with most French departments operating their own local bus network) and international coach services (with international coach services operated by established coach operators like Alsa and Eurolines).
In 2011, restrictions on the French coach industry were loosened to allow international coach services to pick up domestic passengers (so a Paris–Amsterdam coach service could take passengers between Paris and Lille). Despite the loosening of regulations in France, the coach industry was tightly regulated until 10 August 2015 when the industry was liberalised allowing coach companies to offer domestic coach services on distances above 100km.
If coach travel Europe takes off in France like it did in Germany in 2013, after the German coach industry was deregulated, it is likely that bus and coach travel in France could boom with some industry insiders predicting an increase from around 110,000 passengers per year to around five million annual bus and coach passengers. It is now possible to travel throughout France cheaply with a network of local bus services as well as long-distance coach services linking major French towns and cities.
Bus and coach travel in Germany
Germany has an extensive domestic bus network although most travelers stick with the convenient rail network unless they want to get to smaller towns, particularly in the Bavarian Alps and along the Romantic Road.
However coach travel has recently become a popular alternative to the train with services to destinations throughout Germany and to other cities in Europe.
Germany is well connected with international coach services to most European countries with coaches operated by Busabout, Eurolines, Flibco, Flixbus and Hellö.
Bus & coach travel Europe – in Greece
With its slow, patchy rail network, most travelers agree that the bus is the way to get around the country. However buses aren’t up to the same standard as elsewhere in Europe.
Most buses are operated by either KTEL or OSE (the Greek rail operator). KTEL serves the majority of routes with buses operating throughout the country. Most major international routes are operated by OSE.
Most towns and cities have a centrally located bus station with a bar and left-luggage facilities. Buses from Athens depart from three different bus stations.
Terminal A, located at Kifissou 100, has buses to the Peloponnese, western Greece and the Ionian Islands. Local bus 051 runs from the bus station terminating near Omonia Square.
Terminal B, to the north of Omonia Square, has buses to central and northern Greece. Local bus 024 connects this bus station with the National Gardens.
International buses, operated by OSE, leave from outside Larisis train station.
Bus & coach travel in the Netherlands
Because of the extensive rail network in the Netherlands, buses are often overlooked as a viable coach travel Europe option within the country and most bus and coach routes either go to places not served by the rail network or they connect places where a train journey would require an impractical detour.
It is possible to travel cross-country by bus, but as buses are primarily for traveling between small towns (rather than the larger cities), it can easily take twice as long as the same journey made by train. However it is a good option if you’re interested in seeing the countryside.
The Interliner coach network is the most practical option for covering longer distances. Interliner routes include the Afsluitdijk in Noord Holland, Rotterdam to Zeeland, Lelystad to Groningen and Zwolle via the Noordoostpolder and Groningen to Emmen. There are also bus routes to Drachten and Uden, which are not served by the Dutch rail network.
Bus & coach travel in Spain
Spain’s bus services are provided by many different bus companies whose routes comprise an extensive network. The biggest of these Spanish bus companies is ALSA, which operates an extensive network of bus routes throughout the country including international routes to Andorra, France and Portugal. Because of the excellent bus services, the bus should be the first choice for travellers not travelling with a railpass.
Eurolines have international services to most major cities in Spain and travellers using the Eurolines Pass can travel to Alicante, Barcelona and Madrid. Eurolines Pass holders can also use the pass to make domestic journeys on the Barcelona–Madrid route, an exception to the international travel only rule of this pass.
Busabout buses serve the following Spanish destinations: Barcelona, Madrid, Pamplona, San Sebastian and Valencia.
Bus & coach travel in Italy
There is a fairly extensive network of bus services in Italy provided by a number of private companies. These bus services vary from small local services connecting rural communities to luxury express services between big cities.
Although the rail network may be easier to work out, the bus can often be a cheaper and faster way to get around the country.
The main coach companies in Italy include Marino Autolinee (main routes include services linking Naples with Bari, Bologna, Genoa, Milan, Padova, Parma, Turin and Venice) and Autolinee Baltour and Sena (which both operate a nationwide route network plus a number of international routes as Italy’s Eurolines franchisee). Sena offer discounted coach travel throughout Italy with many domestic routes priced from €1 if you book online in advance.
At iBus, you can search and book tickets online on several Italian coach operators including Autolinee Baltour, Marino Autolinee and Sena.
Italy Bus Card
The ItalyBus Card costs €30 and gives you 15% discount on bus and coach services operated by Sena and the Baltour Group. You really need to plan on spending at least €225 on coach travel in Italy for this to be worth your while.
This coach travel pass gives you unlimited bus and coach travel on coaches operated by Sena and the Baltour Group in Italy for a fixed price.
The Eurolines Pass includes travel to the following cities: Florence, Milan, Rome and Venice.
Busabout buses serve the following Italian destinations: Ancona, Florence, La Spezia (Cinque Terre), Lake Como, Milan, Rome, Siena and Venice.