The Cheapest Way to Travel Europe (FlixBus)

What is FlixBus?

FlixBus is an intercity bus company offering low fares and a modern fleet of vehicles. In my opinion, it’s cheap, comfortable and convenient – read on to find out why.

 

Which countries does it cover?

FlixBus operates a few routes in the USA but mainly covers central and western Europe. It started off in Germany but has since expanded to serve over one thousand towns and cities. For the full list, check out their website here: flixbus.com.

Not bad views from a bus…(somewhere in Austria)

 

How does it work?

It’s pretty straight forward really, but here’s a breakdown of using FlixBus to make everything crystal clear.

Searching for tickets

Use the FlixBus website or mobile app to search for your preferred cities and dates. You can sort the results by departure time, price or duration. You can also filter results by specific bus stops, times and direct trips.

The FlixBus website

Booking tickets

When you reserve seats for a particular route it’ll just add them to your basket, so you can book seats for multiple routes in the same transaction and just make a single payment.

Adding extras

The front few rows of each FlixBus are designated for reserved seating, so you can pay extra for peace of mind and a guaranteed choice of seat. (If you don’t choose this option then you just pick a seat from the unreserved section when you board the bus. In terms of choice it’s on a first-come first-served basis, but you don’t need to worry as every ticket is guaranteed a seat).

You can also purchase extra luggage as an upgrade (but if you’re reading this blog post then the chances are you travel with a backpack and don’t need this option)!

Receiving tickets

If you book on the FlixBus website you’ll get an email with your tickets in a PDF file. It’ll have a unique barcode that you can show to the driver when boarding the bus. If you book through the app, in addition to an email you’ll also receive your tickets directly within the ‘tickets’ section. Whichever method you use, there’s no need to print tickets as you can simply show the barcode on your smartphone/tablet/laptop screen.

Boarding the bus

Arrive at your departure bus stop with plenty of time to spare, as sometimes it can take a while to locate your exact bus. Look for a code on your ticket that tells you the route number then ask staff to help you find the right bus. In smaller towns where there are less buses this shouldn’t be a problem.

Once ready to board, load your luggage into the hold (sometimes the driver will do this for you) and then simply show the barcode of your ticket to the driver for them to scan – you’re all set and ready for your journey!

Exiting the bus

In some cities there are multiple bus stops, so try to remember the exact name of your arrival station and listen out for the drivers announcement. If unsure, ask the driver once the bus has stopped. You can also use GPS on your phone to check how far away you are.

More decent views!

 

What to expect on-board a FlixBus

Being a fairly new company, their fleet of buses is modern and well equipped. You can look forward to the following on all FlixBuses;

➲ Plug sockets

➲ Clean toilets

➲ Free WiFi

➲ Comfortable reclining seats

➲ Plenty of legroom

➲ Tray tables with cup holders

They even have bike racks on some buses!

 

How cheap is it?

Pretty cheap. The cheapest ticket I bought was a €1.99 (£1.8/US$2.3) fare from Brno to Prague. Yep, less than £2 for a 2.5 hour journey! Where I live the local bus from my house to the train station costs £4 for a 10 minute journey, so in comparison FlixBus is ridiculously cheap.

Put it this way: I researched multiple methods of transport for each leg of my trip (trains, flights and different bus companies), and 90% of the time FlixBus came out as the cheapest.

The most expensive ticket I bought was €22.99 (£20/US$26). This was a journey from Prague to Salzburg, with a change of vehicles in Linz. The first leg of the journey was with a standard FlixBus but the second leg from Linz to Salzburg was actually via a train (that FlixBus had partnered with). The train was extremely efficient, just as clean as the FlixBus and probably more spacious too.

During my 5 week trip to central Europe, I used FlixBus a total of 9 times. Those journeys cost a combined total of €104.43 (£92/US$120), averaging €11.6 (£10/US$13) each.

I would say that’s pretty cheap, wouldn’t you?

The cool double-decker train that was a surprise part of my journey

 

FlixBus Top Tips

There are certain things that you should be aware of before using FlixBus. Even if you consider yourself a competent traveller, use these tips to make your trip with FlixBus cheaper and more enjoyable.

Book early for the best prices

As with most ticketing systems, the earlier you book the cheaper it will be. There’s no golden rule here though, as prices vary according to route and demand. For some routes the prices will stay flat no matter how far in advance you book, whereas others will be significantly cheaper if you purchase 2-3 weeks prior to travelling.

So, to take advantage of the absolute best prices (for those of you on a super tight budget), be prepared to always book about a month beforehand. However, if you value your flexibility over some rock-bottom fares, booking last minute will also get you some pretty competitive rates.

First on = best seats

It might sound obvious, but the first people to get on the bus have the most choice of where to sit (and therefore secure what they regard as the “best seats”). However, being one of those ‘first people’ is easier said than done. Remember, before you board the bus you’ve got to put your luggage in the hold and show your ticket to the driver. So, in fact, being the first person to do that is the key to success here.

Ensure you arrive at the correct bus stop in plenty of time, be ready, be alert and be the first person to show your ticket to the driver – that’s how you secure the best seats!

Side note:

Depending on which European country you’re in, people often like to queue. The earlier you arrive at the bus stop, the further up the unofficial queue you’ll be and therefore have greater right to be the first to board the bus.

Aaaand more views, Europe is pretty right?

Talk to the person next to you

Bus journeys can be boring. Some people read books, some people listen to music and some people watch TV series. But what about if you talked to the stranger next to you? Ever considered what might happen?

Well, neither had I until I met Sally. I was happily minding my own business editing some photos when Sally – a young lady from London – joined the bus and sat next to me. We started talking and, well, carried on and on until Sally took a nap because she hadn’t slept the night before.

Long story short, after arriving in our mutual destination of Budapest, I met up with Sally and her Couchsurfing host regularly over the following days and had an awesome time – none of which would have happened if I hadn’t talked to the person next to me on the bus! (Shout-out to Sally for initiating the conversation though!)

Prepare for the worst

Although FlixBus promises free WiFi and use of plug sockets on all of its buses, inevitably things sometimes go wrong. There were several occasions where I couldn’t connect to the WiFi or the plug sockets didn’t work (or there was only 1 socket to share between 2 people).

So, you can prepare for the worst by charging your electronics before you travel – removing the need for plug sockets – and by getting yourself a local SIM card with data to avoid reliance on WiFi (or just talk to the person next to you)!

There are also unavoidable traffic delays or, when a border crossing is involved, long queues for passport checks. So remember to pack your patience when boarding the bus!

Stretching our legs whilst waiting at a border crossing

 

Isn’t Ryanair the cheapest way to travel around Europe?

It’s true that Ryanair’s fares are famously low, and that you can fly around Europe cheaply. But if you want to travel to the smaller places without airports (trust me, you do) then you’re going to need to use an alternative method of transport.

That’s where FlixBus comes in. Sure, use Ryanair for long distance journeys, but when you need to travel between small obscure places, give FlixBus a go – I’m sure it won’t let you down.

Read more: Ryanair being cheaper than cheap! (travel rant)

 

Conclusion

Based on the fact that FlixBus is cheap, comfortable and convenient, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it.

Armed with my top tips and information, there’s no reason why you, yes YOU, can’t travel Europe on a budget this year.

So what are you waiting for? Grab Your Backpack and Go!

I’ll say it again, just for emphasis…

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