Traveling by bus probably invokes memories of dirty, old Greyhound buses. Or if you live on the East Coast, you may already use the modern buses that frequently travel between the major East Coast cities.
Germany has freshly liberalized the bus travel market and for many East European countries, the lack of rail infrastructure but excellent new freeways (thanks to European Union subsidies) make buses a great option.
Most routes are run by small companies from their hubs. Since the initial investments in buses are low compared with an airline, there are many startups. What unites most of them, especially in Eastern Europe, is the quality of buses, with WiFi, free drinks, movies and more.
However, there is no central reservation system and loyalty programs are just starting.
So here’s why I think these companies make a great addition to your travel:
- It’s cheap – many routes are offered at EUR 9 or less as promotional offers
- It’s comfy and on time
- For short/medium hops it’s the best alternative, thus avoiding the creaky rail infrastructure and congested airports
- Major CCs are mostly accepted
Here are the challenges:
- Since there is no central reservation system, you first have to Google the route and then look up schedules and book a ticket online
- Since each company has its own spin on rules, you need to read the emails very carefully
My recent experience:
Just yesterday, I took a Student Agency bus (okay, not sure how anyone would come up with such a name) from Dresden to Prague and it was fantastic. The online purchase was a breeze. The bus was on time and came equipped with leather seats. The entertainment system had tons of movies and TV shows (in English! As well as in Czech), plus there were free hot drinks and a service rarely seen on most business class flights. Someone actually smiled when helping passengers – unbelievable! While the WiFi was slow, it worked all the way and it was free as well. City center to city center in under 2.5 hours for under $30 – I’d take the bus over a train or a flight any day.