My first time in Europe was back in 2002, I pre-purchased a EUrail pass and traveled to multiple countries in Western Europe. That was the thing to do with a backpack. Pick the number of travel days within a limited time span and a number of countries and you are set to explore the continent. Though expensive, it made traveling between countries and within each country scenic, fast and efficient. EUrail also has a historical significance as that was the method in which millions of travelers moved from one location to anther for decades in Europe.
In 2006, I visited 5 different countries (England, Ireland, France, Italy and Germany). The 4 of us flew with Ryanair within the European continent. I still remember the flight between Milan to Paris was only 1 euro plus applicable taxes which cost us less than $25 CAD in total. However, we failed to consider the additional costs required to commute between the city center and the smaller airports that Ryanair used. Though I think it was still much cheaper than traveling on the train and took us less time.
12 years later, in 2014, I’ve discovered bus travel in Europe as a new method to save money and see the landscape! After arriving in Hamburg, Germany my friend spoke of her 15€ bus ride between Hamburg and Berlin. When I moved into a hostel, my dorm mate took a 11-hours bus ride from Gothenburg, Sweden to Hamburg.
In general, cheap cheap flights and rail tickets can be had if you plan ahead. However, when you want to make last-minute trips, you’re often met with high priced fares.
Bus travel is perfect for those of us travelers who want to travel spontaneously and on a budget.
Now after my 7-hour bus ride from Hamburg to Frankfurt for only 17€, I discover after a discussion with my host in Frankfurt that on January 1 2013, Germany passed a law which allowed intercity bus travel – in addition to the existing rail service. In one year’s time the DB (Deutsche Bahn) has reported a lost of 50 million euros in revenue to these new intercity bus travel.
Surprisingly, within such short time, there is already several bus companies to create friendly competition within intercity travel in Germany.
Not all major cities have built an official ZOB (main bus station) as Hamburg. However, most major cities has designated intercity bus stops at either the airport and/or at the Hauptbahnhof (main train station). In Hamburg, the ZOB was across the street from the Hauptbahnhof so it made transfers onto the U-bahn or the S-bahn very easy.
I have found GoEuro to be an excellent website that consolidates various companies and their method of transportation. Flight. Rail. Bus. Car. Travel times. Costs.
From researching my last minute journey, I have discovered these other bus companies. MeinFernbus. Flixbus. EuroLines. ADAC Postbus. Berlinlinienbus. Sadly, not all bus companies have English websites.
When I went to the counter inside Hamburg ZOB to buy my bus ticket, they only accepted CASH or German debit cards. Purchasing tickets online is easy and is typically the only place that I have found to accept Visa and Mastercard. Though they ask the passenger to carry the credit card used to purchase the ticket as the form of proof of identification.
I rode on a double decker bus when I traveled from Hamburg to Frankfurt am Main with MeinFern bus. The ride was comfortable and budget friendly. The cheapest ticket I could find with DB Bahn was 79€ versus 17€ – so I was very willing to spend 3 extra hour for travel. Though there was an unavoidable delay due to a car accident on the Autobahn. They sold beverages and snacks on board. The “Group” seats downstairs has electrical outlets and a table. Open WiFi kept me and my laptop occupied.
Now I am looking forward to my next bus ride from Frankfurt am Main to Freiburg (Breisgau) for only 15€ (4-hours travel time) when DB Bahn offered savings fare tickets for 39€ (2-hours travel time)!