So if you’re planning on traveling around Europe or the USA on a budget, then taking a bus from A to B to C to D to C is probably going to be your cheapest option outside of hitchhiking.
It may take longer and be less comfortable than a train or a plane, but you’ll save some money to spend elsewhere on your trip.
One other option for European travel and ticket booking is Omio. In case you’re not familiar, here is a full review of Omio to check out.
1. What is Flixbus.com?
First things first, what is Flixbus?
Flixbus is one of the most popular, easily recognizable and established bus companies in Europe and USA that offers intercity bus service. And I believe that they provide the best option for bus transport around the continent.
The buses are clean and they usually arrive and depart on time. Aside from that, they offer WiFi and sometimes even a snack/drink bar. Also, the bus network is a spider web of possibilities.
As far as buses go, Flixbus has been the best I’ve used. And I’ve definitely taken some questionable buses.
One from Phuket to Bangkok smelled of feet. What’s worse is it broke down on the side of the highway for two hours. Another one is the trip to the south of Turkey. It consisted of the driver blaring traditional Turkish music the whole night and someone noisily chewing sunflower seeds in the seat behind mine.
Another bus from Albania to Montenegro advertised itself as a direct bus. However, it turned out to be a very, very, local bus. Making about twenty stops before leaving Tirana and adding I don’t know how many hours to the drive. Could you imagine?
Again, as far as buses go, Flixbus is a great option!
Personally, we love to use Omio to figure out our transport options.
Since I have shared with you some of my unforgettable terrible bus experiences, now let me share my experiences with Flixbus.
My encounters with Flixbus have had none of these issues. And as a whole, I’ve been very happy with the company.
Here’s a brief summary of a couple of trips I’ve taken with Flixbus:
Paris, France to Maastricht, Netherlands
This was a more or less a direct bus to Maastricht, with a short wait in Brussels. Although we didn’t have to transfer buses.
The bus was super clean. Even the bathroom was clean. The WiFi worked well on my laptop, and you could buy drinks and snacks on the bus.
Also, the bus left on-time around noon.
We got to Maastricht around 8 pm as advertised. The bus station in Paris was easy to find (I walked to it from the city center), and it dropped me off at the main train terminal in Maastricht.
Milan, Italy to Como, Italy
This was a 5 euro bus that took about an hour between Milan and Como.
Honestly, a train would’ve been a better option here. However, I booked this ticket on very short notice, and the train prices had gone up a bit.
If you book far enough in advance, a train between Milan and Como will cost about 10 euro, and be a more comfortable option. The trains in Italy are usually quite cheap anyway and make for a more enjoyable trip if you’re moving between Italian cities.
The big thing I’d like to highlight here was how friendly the bus driver was.
I was scrambling to make it to the bus station on time, not realizing how far it was from the center. So, I urged the taxi driver to swerve through traffic and do his best to help me out.
I ran from the taxi to the bus and was greeted by the driver outside. He welcomed me with a big smile, laughing about my poor time management. Still super helpful and friendly to everyone around the bus.
This was an overnight bus that left Oslo’s main bus terminal around 8 pm and arrived in Malmö around 5 am.
Again, everything went smoothly.
The bus wasn’t full so we had space to lay across two seats.
But, always be wary of overnight buses. They take a thick skin and the ability to block things out, usually a prolonged lack of comfort and exposure to unpleasant noises and/or smells.
Also, arriving anywhere at 5 am is an unfortunate side effect of traveling on a low budget. You have to play the cards you’re dealt with though (or have dealt yourself). So we set up camp at a coffee shop near the bus terminal in Malmö and planned our next moves.
All in all, though, this Flixbus trip was as pleasant an overnight bus experience as I’ve ever had compared to some very unpleasant ones.
On the whole, I think the pros outweigh the cons. And based on the many of the reviews I’ve seen of Flixbus list anecdotal or generalized evidence of bad experiences that could happen with any budget bus trip.
So it’s important to keep that in mind and be aware that anything you’re trying to do on the lowest budget possible will have some drawbacks.
Easy to Spot
Extensive European Network
Service in the USA
No weird, out-of-the-way terminals
Let’s go into detail:
Cleanliness: Flixbuses are in general very clean and they don’t smell. Again, this is my experience with them. The bathrooms are taken care of and there are trash bags along the aisles so people aren’t chucking wrappers all over the place.
Moreover, the seats are new-ish, in good condition and comfortable enough.
Reliability: You know what you’re getting with Flixbus. It’s basically a brand, right! Therefore, there’s some standardization to their service and quality that I’ve seen lacking from other bus companies.
For example, I’ve used some other bus companies multiple times, and the insides of the buses are so different that you wouldn’t think they were run by the same company.
Also, Flixbuses usually depart right on time, and arrive around the time they say they will (plus or minus the traffic, weather, etc).
Easy to Spot: The lime green buses, though may not be pleasing to the eyes, are nonetheless easy to spot in a terminal filled with other buses.
The color is much easier to find and distinguish your bus if you happen to be cutting it close and running through a terminal in Milan.
Extensive European Network: They’re all over the place. Throw a dart at a map of Europe and you’ll probably find a Flixbus that stops somewhere close (minus the UK and Spain [see Cons]).
Cheap: Flixbus’ prices are competitive with even the cheapest buses. They also offer 5-10 euro deals on some short distances around Europe. Just be sure to book a bit in advance. Prices can go up if you want to get a ticket a few days before you plan to travel.
Charging Ports: A lot of buses I’ve taken advertise charging ports.
However, when you get on, they’re either not there or don’t work. I’ve found Flixbus to be very reliable when it comes to working charging ports. All the buses seem to have either USB ports or outlets, or both, and they work.
Service in the USA: Flixbus has now expanded into the United States.
I was actually quite surprised to discover that this is true. Greyhound or Peter Pan buses generally dominate the American landscape, and it’s nice to see that Flixbus is now available in the States. Although not available on the East Coast, there are buses available on the West Coast, including California, Arizona, and Nevada.
(NOTE: if you’re searching the map on their website, be sure to change the language to English with the American flag, otherwise no routes in the US are shown for some reason.)
No weird, out-of-the-way terminals: I’ve been to some sketchy bus stations out in no-man’s-land that were hard to find and offered little in terms of places to buy supplies for your trip or whatever.
Flixbuses depart from main bus terminals that are easy enough to find and usually offer shops and things where you can stock up on snacks for your trip.
The App: The Flixbus app is easy to use.
It helps you find out where your bus will depart from. You can also use the QR code on your ticket right from your phone, which saves the hassle of printing out a ticket.
I realized that many bus companies offer this, but the Flixbus app makes it all pretty simple.
There is nothing perfect in this world. And since we’re done with the pros, let’s proceed to the cons of Flixbus.
Only available in Europe and USA
Not that much cheaper
It costs extra to reserve a seat
Only available in Europe and USA: Moreover, Flixbus doesn’t operate in the UK. You’ll have to search elsewhere if you’re traveling there.
(Note: As I was searching the route map on the Flixbus website, I could only see the routes in Spain and Portugal if I choose the Spanish language option in the top right corner.)
For those small corners in the world where there is no public transport, check out Discovercars to compare prices and get the best deal to rent a car.
Long Distances: Traveling long distances on any bus can be exhausting and uncomfortable.
And Flixbus is no exception. It will most likely make multiple stops and take a couple of hours longer than a train.
Not that much cheaper: To the last point, if you’re traveling long distances, you’ll be much more comfortable on a train.
The trains in Europe are great, and usually pretty cheap as well.
You’ll also get to your destination in much less time than if you choose a bus. Depending on where/when you’re traveling, a flight may even be close in price. It’d be wise to check out your travel options and pricing before you get stuck in the mindset of “well a bus will definitely be the cheapest option”.
I’ll take a look at the pricing breakdown of bus, train and plane options between some cities farther down in the article.
WIFI Unreliable: Copy/paste this bullet point to just about any bus company operating anywhere in the world.
Although I’ve had good luck with the WIFI on Flixbuses, I’ve talked to friends who haven’t. In fact many online reviews of Flixbus complain about this. Don’t expect there to be WiFi or get butt-hurt when there isn’t. Remember, you’re on a budget bus. Bring a book.
Personally, we use our SIM Card with roaming in Europe. You can also get a hippocket WiFi, a Europe-wide SIM Card for internet.
It costs extra to reserve a seat: Although it’s not that much extra (around 3 euros), it’s still extra.
A lot of bus companies I’ve used to let you choose your seat when you book for no extra charge. I would recommend reserving a seat if you’re traveling long distances or overnight so you can choose the window or the aisle.
(I’d personally choose the window, and you’re a savage if you think otherwise.)
For those not reserving a seat it is also important to recognize a free seat. You don’t wanna be waken up in the middle of the night because the seat you choose was reserved, right?
Have a look above the seats. If the seat is booked, they mark it with a green sticker.
Indications in the app are better than in the email: some users have commented that the exact pick up spot in the station are not specified in the email. The app is more reliable on that.
In the email, only the bus station is indicated. Therefore, I do recommend to always, always be in advance in the bus station. Do not get there 2 sec before the departure, cause “Murphy’s Law” will 100% apply and you will not catch your bus.
5. Comparing Prices – Example
Like I mentioned above, it can be useful to compare transportation costs.
Especially around Europe, where flights and trains are reasonably priced, and can sometimes compete with bus prices.
I also mentioned before, we use Omio.com to find trains, buses, flights. Give it a try too, it is so easy to use!
In the following table, I took the Flixbus prices from A to B and compared them to what it would cost for a flight or train ticket we found on Omio and other websites.
For all of them, I chose a date about a month in advance. Realize that for more spontaneous, last-minute travel, prices may increase, especially around holidays.
Also, I used the website Omio (formerly GoEuro) to compare the flights and trains.
Note: All prices are in Euros, €. 1€ is roughly $1.10 US.
Paris to Amsterdam
Munich to Vienna
Oslo to Malmö
Milan to Geneva
So, just from this small sample, I think the moral of the story is that if you’re willing to pay 10-20 euros extra, and you really value comfort, a train may be the best option.
But for those on a tight budget or those who are going to be making multiple trips on a European tour, Flixbus will definitely save space in your wallet.
Please note, there is always special offers and deals, and special days to travel. Prices also depend on availability.
6. Tips about Bus Travel
At this point, I think it could be useful to share some general tips about bus travel. What to expect, what to bring, how to temper your expectations, etc.
Again, you’re traveling on a bus. It’s not going to be luxurious no matter what company you choose. And again, I think I’ve established that Flixbus is probably my favorite option when it comes to buses around Europe.
So with that said, let’s look at some things to keep in mind.
1. Check your options first: As I have shown above, the cost of a train or a flight can sometimes be pretty damn close to a bus if you’re traveling around Europe. Especially if you’re on a time crunch or want to maximize the amount of time you want to spend in a city.
2. Is it a direct route?: Some routes include a transfer. And these transfers can involve some waiting and/or moving to another terminal to catch the next bus, similar to a flight connection. Balance whether or not this is worth it to you. Keep this in mind when you’re booking.
Flixbus’ site will tell you whether or not the trip is direct, or has a transfer. Also be aware that even if the route is marked as direct, there will probably be some short stops along the way between your A and B.
3. Check where the station is in advance: Some cities, like Paris, have multiple bus stations. Some Flixbus routes leave from different stations in different cities. Plan ahead so you don’t have to scramble and risk missing your bus.
4. Get there early: I’ve been on some buses that leave 5 or 10 minutes before they’re scheduled to. And I’ve always felt a small pang of sorrow for the people I imagine walking calmly through the terminal and maybe buying a magazine or something because they think that they have some time left. Not expecting to find an empty space where their bus should’ve been. One thing that I’ve noticed about my Flixbus trips is that the buses leave exactly when they’re supposed to, not too early, not too late. But it’s always better to be safe.
5. Don’t take an overnight bus if you have thin skin: I can’t stress this enough. Overnight buses… suck. No matter what company you choose.
A) they save you the cost of staying the night in a hostel or hotel, and
B) you can maximize the time you spend in a given place by getting there early in the morning.
Please don’t take an overnight bus and then complain about the baby crying, or the man behind you who took his shoes off, or how the bumpy ride wouldn’t let you sleep. These are the pitfalls of every overnight bus, and to judge any company based on some bad experience you had on one seems a bit naïve and unfair.
That said here’s how to best prepare for an overnight bus:
1. Bring a pillow and a blanket/sweatshirt/sweater.
First of all, everything’s better with pillows. Second of all, some bus drivers are a bit too liberal with their use of air conditioning. You don’t want to be shivering and unable to sleep for six hours.
Listen to some music, a podcast, the ambient noise of a rain-forest, whatever. But bring headphones. Don’t let that crying baby or a middle-aged man with sleep apnea or a couple arguing about the argument they had about who was right about the itinerary they chose in the last city they were in ruin your night.
3. Don’t drink any caffeine before you get on the bus.
Unless you have a bunch of work to do on your laptop, in which case you’ll probably be annoying the people near you with the tap-tap-tapping of your fingers on the keyboard, in which case, shame on you, get your work done somewhere else.
6. InterFlix Pass – Bus (and train)
Have you heard about InterFlixbus? It is a Special Pass that Flixbus has launched.
For 99€ you get 5 InterFlix voucher codes to use for any of their routes. You can use it on their buses and trains.
Note: Flixtrains are working in Germany only at this moment.
Yes, you read well, you can use it for any of their destinations!
How does it work?
You buy one pass and you get 5 vouchers. When you book a ride, choose and enter your voucher. You can redeem the vouchers on the website, app or FlixShops.
Please note that the ticket is personalized and valid for 3 months after activation.
As a summary:
You have 3 months / 90 days / 2160 hrs to discover Europe.
Tickets are not transferable.
You pick the start and end points.
Only direct trips can be booked.
Important: A direct return trip along the same route is not possible – at least not with Flixbus (here I suggest that you play with low-cost airlines).
Please note once you buy the pass, it takes 2 working days to get your codes active. Therefore, you must buy this pass in advance.
It’s really cool if you plan to travel by bus around Europe.
The smartest way to use it is to buy the most expensive tickets with the pass, and then buy the shorter, cheaper trips separately.
Here you have some examples of what you could buy with the 99€ pass:
Genova – Paris (110€ separately)
Paris – Milan (about 70€ separately)
Paris – Barcelona (about 60€)
Genova – Milan (about 40€)
Paris – Italy (about 70€)
So that would be about 350€ without the pass and you can book last minute – if there’s still space. Book as soon as possible if you can.
Some questions about Flixbus that have not been covered on the article:
Are there many delays with FlixBus?
My personal experience with FlixBus was good. My trips departure on time (even some minutes earlier) and met the approximate arrival time. The arrival time depends not only on the driver. The road conditions, traffic, weather… will influence that.
Anyways, when traveling with a bus (or car) you should not think you will make it on time and plan to get a thigh connection to another transport.
My rule for planes is to have a gap of minimum 3 hours between them. With buses, I increase this buffer.
When there is a delay, you can see it directly on the app. Also, they message you.
That is not helpful if you are waiting at the bus stop and you do not have Internet connection, of course.
Is my luggage safe on FlixBus?
As per Flixbus policy, you can take 2 bags with you:
hand luggage: this will go with you in the bus cabin. It can be 42 x 18 x 30 cm and can weight maximum 7 kg.
travel baggage: this will go in the trunk and it can be up to 20 kg. The dimensions allowed are 80 x 50 x 30 cm.
Luggage will be safe, but things happen in life.
We heard some stories from people who saw luggage being stolen from the trunk!
There are even some impressive stories around south East Asia where they say some people hide in the trunk and take the valuable items from the luggage while the bus is driving.
I don’t want to scare you here, but you should bear in mind that these things can – sometimes – happen. Mainly, thieves are more active in big cities (such as Paris, Milan…).
Therefore, never, never, leave important belongings in the trunk. The valuable things (kindle, computer, money, documents…) must go on the bus with you.
Is there really free WiFi on all buses?
Flixbus claim you will have free WiFi on all of buses. As I mentioned, in my experience it was OK, I could even work on my laptop, but there are complaints about it in some other flixbus reviews. I guess it depends on the bus.
Think of it this way: the WiFi is minimal. I mean, it is normal that WiFi can fail. If the whole bus wants to watch a movie at the same time, then I’m sure it is not going to work.
Be sure to download all the movies/ podcasts/ apps in your hostel so you don’t have to rely just on the bus WiFi.
Can I cancel an earlier Flixbux?
The terms and conditions say you can cancel or change any booking up to 15 minutes before your ticket departure, online or at one of the Flixbus travel agencies.
Having said that, I must clarify the cancellation policy is quite strict in terms of refunds.
You will get a cancellation voucher in the amount of the price ticket minus the cost of cancellation process. Those fees increase as it gets closer to the departure date. It is only free if you cancel your trip up to 30 days before your departure date.
What happens if you forget your luggage?
So excited about the next destination that you forgot your luggage on the bus? We know, it sucks! You can claim any forgotten item at the Lost&Found office – aka filling out a form on their website.
Make sure all of your baggage is labeled with your name and address. Add a contact number (preferably the one you will be using during your travels). Even better, take photos of your luggage so you can add them to the claim.
When filling in the form make sure you describe the item in detail (color, size, special labels…) and add the route information.
8. Summing up our Flixbus review
So, to sum things up, when it comes to transportation around Europe, Flixbus is the cheapest option that’s also the most reliable.
Generally, the buses are clean, they usually have WIFI, they depart from popular bus terminals, and they’re times are as-advertised.
As for the pricing, always have a look at Omio.com and Flixbus.com. Compare prices to make sure you get a got deal.
Unfortunately, they only run in Europe and USA. They don’t run in the UK and have limited (but expanding) services in the United States. But if you’re on a budget and want a no-nonsense, reliable and user-friendly company, then definitely go with Flixbus.
I hope this review helps you in one way or another in traveling Europe. And we’d love to hear your experiences as well! Tap on the comment below and leave us your ideas and opinions!