Night bus in Europe: the Eurolines experience

On a spur-of the-moment decision, I booked a bus trip from Sweden to Germany. I was free that weekend and I thought that Germany is too close to Scandinavia for me to ignore. Since it was only a few days before my “scheduled trip”, the plane and train fares were already sky-high so I decided to take the bus. I wasn’t afraid of long trips. I’ve already experienced long bus trips in the Philippines, and they weren’t what you would call comfortable, so I was ready for anything.

I booked online through German Eurolines website (booking online requires a printer), although you can also buy at the bus stations in Germany (or wherever there is a Eurolines office). So here was my itinerary:

Departure –  22:25 Malmö, Sweden/Arrival –  05:15 (next day) Hamburg, Deutschland

I decided to spend a day in Hamburg and then go to Berlin. So going back to Sweden, I came from Berlin

Departure – 22:15 Berlin, Deutschland/Arrival – 06:50 (next day) Malmö, Sweden

I asked around for the bus stop in Malmö, and found it to be a five-minute walk from the Central Station. When I arrived at the bus stop, people were standing outside in the cold while waiting for the bus. It seems the offices that sell the tickets were only open during office hours. It was a good thing I wasn’t too early, I hate standing around in the cold. Our bus arrived on schedule. Apparently, the bus route was from Oslo, Norway to Paris, France (a 26-hour trip… now, that’s really long!).

The driver does not speak English. I wasn’t sure if he was Swedish or Norwegian (the language sounds the same to me, unfortunately). He was just pointing and muttering, good thing I lived in Japan and am a self-proclaimed expert on charades. As soon as I gave the ticket to the driver, I climbed up the bus and chose a seat.

I sat beside the window, and reclined my seat. The lights went out as the bus started to go. The down jacket I was wearing proved to be very useful as an improvised pillow. It was very soft and comfortable (well, if you can say that sleeping in a bus is comfortable). I started to drift off to sleep despite the loud giggling of the girl in front of me (she was flirting with the guy seating beside her).

I was in deep slumber when my seatmate woke me up. She said we had to leave the bus for 45 minutes. I got up groggily and went out. I was too sleepy to care about where we were and why we had to get off the bus. We were in some sort of underground parking and had to take the elevator to the restaurants and restrooms. I went to the restroom and when I came out, it dawned on me that we were in a ferry! Of course! Haha. We had to cross the Baltic Sea from Denmark to reach Germany. The travel time was for 45 minutes, so I ordered some tea to try to take the chill off my bones. They have a cafeteria, where you can order some snacks and drinks. After 45 minutes, we got back on the bus and I slept until we reached Hamburg, my destination.

My Berlin to Malmö ride was a bit different. I waited for the bus at the ZOB (Central Bus Station) in Berlin. There was a proper lounge, with vending machines that sell water and chips, and ticket booths that was open until 9pm. I was able to nap on the chairs while waiting for the bus.

When the bus arrived, I already knew the drill so I showed my ticket to the German-speaking driver and climbed up. It was a “business class” bus, so it had sockets! I was able to charge my iPhone, perfect!

This time, there were fewer passengers so i was able to lie down, using the two adjacent seats for my torso and then the seat across the aisle for my feet. I had a makeshift bed! There was one time a guy at the back came forward to talk to the driver. He was trying to be discreet while stepping over my legs barricading the path. But I woke up while he was stepping midway, so I suddenly moved and there was one awkward moment when my legs were stuck in his! I apologized profusely and then went back to sleep curled in the two seats, making sure my feet were no longer in the way.

This time, i was prepared for the ferry ride. I woke up just as the bus was about to enter the ferry. I had some tea while waiting out the 45-min ride at that godforsaken hour (it was around 2:30 in the morning). I also took a better look around and took some pictures. There were some slot machines and video game machines.

There was also a duty free shop. If you want to buy tobacco though, you have to ask your driver for a coupon, I don’t know why.

Oh, here’s a tip when riding a bus that goes into a ferry: remember where the bus was parked! It was a good thing I remembered the sector where we were parked, and it was better for one other passenger following me. She had no idea how to get back to our bus, she was so lost. The parking area inside the ferry was pretty big, and the trucks and buses were arranged side by side so it’s easy to get confused. She was very thankful as we boarded the bus just as the ferry was docking at the port in Copenhagen.

And then comes the bad part. At around 5:40am, the German bus driver dropped us off at the bus stop in Copenhagen, and told us, “Change, change” and made us all get out. The German people asked him where we should go and he pointed to the spot behind the bus and told them the bus was coming and we should wait. So we did. Now the bus stop for Eurolines in Copenhagen was just a long lane on the street where the buses can park. No lounges, not even a roof for a waiting shed. There were no number slots for parked buses or any organizational scheme of some sort. It was a major stop and they didn’t bother with a proper bus stop!

We were waiting for the bus that was bound for Oslo in the sidewalk. I was shivering while I stood there (there were only one bench near us) with the other passengers. At around 5:55, there was a bus that came from the other end of the bus lane and the sign in front read, “Paris-Oslo”. One lady shouted, “That’s our bus, I know it!” Yeah, it was our bus alright. It was parked at the other freaking end of the bus lane and left without us. Really sweet, eh?

I was very lucky I was getting off at Lund, a 45-min train ride from Copenhagen. I pity the people going to Oslo. I took the train and left them there, standing in the sidewalk in the cold early morning. They would wait another two hours before the next bus came.

All in all, it was good to experience taking the bus Europe-style.  You just have to make sure that you check the buses carefully when they change. It takes you there longer, but it’s much cheaper than taking the train and you would save on accommodation (though you would have to sleep on a chair). I would repeat this experience if I had to, but not without checking for cheap air fares first…


35 responses to “Night bus in Europe: the Eurolines experience

  1. “…a self-proclaimed expert on charades.” Natawa ako dun. haha. Good one, Ate Jill. Naalala ko tuloy ang Charing at Royale Bus Line. Not what you’d call comfortable — understatement of the week. 😉

  2. grabe ka matulog sa bus. di mo man lang napansin na nasa loob na pala ng ferry yung bus. grabe lang…

  3. travelled with Eurolines that was way back in 2002 from malmo to Brussels. it was really interesting and adventurous. i would like to repeat the experience but this time around from Homborg, Germany to malmo, sweden. but unfortunately i can not find any eurolines office near my town, homborg in the saarland area of germany. does anyone out there know? kindly let me know.
    thank u

  4. Pingback: Berlin on a bike – a guided tour of Germany’s capital | The (mis)adventures of a geologist lakwatsera

  5. I hate the fucking Eurolines, I d rather go walking. Those bastards always travel by night! I am pissed off to travel by night, I am not a whore to be awake at night, nights are to be in bed and not pissed off in a fucking but seat. I want to see the landscapes of the different countries and not by night. I fucking hate Eurolines. They treat you as if you were some kind of African immigrant they want to smuggle at night, you are like some kind of thing that must be traveled by night, so that you are not seen.

    • Marvin the Martian

      You miss the point… It’s a cheap, student-y way to travel, and saves the cost (and finding/booking efforts) of a night in a hotel/ hostel/ etc. Plus you don’t often get behind schedule (=making connections), as the coach is zooming along near-empty motorways. You see as much or more of the landscape than if you’d go by plane on a cloudy day… and instead of your travel hours eating into your daytime, it’s the unused night-hours that go.

      Image “let’s have a weekend in paris”: You leave Friday night from wherever, start early on Saturday in the centre of Paris for a full day, pay only one hotel night, another full day in Paris, and you’re back in your hometown on Monday in time for work/uni. If you’d fly, either you arrive late on Friday and pay a hotel, or you lose half your Saturday; Sunday you’ll lose at least the afternoon. [Where I’m living there’s normally only a 14h10 flight from Paris CDG on a Sunday, taking a good 45min from the centre + checkin time; today, there’s a strike on so no flights; if the flight is earlier then even less of Sunday survives.]

      So if you don’t mind bus travel and don’t need much sleep, it’s the best option on a small budget. I wouldn’t do it anymore — I need the weekends to recover from the work week — and that’s why I make less city trips than I used to.

    • You idiot!!!

  6. I’ve had a very hugly trip from Hagondange, France, up to Verona, Italy, with eurolines. I do not wish anybody (unless eurolines manager) to get into such a nightmare. Arriving 5 hours late in Milan, the bus driver made us go down, and we had to take another bus. It came like 2 hours later, waiting in the rain. The driver didn’t speak any french, italian or whatever I would speak. He wanted me to pay the trip from Milan to Verona. And as my ticket had been taken by the first bus driver, I couldn’t produce any ticket. I had to fight very hard for climbing in the bus. Arriving 6 hours late in Verona, my cousin was not there anymore waiting for taking me to San Giovanni, my last destination, 40 Kms from Verona. It was raining very hard, the bus driver left us in the middle of nowhere where no shelter available. And not possible to sit down anywhere. I had a very big suitcase, I couldn’t move. No phone working around. After 3 hours waiting under the rain, my right leg got weak (I’m 76 years old) and got broken. Police found me with broken leg after 2 hours lying on the ground. It was an isolated place. Spent 2 weeks in Borgo Trento hospital in Verona. I still have pieces of metal in my leg’s bone. The purpose of this trip : 3 weeks vacation to my cousin’s house. Came back to France by air, very expensive. Couldn’t walk for 6 months. Eurolines is the shittest company in the world ! This company treated us like shit during the trip. And nobody to talk with. I hope the manager gets cancer and suffer for months before dying in horrible pain !

    • I am sorry you had to suffer all of that. Yes, I think Eurolines can’t be relied upon in emergency cases, and since the drivers can’t really talk to you, it’s really a problem. I hope your condition is much, much better now.

  7. I’m a little better, even if I can’t walk without a walker. The metal plates will never be removed from my leg’s bone. I have a very reduced area I can move, because of that. OK, I survive. I often go to burn candles, hoping Saint Rita would be so nice to transmit the worst cancer to the eurolines managers. Or, why not, an even worst illness to make them die in horrible misery

    • Thank goodness Saint Rita didn’t fulfill your request. You sound like a very sore old man giving us senior citizen a bad name.

      • If it would have happened to you, how would you feel ? Would you be happy, thankfull, or something like the world is wonderfull, everybody is nice ? You don’t know what is to not beeing able to walk alone 10 meters, staying seated or lying all day long. It’s easy to comment, when the bad things happen to others…

  8. Hi there, I chanced upon your blog while checking reviews for eurolines. It was a well written and funny post 🙂 Very informative! However, would you recommend that I take the eurolines from Paris to London?(just asking :)) I’m from southeast asia and planning a eurotrip.a super budgeted one. Unless Eurolines is recommended by you, for a lone 23yr old traveler, i’ll take the more expensive Eurostar (40Euros more expensive).. If you have any idea if they would make us get off the bus halfway, do tell me! thank u very much:)

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment. Well, you’re young so I think you can take the sleepless night while traveling. However, please check out flights by Easyjet or Ryanair and other similar low cost airlines. You might be able to book for cheap flights the whole way or maybe from somewhere in between your destinations. You just need to book early, sometimes they can be as cheap as taking the bus. But between the bus and the train, I think you can handle the bus 🙂 Good luck!

    • It depends on the specific trip, but sometimes they change buses midway. I am just not sure in which specific routes they do that…

    • Hello, sorry to interrupt. But according my experience, I would not advise you to take the bus. Anything can happen, like changing the bus during the trip at the last moment. They can even make you pay for this bus change (this happened to me). At the boarder, we had to go down the bus, open all our suitcases for checking. 2h30 wasted. The drivers don’t give you any info, the are from Romania, or any other country which do not speak english. I recommend to take any other transportation, but not Euroline.
      BR. Marc from Lyon, France.

      • Thanks for your input Marc! Yeah, if there are any other available mode of transportation, better take it. Eurolines can be really inconvenient and unpredictable, so it is only for the last minute traveler who has no other choice 😀

  9. My roundtrip from Wroclaw to Amsterdam was good, no major delays, enough breaks on the way. On both trips we arrived early to our destination. Drivers were helpful even with limited English skills. And of course, the price was good. Take blanket, pillow and some snacks to make it more comfortable.

  10. OMG Im already having a ticket by this bus compay to travel on Jan. 7, Paris Oslo a pretty long way. But not Im really not encouraged to do so. Would that be too late to change as I have ample of other options. HOPE things would still be ok,

    • > Hello! I think you’ll be alright if you are OK with sleeping while sitting for long hours 🙂 I there are long stops just try to stay alert and be observant. But check out Norwegian Air or Ryan Air websites, they might have promo fares. Good luck!

  11. I found this page after searching for ‘Eurolines’ and ‘Worst’. My experience was back in 2003 and I see that Eurolines is much the same. I have taken long distance buses on several continents and the only bus trip worst than my Eurolines experience was the worst trip ever.
    On Feb 27th 2003 I and a friend got on a modern-looking Eurolines bus from a street corner stop in Paris Pigalle. It was 10:30 PM. After a couple hours I stood and turned around to discover that the bus had no toilet facilities! From my fellow passengers I learned that the only stop was at the Channel Tunnel terminal at Calais!! Upon arriving there several excruciating hours later we were told to remain on the bus. But when passengers threatened to riot we were allowed less than ten minutes for everyone to take a piss break.
    In other words, they scheduled an overnight trip of more than seven hours on fully-booked bus with no scheduled stops or toilet facilities.
    The uncomfortable seats, talkative passengers, no entertainment, lack of information and no snacks pale in comparison. It is rather obvious why they didn’t offer drinks on that trip!

  12. I have traveled western Europe extensively, but I am concerned about the cost of rail tickets when i want to visit some of the eastern European countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, and Poland, for example. I am thinking of getting a eurolines one month pass. The cost is about 340 euros during mid season for unlimited country to country travel. I also want to visit Norway and well so a pass for unlimited travel makes sense. I know the cost of booking train tickets ahead of time may be cheaper than booking close to day I want to travel, but because I want my itinerary to be flexible, booking train ticket near the date of travel can be very expensive. With all the negative comments and unexpected experiences, would you purchase a bus pass for the countries I want to visit, or would I be happier in the end if i travel by train even though it may be 3-4 times more expensive.

    • Dear Mr Wasserball, Im also planning for almost a similar trip! More I went through the post…more I got confused!! Me GeO sounded positive tho! I’m in a tight budget trip but I guess I dared to make a loop over European map finding the fare quite affordable 😦 … ! Gosh!! its getting heavy!

      • Heya! I say if you have a choice, I suggest you take the low-cost airline or train instead. but if you are not too fussy, you can survive with the night bus. Just be careful with the connections if ever you have to change buses. I hope you enjoy your trip!

  13. Good luck, if you take a Eurolines pass. I’d rather take the train, even if more expensive. You could have a very negative experience with this company. But it’s up to you…

  14. Thank you so much for this post. I was picturing getting on the bus in Nice and off in Florence, much easier for old folks than multiple transfers. Now, I realize that the reason they do not post an actual timetable for their buses is that you’re probably not going to be on a single bus. And the idea of crossing the border into Italy and having to open my suitcase in the dark for customs, is also unappealing. Sounds to me like Eurolines is a good choice for adventure traveling, not so good for those who don’t want to stand for hours in the rain. I actually bought a suitcase with a seat on it. A real seat (it’s called a seatkase, no this is not an ad, but the thing is great). I still like the idea of buses, though. btw, I look for trains on deutchebahn’s website. You can’t find the fares (i.e. from Nice to Florence), but they do a great job of listing all of the trains, the platforms, the transfer times, everything. Raileurope only shows some trains and mysteriously higher fares than any other site. Thanks again for the very informative post. And I still would like to try Eurolines in a less rushed trip.

  15. They cancelled my trip at just the small enough amount of notice not to cause the travel insurance to tick in but late enough the prices for alternative pays to travel were crazy high. God I hate this company

  16. i had the same experience but from london to Amsterdam, only the connecting bus was never there, bus driver was arrested or something, and eurolines refused to pick us up as Callais isnt a official stop,and if we had a problem with that we should go back to london and complain there

  17. boy o boy you are making me to back up on my idea of traveling around small villages getting to know nice out of towners and mingle….

  18. Great this post is helpful for me for my upcoming trip from Amsterdam to Berlin. Thanks for sharing.

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