European Travel by Bus
By Koke Miller-Thomas
(Web editor's note: Updated to link to sites for current rates and information.)
After working six months in Scotland and England, I realized that my initial financial forecast was too optimistic. I didn't want to leave without touring Europe, but I could not afford to travel by train. So I looked around for alternatives and found two bus passes that I could afford: Eurolines Europass and the Busabout pass. Eurolines Europass is less expensive than Busabout (and offers fewer perks), but both passes cost less than comparable rail passes.
For example, here are the current rates for the Europass. The current rates for the Busabout pass are listed below. The main advantage of Busabout versus Europass and Eurail is additional convenience. Busabout will drop you off at hostels and help you book rooms in advance. Eurolines provides an external link for booking accommodations online via their site.
Both bus passes let you travel to a few countries that a Eurail pass does not include. For example, with Europass you can visit the following the countries listed on the site. Busabout, does not offer quite as many country destinations, but it lets you visit more smaller destinations, as well as packages to Morocco, Croatia and the Greek Islands.
Ultimately, comfort is the main factor to consider when deciding whether to travel more expensively by train or more cheaply by bus. Buses are often crowded and are about as comfortable as they are in the U.S. On the upside, European bus stations are far nicer than in the U.S., and buses are used by more people. Compared with the train travel I've done in Europe, bus passengers seem to socialize more than rail travelers. Perhaps more importantly, most bus passengers are locals. All of our drivers were locals, and they generally provided interesting bits of information.
You can buy a Busabout pass online. Their web site, www.busabout.com, also contains maps and stop information. The Eurolines pass can be bought online as well and a network map is available.
KOKE MILLER-THOMAS has lived in several countries. Currently she is a social worker for the state of Texas.