Getting around Europe on the cheap.
I don’t use buses as a means of long distance transportation in Australia, but that’s not the case in Europe. It’s unbelievably cheap over there – and so much better too in terms of breathtakingly beautiful sights!
I caught a bus from Sofia, Bulgaria to Belgrade, Serbia for only €25 (AUD$36) – for the life of me, I cannot remember the bus company name! The trip was long, yet okay. The seat I was allocated wasn’t very good, as the seat recliner in front of me was broken, and there was barely any room for my long legs. However, the bus driver stopped every few hours for food and bathroom breaks for all of us, so that was nice, especially so we could stretch our legs, have a smoke, and just breathe in the fresh air. Unfortunately, I lost my footing while embarking off the bus an hour before arriving in Belgrade, and ended up with a sprained ankle (I didn’t get it checked out until I got back to Australia – lucky it was a Grade 1 sprain!). I was grateful for my seat-mate moving to another seat so I could rest my injured ankle on the seat next to me.
After getting to my hostel, I realised I needed to find a way to get to Budapest, Hungary – and it had to be cheap too. After some Googling, I came across Gea Tours, which is a Serbian minibus tour company. For €25, a minibus would come to your hostel in Belgrade and take you straight to your hostel in Budapest! That was too good not to grab, so I emailed them asking about an available seat for the morning service, and they emailed back saying there was one more seat left on the 8am service, so I grabbed it. I was in a minibus with 6 other people, and it was quite nice not feeling so crowded. The bus driver was nice, but we had an argument in the restaurant somewhere in rural Hungary because of a communication breakdown. It’s funny if you think about it. The main thing is that he knew where to drop me off – and safely! I would highly recommend this company if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get Eastern Europe – have a look at the link for their destinations, as nearly all are only €25.
The Budapest – Vienna and Vienna – Munich legs were with OrangeWays, a Hungarian bus company. So unbelievably cheap! At the time of booking, Budapest – Vienna only cost me 3500 HUF (AUD$15) and Vienna – Munich was 4900 HUF (AUD$22). I was blown away by the prices, so I booked both legs and Googled for reviews. People were posting mixed reviews – great service, but terrible places to put stops for OrangeWays services. Looking back, I can agree with them. Both trips were great, but I did not like where they placed the stops in Budapest and Vienna. Munich was much better, as it was at Hauptbahnhof, one of the main bus stations there. In Budapest, the bus stop was right opposite the major bus station (Népliget Bus Station) and the main football stadium – without any shade…!!! It was also difficult to find – the signs weren’t very clear leading from the Metro station (Népliget). Needless to say, I found it after about 20 minutes of searching. The bus stop in Vienna was a lot easier to find, as it was opposite the Praterstern Metro station, yet still no shade. There were a couple of shops nearby, so that was slightly better. The service for both legs were great, although the Vienna – Munich was approximately 20 minutes late – and of course, I was worried if it would not turn up at all after reading reviews online, as there were a couple of people saying that their bus did not turn up at all! I would recommend OrangeWays for an inexpensive way to get around some parts of Europe – after all, they do have some flaws but you cannot fault them! They get you from A to B and that’s the main thing! The Vienna – Munich leg was my favourite one – there was a lot of breathtakingly beautiful views of countryside and mountain-y Austria! I just wanted to get off at every town and explore to my hearts content! Next time, Austria 😉
Berlin Linien Bus was amazing! The Munich – Berlin and Berlin – Amsterdam legs cost me $AUD 45 respectively. Excellent service on both legs, especially on the Munich – Berlin leg, where I got to go on a double decker bus and the views were beautiful being able to see from the top! Berlin-Amsterdam was my first overnight bus trip, and it was comfortable to say the least, although I did not like the fact that I had to wait until Amsterdam opened up so I could go straight to my Couchsurfing host’s house to get some more sleep. Little did I know, I would discover crack otherwise known as stroopwafels 😉
The last 3 bus trips (Amsterdam-Brussels; Brussels-Paris; Paris-London) were all with MegaBus UK. Like OrangeWays, MegaBus has bus tickets at el cheapo prices!! Amsterdam-Brussels was only £1.50 ($AUD2.50 at the time of booking)…!!!!! Brussels-Paris was £12 ($AUD18 at the time) and Paris-London for £18 ($AUD28 at the time). MegaBus was absolutely fantastic, and you cannot go wrong with them. Drivers on all trips were also helpful. There’s WiFi on the bus services, but it doesn’t work until you’re in the UK. My favourite thing about this bus company was that I got to go on a P&O Ferry from France to the UK – behold 5am duty-free shopping and currency exchange!
Now, moving onto public transport. I use that daily at home, but by George, public transport in Europe and the UK shits all over Sydney’s public transport system! The London Underground is my favourite – I loved going on it and being able to change lines swiftly without long waiting times. Sure, it’s a tad expensive, but worth every cent! It also connects with the London Overground and the DLR (Docklands Light Rail), and the London Buses too – all payable on the Oyster Card. Approximately £35-40 on your Oyster Card should last you a week or a bit, however if you’ve gone over approximately £8 in a day, then the rest of your trips are free for the rest of the day (correct me if I’m wrong).
The Metro systems in Sofia, Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris were all fantastic. You don’t need to be fluent in their languages to be able to get around – you just need to be armed with Google Maps and do a bit of research on where you want to go, and where to get off. Simple as that. And it’s inexpensive too – you can get a pass like I did in Vienna, where I got a 24 hour pass for €12, and in Amsterdam, 72 hour pass for approximately €25. I would advise you to get 10 Metro tickets in Paris, as it’s only approximately €15 and will save you heaps of money. Most of the time, one-way tickets are at least €1-2 – mainly under €6.
I’ll leave you with this beautiful scene I saw on the Vienna-Munich leg 🙂