*The views reflected in this article are my own and have not been influenced in any way. It is a real-life account of the journey we experienced*
Flying is, of course, one of the easiest ways of travelling. For most of my life, flying was my only form of transport when it came to discovering new places around the world. However, my fiancee (for an inexplicable reason) has a fear of flying. It’s no fault of his own (nobody can help what they fear) but it does mean that when we think about going abroad, we have to think about other forms of transport. While this does not matter to me, it does make travelling a little more stressful and delayed.
With our move to Denia looming, we had two choices, travel by train (which we have done before and which I do recommend) or try out a company called Flixbus.
We only recently discovered Flixbus by searching online for alternate ways to travel through Europe. Flixbus is a German company that began operating in 2013. So it’s still a relatively young business.
Their whole ideology set on providing a cheap and convenient way to travel around Europe and the U.S.A by bus. And, as this is modern times, it has all the mod cons of trains and planes to provide a comfortable journey for its passengers. For example, comfortable reclining seats, free WIFI, and onboard toilets.
The Flixbus routes are quite extensive and definitely worth checking out. For the price you are paying, it really is worth the adventure- you can literally go anywhere! And so it was, we took the plunge and looked at booking our course to Denia.
The Flixbus Journey
After researching ways to get to Denia, our route ended up being:
- National express from Bournemouth to London (as mentioned in my London blog, this is a great form of transport throughout the UK.)
- London to Paris on Flixbus #1
- Paris to Barcelona – an overnight bus, Flixbus #2
- Barcelona to Valencia by ALSA Spanish bus
- Stay in Valencia overnight
- Valencia to Denia – Alsa bus
If it looks exhausting, I can tell you, it was!
So, after the journey from Bournemouth to London, we were sat in Victoria Coach Station waiting for our first Flixbus to arrive. Our departure time was 7:30 am which arrived in Paris at 4:30 pm. While this is a long trip, it was certainly a lot cheaper than the Eurostar to Paris.
The first thing you need to know about Flixbus is that it is bright green. Imagine a lime on wheels. At exactly 7:30 am, this bright bus pulled up and immediately we began boarding. A quick check of our tickets and passports then we boarded the bus. We could tell this first Flixbus was a bit dated, it did not have WIFI and we could not find any plug sockets. (I wasn’t precicely what we were advertised considering what they say on their website, but we didn’t kick up a fuss as it was about good enough).
This did not phase us as firstly it was super cheap, and secondly, we could manage this time around without WIFI and charging our phones, as long as the night bus was equipped. Looking ahead, we would be fine.
Being 7:30 am and having the bus mostly full of British people, who do not dare make a noise on public transport, no one made a sound the whole journey. Or, perhaps people just wanted to sleep throughout the journey, who knows. Saying that, it does remind me that there was one loud snorer on the bus, but who could blame him having to catch a bus so early!
To get to Paris, we had to go through the channel tunnel, as you would expect. So a few hours after leaving London, we arrived in Dover. This is the first negative touch point we had with Flixbus, the driver pulled up at the channel tunnel reception building and then gave us instructions… in French! Considering that the majority of us were English-speaking and that we were still in England, no one had any idea what we had to do and what was going on! Whilst I respect that he was French himself, and that we were travelling into France, I would have thought that drivers would speak in the language of the country they are currently in.
Anyway, Tom and I departed and we quickly figured out that it was for passport patrol. This was a quick checkpoint before we arrive in France. We had our passports checked and then visited the bathroom.
While we were walking back from the bathroom, we had the driver come into the building moaning that there was no time, and that people needed to be back on the bus. I understand that he has time constraints, but he should have spoken to us about this in English, being as we were in England (maybe that’s just my thoughts).
With everyone hurried back on the bus, we boarded for the channel tunnel. Whilst Tom has done the channel tunnel many times before, I hadn’t been on it in about a decade. I forgot how closed in and isolated it felt. It was weird to think we are under the sea!
First stop, Europe
Finally, we made it to Europe. The sudden flash of sunlight saw us depart from the tunnel (after a quick 25 minutes under water).
And so it was, we were on our way again.
The journey from Calais to Paris was fine, no issues, no thrills, just sat there for 6hrs. I sort of forgot that it would take that long still to get to Paris if I’m perfectly honest. Whether it’s because I’m used to getting the Eurostar, I always thought it was closer than that. Is it obvious that geography is not my strong point? ha.
We arrived safely at Paris Bercy bus station at 4:30 pm, with our next bus leaving at 6:30 pm. We had 2hrs to kill.
When we planned this journey we thought, considering that it must be quite a busy bus station, there’s bound to be food near by. How wrong we were though.
You have to remember that we were not simply going on holiday, this was a permanent move, so we had 2 monster suitcases and backpacks with us, and moving around was not easy! We could only walk about 5 minutes before getting exhausted. Despite looking around in the near vicinity, there was absolutely no easy place from where we could get a quick bite to eat.
Instead, we just sat at Bercy park in the sun for 2 hours, ate our already prepacked food some quick food and reflected on the journey so far. To be honest it was nice to have a bit of fresh air and 2 hours quickly passed. Before we knew it, we were once again waiting in line for our next bus with the hope that we’d get on one of the more modern, double-decker coaches! Unfortunately, the second Flixbus is where it really all went to sh*t.
Firstly, the bus was 30 minutes late (we should have known this was not a good sign). On top of that, due to so many confused people (unsure why), boarding took another 45 minutes. So, despite are initial leaving time of 6:30 pm, we left at 7:45 pm- we were already over an hour behind! We were thinking this had the potential to disrupt our plans in Barcelona where we were planning to catch a train as soon as we arrived, but we still had hope that they could catch up the hour or so that was missed.
Once everyone was on-board, we were ready to start our next journey when the driver gave some more bad news…. the toilet onboard was broken!!! Not only that, but we were not allowed to eat or drink on the bus, there was to be no noise after 10 pm (which is fine), and to compensate for the toilet being broke they would have to stop every 2 hours! Bare in mind this is when we could have been sleeping!
I mean, being an overnight bus, surely the toilet should have been working! Considering that they advertise facilities on-board and that we got none of this, we were already deeply disappointed. As a company, if a bus does not have a working toilet for an overnight journey they should provide another bus. Especially considering ours was probably the longest journey running at the time!
We were not impressed…
So, it will hardly surprise you to hear that we were not impressed. Honestly, the whole bus angry and just wanted to get on our way… and eventually, so we did.
Let me tell you something, telling the bus to be quiet and not make a sound, while the bus drivers put on loud rave music is not something we consider acceptable. (Yes, this was after 10 pm). So how exactly were we meant to sleep when they were blasting electronic music all night? The music did stop later on, thank god… probably about two hours before we were to get off the bus! So not much consolation really.
So far the night bus was the complete opposite to what they describe on their website.
But anyway, we resigned ourselves to a terrible night sleep and that we would be exhausted by Barcelona. We also most likely miss our trains and have to find alternative transport, but it was something we signed up to and had to prepare for.
I will not go into detail but you get the picture – no toilet, stopping every 2 hours, not allowed to eat and we’re way behind schedule.
One hour prior to Barcelona we had a final rest stop, we all departed to use the bathroom and get some fresh air only to discover that the female toilets were broken – Great!
Women had to use males, which created a massive queue, then, out of nowhere, two more monster busses turned up and hundreds of people were shoving and pushing to use the bathroom! Tom being on the bus and I, still waiting for the toilet, suddenly heard a horn. Yes, you’ve guessed right, it the bus driver was hurrying us back on the bus. This was probably only 5-10 minutes after we pulled up so you can imagine he didn’t really wait long. I had to run back having not gone to the toilet! I was not a happy passenger.
Even as we begin moving off, we see three guys running – the bus had started to leave without them! The driver moaned at them like it was their fault we are behind time despite it being the drivers who turned up late on a broken bus!
Anyway, when we saw the familiar sights of Barcelona a wave of relief washed over us. It was like coming back home again. Although this was short lived by the fact we were by now three hours behind schedule! Lord knows how they managed to make us even more late! Our original arrival time was 8 am, and we got to Barcelona bus station at 11 am.
Before everything went wrong, we were planning to get the 10 am train to Valencia which, after only a three hour journey, would leave us a good afternoon and evening exploring the city. Now that was out of the question.
Instead, we chilled out and got a coffee in Estacio del Nord (we know this place well as lived around the corner from it), and looked at alternate ways to get to Valencia.
It was either we got next train which went at 2 pm (and was a ten minutes metro ride away), or get another bus from where we are at 11 pm.
So, of course, our best alternative was to get the bus. You can get the tickets for the bus (run by ALSA bus company which is the main bus company in Spain to get around) on the first floor of the station. Up the escalators and straight ahead were ALSA booths, but to make it even easier, they now do little machines where you can get tickets. At the time, we asked for help as it seemed everyone was struggling how to use them. However, even though we were shown how to book our seats it’s very simple. There’s even an English translation option.
The difference in quality was outstanding on the ALSA bus. This had TV screens, WIFI and big seats (perfect for Tom).
We sat in utter silence for 4hrs and watched Netflix in total peace. *Sigh*, at last!
Valencia- what can I say? Such an amazing city, architecture… the whole vibe felt like coming home- even when we were just driving through to the station. We were fortunate to have picked a hotel (Hotel Kramer) right by the bus station and so luckily didn’t have to lug our suitcases to far before we could relax at the hotel.
We spent the rest of the afternoon / evening exploring a nearby shopping centre, eating some delicious and juicy burgers, and then just collapsing in our hotel room. Our only regret was that we couldn’t stay longer in Valencia.
The next morning, after a little morning walk and a lovely breakfast included in our stay, we headed back to the bus station to catch our final bus to Denia. After collecting our tickets from another ALSA machine (easy peasy, by the way, and we didn’t have help this time) and a little wait, we were on our way to our final destination. Just one hour away and we would be there!
In summary, the Flixbus is a cheap way to travel around Europe. No, it is not the most glamorous or accommodating form of transport, but it gets the job done. It cost us £25 to get to Paris from London, whereas the Eurostar was £150! You really can’t complain about the price.
Paris to Barcelona was only £30. The only downfall was the service on this journey. The actual trip itself was fine.
I really do see the appeal to younger travellers hoping on and off around Europe on a shoestring budget. They also have an app, which updates in real-time to help with finding and getting buses.
We are rating our experience as a 6/10. If it had been on time, bus drivers explaining things clearer, and the toilet working, it would be an 8. I am glad we experienced an overnight bus, but if you can afford the extra money (and you’re not afraid), fly.
I hope this Flixbus review has been helpful 🙂