For my trip from Hamburg to Cologne I tried one of the numerous new long-distance bus companies – in this FlixBus review I analyze the advantages and disadvantages of traveling through germany by bus.
Background: Due to the amendment of a law the Deutsche Bahn doesn't have the exclusive right for long-haul ground transportation in Germany since january 2013 anymore. Therefore it is possible to travel much cheaper from one big city to the other by bus. Due to the low fares, the number of connections and the possibility to book online I chose the bus company FlixBus for my trip from Hamburg to Cologne.
Fares & Booking
You should consider booking as early as possible to make sure to get the best deal. Furthermore choosing unpopular dates for traveling could ensure much cheaper fares as well. Unfortunately the website is in German but I wrote this english How-to to help non-german speakers through the process.
My trip from Hamburg to Cologne has been just 17€ as it was a special offer (I booked 10 days in advance and chose a wednesday for the trip). The return trip was supposed to be on a Friday, therfore I had to pay the standard fare of 34€.
I booked online, the process was very straight forward and the payment via Paypal ran smoothly. I received an Email with the e-ticket attached (*.pdf) including information regarding the location of the bus stop and the time. After printing I easily checked in at the bus.
competitive comparison: A train ticket with Deutsche Bahn is about 86€ (standard fare) – you save 52€ (standard fare) if choosing the bus. Also HKX offers train connections for 48€ (Mon-Thu, Sat) and 78€ (Fri, Sun) – you save 14€ traveling during the week, or 44€ traveling around the weekend.
Service & Comfort
FlixBus is offering free WiFi on nearly all routes. The connection was not the fastest but it was sufficient and worked well on both trips. A good opportunity to work while on the road. Only plugs have been rare – there was just one possibility to charge your device in the whole bus.
The seats, the seat spacing and the whole interior have been standard – but everything was brand-new. Beside a small table and a seat pocket there was a foot rest and you could recline your seat for a little bit. Luggage could be placed inside the huge luggage space.
I was able to buy snacks and beverages from the driver. Moreover you have the possibility to use the toilette inside the bus – it was new and clean as well.
competitive comparison: The seats inside the ICEs of Deutsche Bahn are way more comfortable and offer more leg space. Moreover you're able to walk around on the train – a huge advantage! But there isn't the possibility of using free WiFi on the train.
Time (Duration & Punctuality)
This is one of the biggest disadvantages of this mode of transportation. In comparison to train and plane traveling by bus is a lot slower as you have to deal with traffic and sometimes with long waiting times due to traffic jams.
For my trip to cologne i needed 6,5 hrs and have been 30 min behind the schedule which was quite good. The return trip on friday afternoon has been 10h instead of 6h due to massive traffic and the fact that we had to make breaks to ensure the rest periods for the driver.
competitive comparison: Deutsche Bahn only needs 4h without changing trains for the same trip. Traveling around the weekend could lead to long travel times via bus due to the traffic on the Autobahn.
As already mentioned all buses have been new – equipped with seat belts for all seats. At the beginning we have been forced to fasten our seat belts and to keep it fastened during the whole journey.
The drivers drove cautious and I felt relatively safe. But 2 out of 4 drivers used their cellphones while driving (phone calls & SMS) – this could lead to dangerous situations especially when driving on the Autobahn.
All drivers have been very friendly and kind as they provided information and helped with the luggage. While approaching a traffic jam they tried to find alternative routes to avoid them and kept as informed about the traffic situation.
If you want to travel by using the service of Flixbus: use their Booking engine to see all connections, times and prices! As there is no english website feel free to use the english article How to book a Flixbus Ticket online on this Blog :)
About the company
According to Wikipedia the company has been founded in 2011. In January they did a rebranding and startet organizing a huge network to connect big cities in Germany by bus. But they aren't operating those connections: “FlixBus acts as an agent between the customer and local bus companies who operate the long-haul bus lines without subsidies within the FlixBus brand.” (Source: AGB & ABB, Flixbus.de)
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Disclosure: I paid everything on my own, the bus company has not been involved in the creation process of this review. I used this company several times and like their service, so I have no problem recommending it to you (and using my affiliate link).