Don’t trust the Flixbus!

Nina describes why you should always book your transport well in advance.

In January, I decided that I was going to switch things up during my year abroad and take a (not so) spontaneous trip to Paris from Pavia, Italy. An artist I liked was playing a concert there on the 16th, so instead of flying back home to London, my boyfriend suggested that we do something different and go to France instead. Having booked the tickets in September, the week before my trip had suddenly arrived without me having planned any means of getting there.

Luckily, I knew that the Flixbus was going to be a viable option. While not the most comfortable, the Flixbus was incredibly cheap in comparison to flying or taking the train. Flights from Milan to Paris were surprisingly sparse, and none of the proposed flight times seemed particularly appealing considering we were only going to spend two days there. I had considered the train before realising that it was more expensive – if not the same – as flying, and the travel times were also quite peculiar, with some routes offering a five-hour overnight layover in Geneva. Since I would be meeting my boyfriend in Paris, it seemed both inconvenient and slightly unsafe for me to camp out in Switzerland alone in the cold. 

Eventually, I settled on my €40 return Flixbus all the way from Milan to Paris. I’d planned on doing an overnight trip, hoping to sleep the entire 12-hour coach ride, and all seemed well. I had my ticket ready, along with a comfortable jacket to use as a makeshift blanket, patiently awaiting my trip. While I was slightly terrified at the prospect of taking a bus all the way to another country alone, as I’d heard some nightmare stories, I found solace in knowing that at least it would make for a good story.

Fortunately, a good story it has made! Five hours before my Flixbus was due to pick me up, I’d received an email saying that my bus had been overbooked and that they were going to search for an alternative travel solution. This consisted of a 16-hour trip, elongated by a 4-hour transfer in Strasbourg, with my arrival time delayed until after my concert was supposed to have finished. What good was that? How could they possibly have overbooked a bus? I had so many questions, but I didn’t have time to ask them. I was determined to go to this concert, even if I had to walk there, and this new Flixbus simply wasn’t enough. I’d managed to get a swift refund for my outbound trip and decided that I was going to have to find an alternative by myself. 

Taking the train was not an acceptable solution since I was still freaked out about the midnight layover and there were no more direct flights to Paris. I was screwed! Of course, what could I expect if I was looking at flights that leave in 3 hours? While scouring the net for any plane that could take me to my destination, I realised that since I was young, wild, and free, this was my time to be spontaneous! Or so I told myself. Instead of taking the train, which I should’ve just done, I booked the most expensive Ryanair flight possible to London Stansted… departing in 4 hours. If I could get to London for the night, I could stay with my boyfriend before joining him on the Eurostar. 

Considering it would take me around two hours to get to the airport from Pavia, I didn’t have time to check-in online. I somehow managed to make it to the airport in time, despite paying €50 just to have my boarding pass printed out. As long as I had my passport, I no longer cared, and while at the airport, I swallowed my pride yet again and moved my money out of my savings for the Eurostar. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much money in the span of three hours before. 

When my flight got delayed and I ended up arriving in central London a lot later than expected, I decided that it wasn’t worth going to see my boyfriend before our train at 7am, and I ultimately ended up camping out at the station overnight anyways. Turns out St. Pancras Station is not the ideal place to be at 2am when it’s -5 degrees. I watched a drunk man get arrested for threatening someone with a knife, and lost all sensation in my toes. Truly an eventful night, but one that I certainly won’t be repeating. With zero hours of sleep and just a lukewarm tea, I eventually made it to Paris in time for my concert.

On the way back, I still had to take the Flixbus. Fortunately, this bus actually arrived, although I was perhaps cursed to be placed next to an old woman whose toddler granddaughter (sitting further back on the bus with her mother) insisted on seeing grandma every five minutes. While I had initially booked a window seat, I was somehow squished into the aisle and had to endure the family tossing this baby tossed over my lap constantly. The screaming and crying at 2am was hellish enough, but what really set me off was when I was used as a human table, with the girl’s jacket and shoes being placed on my lap as though I didn’t exist. This continued for hours on end.

I am surprised I made it to Milan in one piece, but with the bus delayed and my slumber interrupted, I emerged from the neon green bus feeling more dead than a zombie. 

The Flixbus can be a convenient and cheap option for many to travel, and when going around one country, it might be more reliable. Unfortunately, I’d had a completely ill-fated journey with them and wouldn’t wish this nightmare bus on anybody. Moral of the story – book your travel in advance! Trust me, you won’t regret it.