First an apology, I’ve been quiet for a few weeks but I have a good excuse. The long winter this year just kept me in hibernation longer than usual. It may still be freezing outside and the ground is white, but at least the days are getting longer, so now it is time for planning a bit of travel.
It seems that where ever you look these days there is some sort of disruptive startup or technology in the market and, when it comes to transport at least, it is highly colourful. In 2013, Flixbus was founded in Germany and in 4 short years it has come to dominate the German intercity bus network with 90% of the market since it bought Postbus from Deutsche Bahn in 2016. They have also been rapidly expanding their network across Europe and are now the largest operator in France, Italy and Austria as well and their routes include 27 countries across Europe.
Their business model is relatively simple and by keeping their overheads low, they can offer great prices. For example, a return ticket to Munich costs between €30-40 or up to €50 if you book last minute. By comparison, the train with DB will cost about €50 with a saver ticket or over €100 last minute. Of course if you have invested in a BahnCard which gives you 25 or 50% discount the trains are definitely more affordable but still often not as little as Flixbus. If you are up for a long trip, you can get to London in 17 hrs for about €80, but that seems a long time to me in a bus! For some reason, Paris is the same price and time, even though you can drive there in only 6 hrs.
Deutsche Bahn have actually begun to suffer a lot from this competition. People haven’t been renewing their Bahncards and new customers are getting hard to find. So if you received discount coupons from DB to renew your BahnCard in the last year, this is the reason. They are trying to stop their regular customers disappearing.
So how does Flixbus work? The buses can be booked through a very simple app or on the website and there are many departures each day from a city like Frankfurt. The journeys take about twice as long as the train, so 6hrs 30mins to Munich instead of 3hrs by train. All Flixbuses have WiFi (not on some partner services though), a toilet, refreshments for sale, and a guaranteed seat that you don’t have to pay extra for. That bugs me with the trains. The seats have lots of leg room, although that really depends on your legs :-). The only disadvantage is that not all seats have power sockets, but there are communal charging stations.
Buses leave centrally in Frankfurt from near the main train station and from the airport.
Oh and the buses are bright green, with orange stripes (?!) … so you can’t miss then.