Flixbus is the biggest company offering long-distance bus service all over Germany and is rapidly expanding its network in Europe. Unlike Deutsche Bahn, Flixbus offers affordable tickets and is therefore especially attractive to young people.
Over the past year, I had a love-hate relationship with Flixbus. At first, I was really happy to find such a cheap way to travel in Germany and small problems didn’t seem to bother me much. The more I traveled with Flixbus, the more disadvantages I started to notice. At one point I was so disappointed with their service that I said I would never use them again. After a while I started traveling with Flixbus in Germany again, but only when it fits my travel plans the best. Here is some information I wish I knew before I started traveling in Germany with Flixbus.
Be prepared for the delay.
This drove me crazy at first. Every time I used Flixbus, the bus was 15-60 minutes late in 50 % of cases. With the time I learned to react more calmly. There can always be unexpected traffic on the highway that leads to delays. If you drove a car the same route, you would be stuck in the same traffic. And if you think trains are better – they are also late sometimes, but it is even more frustrating when you pay for an expensive ICE ticket and your train is late. Just be aware of possible delays and plan your time accordingly if you going by bus to the airport or to some important appointment.
Bus stops can be difficult to understand.
Many bus stops don’t have the stuff to help you find your bus. Most bus stations don’t have a board telling you to which platform the bus will arrive. Some bus stops don’t even have bus platforms. The bus stop might look really chaotic and you might end up walking from one bus to another trying to find yours. The good thing though is that when there is Flixbus stuff on the bus station, they are usually very helpful. They have the list of passengers for every bus and I saw them many times walking around the bus station and trying to find the missing passengers.
Wifi on bus works, but…
Flixbus widely advertises free wifi on board, but don’t expect too much. Sometimes it works fine, sometimes not so well. Wifi speed depends on how many people are using wifi on the same bus. It is usually enough to chat, but I would not plan to do serious work relying on wifi. If your bus is crossing a country border, wifi might disappear after you leave Germany. I always had this problem when going to Switzerland, but I heard the company is currently trying to improve this. Also, I was once advised by the driver that wifi works the best in the front part of the bus, so I always try to take a front seat and have been complaining less about the Internet since then.
UPDATE: On my last trip with Flixbus I found out that there is a Wifi usage limit for every user. I didn’t find any information how much is the limit per user but my limit was exceeded after around 10 minutes just browsing Instagram :/
Customer service can be bad.
I once had a bus delay of 5 hours and was told that I would receive a refund of my ticket if I decide not to wait for this bus. I sent the email to customer service but didn’t receive any answer. After 2 weeks I send the email again and only received an answer after one month. In my opinion, such a big company should invest more in customer service. I heard from other people about an unpleasant experience with Flixbus, and often complaints are not even about delays, but about how the drivers behave.
If by this moment you are already discouraged to travel with Flixbus, don’t be upset. There are also many good things about traveling Germany by bus:
Sometimes bus connections are better than train connections.
The great advantage of Flixbus is that they have some direct connections between cities that have no direct train connection. The same 2-hour trip you take by bus might last 3-4 hours if you take a train. Traveling by railway between smaller cities in Germany often requires changing trains that is more time consuming, and you risk to skip your connection if one of the trains is late. Therefore going by bus might be faster and more convenient sometimes.
Short trips are the best value for money.
The bus ticket for 1-3 hours journey will cost you between 6-15 Euro if booked early enough. The train ticket in Germany for the same route will be normally 2-3 times more expensive. I find it bearable to travel by bus up to 4 hours, after that you clearly understand why traveling by train is more comfortable. So if you need to travel between two German cities less than 3 hours and the bus ticket is significantly cheaper than a train ticket, take bus.
Flixbus also has night buses that a cheaper than night trains, but they are not comparable to trains in terms of comfort.
Convinced to try out Flixbus now? Then there are some tips how to make the most of your trip:
Subscribe to the newsletter.
If you plan to travel with Flixbus in Germany often, don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter. Over the last year, I got 5-6 emails with discounts for buying a ticket. Even when it is 10 % discount, saving a little bit of money always feels good. Plus you will always know where there are ticket sales or new connections launch from your city.
Give them your number.
You have the option to save phone number when booking a ticket, and you better do so, because if the bus is delayed you will usually get SMS to your phone.
Download the Flixbus app.
Flixbus app is really helpful. It’s a convenient way to search for connections and book tickets plus it offers online departure/arrival board and a map that you can use to find your bus stop. You can also download the ticket for a quick checking, so there is no need to print it.
Similar to other means of transportation, book tickets as early as possible, because they get expensive as they sell out. The ticket that was originally 8 euros might cost you 20 euro if you book later. If you need to change your plans later, you can cancel or reschedule for a small fee.
Cancel ticket if needed.
Ticket canceling is possible 15 minutes before departure, but only on the website. You will then receive a refund voucher equivalent to the price of the canceled ticket that you can use to book a new ticket.
UPDATE: Now Flixbus charges 1 Euro fee for every cancellation process.
Check for alternatives.
Don’t book the bus ticket just because you think the bus is the cheapest way. Deutsche Bahn is trying hard to win over passengers that switched to the bus. Sometimes they have really good deals and you might be lucky to get a ticket for the same or even less price than a bus ticket. I like to use this website to check possible variant first because they compare offers from different bus companies and railway, but then use the official Deutsche Bahn website as the information is not always up to date.
Do you like to travel by bus and how was your experience so far?