Traveling in Europe is these days almost as easy as one-two-three. There are so many budget options to choose from to get from A to B, wherever it is the train, the ferry, the plane, by car or the latest trend in low-cost travel, the overland buses. Since I had already tried budget airlines like Indigo or SpiceJet when in India, Germany and Europe have remained untouched ground so far. Working for an airline myself, flying has more or less always been some sort of budget travel for me. But for my weekend trip to Prague, I wanted to try something different.
To be honest, it was rather an analytical decision to book the Flixbus for the routing from Munich to Prague. It cost me 48 € to get from downtown Munich (ZOB) to Prague´s main train station, which lies perfectly located to connect to any other destination within or outside the city.
Those of you who have already been to Munich know that getting to/from the airport into the city is quite a hassle. And a costly one (a one-way ticket comes presently at 11,20€ pp). So this would have meant an extra 22,40€ on top of my standby ticket fare plus the 4,50€ (return trip) for the airport bus in Prague plus a weekend ticket for the public transportation system of the Czech capital which is around 11,50€ pp. Fairly, the latter also adds to the price of the overland bus costs.
But in the end, honestly, the plane would have not brought a distinctive advantage in time, comfort or convenience to justify these extra 26,90€. And since I had tried the bus company earlier that year, I decided to give Flixbus another chance and spend the money saved on a decent Czech dinner that same evening.
The journey itself started just like booking a plane ticket in the internet. Via the website or the app, I could choose my favorite connections (there are four buses daily from Munich to Prague, i.e.!). I decided for the 10 am service with arrival to Prague at 2:30pm since this would perfectly harmonize with the hotel´s check-in regulations. And it would leave enough time of the remaining day to have a first glance at one of Europe´s most beautiful cities around.
For the return, I booked the 5.20pm bus with arrival to Munich at late 10pm. So I could use almost the entire Sunday to catch up with sightseeing or simply to spend wandering around. Payment is conducted online by using PayPal, direct money transfer or credit card and you will instantly receive your ticket (paper and a digital version for Passbook) as well as luggage tags for self-printing.
There are two bus stations in and around Munich from where Flixbus operates. The ZOB (Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof close to the main station and easily accessible by S-train station Hackerbrücke) or Fröttmaning. The latter lies a little outside the city center and buses do not operate nonstop from here.
I arrived 15 minutes prior to departure at the platform where the bus pulled in just moments later. My biggest concern when booking this trip was actually not the comfort onboard, but the fellow passengers. Considering the low prices for this 4 1/2 hours one-way journey, that it was a weekend and the fact that a lot of students like to visit Prague for party and drinking purposes or young men celebrating their bachelor parties, I pictured myself being stuck in a bunch of loud and impetuous young males, having the smell of beer and perspiration in my nose.
I was more than happy to discover, that the people waiting with me obviously had the same travel intentions and concerns as I had. The crowd was diverse, from young teenagers from abroad to business men in suits.
Boarding went swiftly and without hassle. Each passenger at Flixbus is entitled to one carry on (max. 7 kg) and two pieces of “checked” luggage (max. 30 kg together) which you hand over to the driver before entering the bus and which you are delivered right when getting off again. No long waiting times at luggage belts at all!
Tickets and ID´s were scanned upon embarkation and head counts were conducted every time the bus made a scheduled stop or break in-between. Right on time, the bus departed Munich and shortly after, we already were on the highway towards Prague.
Of course, there was no full meal and beverage service included like on airlines like Lufthansa, for instance, but since I knew this in advance, I could perfectly plan and prepare my onboard snack to my needs. Drinks could be purchased from the driver, but you may only pay by using Euro coins which I hardly carry with me. Unfortunately, Flixbus operated the line by using a leased double-decker bus from another company. This meant no free WiFi onboard (which normally is included in the fare, yet the quality of the connection can vary big time!). Thank god I have a free roaming sim card!
The seating was a little bit more comfortable than on the bus I went on last time, I have to say. Each seat had an adjustable foot rest, was comfortably padded and the seat pitch was slightly more than you would expect on any big airline these days. I sat in the rear compartment of the upper deck for the better view, which was a good choice. On this bus, the recline was tremendous and the paired seats could actually be drawn to the side at the touch of a button, increasing shoulder space that also added to the comfort.
While I always have trouble finding sleep on a plane when flying in Economy Class, I actually managed to snooze for almost 2 hours! I woke up just in time for the in-between break at a Czech highway pull-in which came handy to get some fresh air.
The only thing that is much, much better on an airplane are the toilets. Lack of paper towels, soap and enough toilet paper were just a few things that could be improved when not speaking of the general hygienic appearance of the lavatory. For the next trip, I surely will have disinfection, wet towels and tissues with me, and so should you!
I was actually pretty impressed that we arrived at Prague´s main station (Hlavní Nádraží) on the hour and that no traffic jams had slowed us down on the way. The stop of the overland buses is right in front of the main terminal.
Departures leave right opposite the busy street from stop No 4 (Your ticket indicates detailed information about departure points). On the way back, the only thing that went different was a slight delay of 30 minutes when reaching Munich. The driver had made a few more breaks in-between, but as it was dark outside, I rather cared for a rested and alert driver than travel low-cost and a lack of safety.
When I reached home, I tried to sum up for a reason why I should not consider to take the bus again. I could not really! The only thing that I came up with was the traveling time itself. To my preference and comfort, I could do any trip again that lasted five hours the longest. Because a lot of destinations around Munich like Budapest, Vienna or Zürich are not faster to reach when taking the plane when you add up all the connecting and waiting times that come along with it.
For everything else, I would rather fly than drive.
For more info about connections and prices, check www.flixbus.co.uk
Visit ZOB´s website for information about local services at the station.