Transport in Europe on the Cheap

When I got back home (Poland) last November 2012, I decided to do some backpacking in random European cities I always wanted to visit as a little girl. These cities were Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Prague in Czech Republic, Oslo in Norway, Berlin in Germany, Brussels in Belgium and Warsaw (with some other smaller villages, towns and cities) in Poland. In order to do it on the cheap I used Couchsurfing (being hosted mostly by natives), took only one return flight (from Berlin Schönefeld to Oslo Rygge) and mostly travelled by trains and buses.

A girl carrying two backpacks one in front of her one on her back
That’s me carrying my two backpacks

 

In today’s post I would like to share with you some cheap and comfortable means of transport you can use when travelling to these places (Note: I have not been paid for any of those links by any of those mention companies).

 #1 Polski Bus (English: Polish Bus)

Polski Bus, red bus
Typical for this company red buses

 

 Polski Bus is great value inter-city express coach service based in Poland, serving both national and international routes. The company offers cheap fares from just PLN1 (plus PLN 1 booking fee = $0.6).  It operates some of Europe’s most modern, high quality and fuel efficient coaches equipped with air conditioning and free Wi-Fi. They serve 19 cities across Poland and Central and Eastern Europe, – including 5 European locations: Berlin, Berlin Schönefeld, Bratislava Prague and Vienna. For more info you can visit their website (available in English).

My experience with Polski Bus:

  • I travelled with Polski Bus a lot, at least 4 times: from Wroclaw to Warsaw and return (price: PLN35 each way = $11) and from Wroclaw to Prague (price: PLN79 for return ticket = $25). 
  • The Wi-Fi didn’t always work properly on my laptop.
  • The staff were incredibly nice and helpful.

 

#2 Eurolines Couches

2 backpacks, Eurolines bus and a girl waiting for her bus
Me waiting for my Eurolines service in Amsterdam. I was heading to Brussels

 

Eurolines couches travel across Europe from the UK.  They provide very cheap and flexible bus travels from London to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Ireland and beyond. Check out their website for some deals they make every week.

My experience with Eurolines:

I travelled with Eurolines from Amsterdam to Brussels, took me about 4 hours to get there and I paid 20 EURO (20 EURO for the ticket, 3 EURO for service fees and taxes and 5 EURO for my insurance). I booked it last minute but if you do it in advance you can get a ticket even for 3 EURO.

 

#3 Ryanair Flights 

Plane and the sky
I am not keen on flying, but this flight was cheap, quick and pretty nice

 

I don’t like flying with Raynair if I can be honest.  This company has one of the cheapest flights available when flying within Europe but the way the customers are treated is unacceptable. They want to get every penny out of you, the staff are unpleasant and never smile. Moreover, there are so many extra payments hidden you don’t even realize when booking your tickets with them. However, my Taiwanese host in Prague found a great deal for me, a return ticket from Berlin to Rygge for $77 (the total price). At that time Ryanair had awesome deals on flight from/to Berlin, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Poland, Spain and Italy – all below $80 per person for a return ticket.

#Arnold vans 

A van called Arnold and a guy standing next to it
Mietek – our driver, an awesome pal!

 

Arnold is a small but fast-growing company picking up people from their homes and taking them directly to the given address in Germany, Holland and Belgium. There are maximum of 8-10 people in the van, the drivers are amazingly friendly and the prices are pretty low. Check out their website for more info.

My experience with Arnold:

  • I paid 50 Euro ($66) for being picked up from my flat in Poland and safely taken to my host’s flat in Amsterdam.
  • I had a lot of fun with the drivers and other Polish people travelling to Rotterdam and other smaller Dutch cities.
  • It took us 8 hours to get to my destination.
  • There were 2 long stops on the way (could be more if we needed). 

 

Some transport tips:

Subway ticket in Amsterdam Amstel
Getting my subway to Amsterdam Amstel

 

  •  In Amsterdam you can walk almost everywhere, there is no need to take any buses, trains or taxis unless you try to get to Amsterdam Amstel to catch your Eurolines transport.  The ticket costs 2,60 EURO and it takes about 25 minutes (a few stops from the central station).
  • If you want to get from Brussels to Bruges the return ticket costs 9.90 EURO and you can get it at the North station (takes 54 minutes to get there). The trains leave every 15 minutes, there are 2 trains per 1h every weekend.
Polish trains and train station in Poland
Polish trains

 

  • It is much cheaper to book your flight from Berlin Schönefeld (easy to get to by U-Bahn – Berlin metro) to Oslo central airport, not the Rygge one as it takes up to 1 hour to get from Oslo Rygge to central bus station in Oslo city center and the tickets are dead expensive (240 Norwegian crowns with student discount for a ride = $43!, operated by Unibuss Ekspress).

What’s your favourite budget Europe transport? Share with me in comments.

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43 Comments

  • Ryanair can be a nightmare, but if you can do a trip with just hand luggage you’re ok :)
    I always found train travel (Deutsche Bahn) in Germany pretty cheap. Got a single ticket from Salzburg to Prague for 39E once – Europe special I think they were called. Also, each Bundesland in Germany has a ticket for that area you can use anywhere within for a whole day, and a group version which was always a great and cheap way to travel! I used trains a lot in Germany, can’t you tell?!
    Not used buses yet but I definitely will when I get back to Europe, whenever that may be ;)

    • Agree with Ryanair services. Can be a nightmare if you travel with more one one bag. Simply loved the Deutsche Bahn services – cheap, fast and convenient.

  • I love using Eurolines to travel across Europe. The services tend to be reliable and on the whole comfortable. Will be using Eurolines when travelling to Vienna from London in a fortnight.

  • Great tips! I traveled with Eurolines for the first time last year and loved it – a return ticket from Cologne to Paris for 70 €uros booked only three days in advance! In Germany, the Deutsche Bahn also offers great European specials – I paid 39 €uros from Frankfurt to Prague. My most recent discoveries are http://www.meinfernbus.de (for traveling in Germany, Northern France, and Switzerland) and the Thalys trains in-between Cologne, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, London, and a few other great cities in those areas. All in all – traveling in Europe can be super cheap and (!) way more eco-friendly than flying!

    • I’ve heard of Meinfernbus.de before as some of my friends recommended it to me. Checked it out, very interesting and seems to be reliable and comfortable as well. Thanks x

  • I’m currently in Poland. I will be taking a bus from Krakow to Budapest in a few days. Eurolines is great value. Unfortunately they don’t service this route on the day I am planning to travel. Luckily orange bus services this this day at the same price of 35 pln. In my opinion, if you have the time its better to take the bus as opposed to the sleeper train as it is a lot cheaper even if you have to pay an extra night at the hostel.

    • Agree. Whereabout in Poland are you travelling right now? If you need a place to stay either in Wroclaw, Poznan, Krakow, Szczecin or Warsaw, let me know. Have a few friends there who could host you and show you around. Hope you are having an awesome time. Have you tried pierogi (Polish dumplings) already?

      • I am in Krakow at the moment, but leave for Budapest tomorrow. Thanks for the offer though. I am loving it here. I have been having nothing but Polish food since I got here. I have had Pierogi twice (spinach and cheese), as well as Polish sausage and Zapiekanka.

      • That’s awesome. So happy to hear you enjoyed Poland. I prefer German sausages, but Zapiekanka is my favourite ;-). Have an awesome time in Budapest! Waiting for some photos, never been there.

  • I’m such a freak for frugal travel! Another way of getting around that I have had success with is carpooling. I use couchsurfers to find people who are traveling and then we split the gas. It’s cool cause you get to make a friend along the way!

  • Wow, those coach trips were really cheap, especially the Polish bus company.

    Like you I detest Ryanair. I’ve flown with them once and do everything I can to avoid them again. I totally disagree with their business practices and what in my mind are misleading prices, you always end up being charged more than they first let you believe. Flying with a major airline can in many instances be close to the same total cost of flying with Ryanair. At least you have some more comfort, respect from staff and not feel as though you are being fleeced whenever you ask for something basic.

    • I know something about misleading prices Ryanair tends to offer online and they you end up paying much more at the airport. Hate it! If you know any cheap and reliable Europe airlines, let me know :)

  • I do not like Ryanair…I only get on them when their price is incredibly cheap compared to other airlines. Not a huge fan of flying, I really prefer trains. I have heard of Polski Bus, need to try them out, they are so cheap! Thanks Agness for this useful tips!

  • Great post, Agness and very useful as we are planning to be in Krakow in May and then head to Prague. Do you know if Polski Bus runs from Krakow to Prague? Of course I could probably look it up on their website. Lots of great info. I’ve also been checking out your posts on Czech cuisine and love your “on the cheap” approach to everything, my style exactly!

    • Unfortunately, there PolskiBus is not going from Kraków to Prague, but you can get from Kraków to Warsaw, the capital city and then from Warsaw get a bus to Prague :). Yeah, love travelling on the cheap.

  • You make me feel I want to travel around Europe! (again!!)

    Is not your backpack too big for just a few weeks traveling? where is Cez to carry it? :P

    As a former worker-slave of Ryanair, I don’t use them either…I would rather hitchhike in the night!

    Deutsche Bahn is amazing but in Germany and surroundings the option of shared car is also very convenient. I did Munich- Budapest for 30€ (booked 2 days in advance)

    • It makes me feel like I wanna get back there as well!!!!!! The backpack seems to be over-packed I know but I was carrying a lot of presents for my hosts :):) and Cez was back in Laos at that time!! :)

  • Awesome post Agness! I have been reluctant to revisit Europe for 10 years now, simply because after Asia, I’m terrified of the prices. But this post makes long distance travel through Europe feel a little more doable. The Eurolines Couches looks like a winner for me. Now only if you could do more posts on Europe under $25/dday. lol. Accommodations are the next killer.

    • Impossible is nothing. Try couchsurfing, but be extra careful when selecting your host. If I were you, I would go for a female host :-). It’s gonna be much cheaper. If not, there are some cheap hostels around, don’t worry about that! It’s all doable. I have a few friends in some capital cities in Europe so they can host you without any problems :):)

  • Thanks for an informative article! I’ll definitely have to take advantage of Polski Bus when we’re in Poland… 35 PLN for a ride from Warsaw to Krakow can’t be beat! It doesn’t look like Krakow to Wroclaw has a bus route though, so I’ll need to take a train or something. Any suggestions?

    • You’re right. There is no Krakow- Wroclaw route for Polski bus, but you can take PKP train. It leave at 05:53 from Krakow Central Station (Kraków Główny) and you will be in Wrocław (Mikołajów) at 12:03, so there is a 6h journey and a single ticket costs PLN 41 – PLN 50. You can also take a PKS couch which is more expensive and it takes from 7 up to 12 hours.

  • There are also pretty good deals on: iDbus (http://uk.idbus.com/) that serves the London, Amsterdam, France, Belgium and Italy and Meinfernbus (meinfernbus.de) that serves Germany. Meinfernbus is really cheap but the winner has got to be iDbus, that is way more comfortable than Eurolines and has onboard wifi.

    Carpooling are also a fantastic way to save money. I used mitfahrgelegenheit.de for Germany, http://www.blablacar.com/ or http://www.covoiturage.fr/ for France and http://www.carpooling.com just around Europe in general. Other than one driver flaking on us, the rest of the rides were decently priced. I managed to do a day trip from Chambery to Annecy (and back) in France for 4 Euros!

    • Awesome info, thanks Ying for sharing! I will check those website out when heading back home this summer, cheers!

  • Great to know about Polskibus. Do you know if it’ll be an issue getting on/off the bus if I know virtually no Polish? I’m looking to go from Lodz to Poznan. My brother-in-law (from Poland) suggested I take a train, but this bus looks to be a good option.

    • Worry not Zonap, there will always be someone around who can speak some English. Don’t be surprised if the driver does. Is it your first time visiting Poland? I’m sure you’ll love the experience, have fun!

  • Hey!!!!fantastic information and kudos for sharing so many wonderful and important things with us.I would love to travel from amsterdam to warsaw with arnoldbus but it looks like they dont have an english website.Do they provide services from amsterdam to warsaw? Specially a night service(as this would save me a hostel bill).Also what about the cost?Is it time dependent?(just like trains,book early-get discount)…how to contact them.kindly reply.

  • Great blog Agness! Just wondering how safe Polski buses are, the trip from Berlin is costing me Euro 7 compared to Euro 29 by Bahn? Any thoughts or comments, does cheap mean safety issues in this case.

    I have never traveled eastern europe so kinda skeptical

  • Hello etrampers and thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and experiences.
    The airport in Wrocław Poland is beautiful, but so many flights are at difficult times, so there is a mass of wasted time and frustration also I love to experience the scenery as I am travelling so the Polskibus is brilliant and also sociable and far preferable to being a passenger in a car. It is so easy to work on the downstairs table, sleep or catch-up on your YouTube videos or sit on the front upstairs seat to admire the views, for the best choice of seat you need to catch a very early bus.
    The Polskibus routes have now been extended, however I wish that they would publish a map of all their routes. I found this website/blog whilst planning a Wrocław to Brussels trip to see my 96 year old uncle.
    I have just returned from a trip from Wrocław to Berlin (where I visited the Innotrans Exhibition, which was about all forms of public transport, which I am a huge fan of) recently Wrocław to Krakow and then to Warsaw. I felt some reluctance to leave the bus as it was so comfortable.
    At an exhibition in Hannover I met a Scottish Malaysian Ambassador who Ambassador said that he studied with Sir Brian Suter the creator of the Polskibus. Amazingly Sir Brian started work as a bus conductor and became hugely motivated by buses, his inspirational life story is well worth reading.
    The Polskibus seems to be a flagship company despite starting at the beginning of the recession, having WiFi and also lots of electrical sockets was a huge attraction.
    I agree with etrampers in that if you can organise flexible work and use todays amazing technology you can have an amazing lifestyle, especially when you stay at the very friendly hostels.
    IN MY EXPERIENCE THE LESS YOU SPEND ON TRAVELLING AND ACCOMMODATION THE MORE FASCINATING THE EXPERIENCE.

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