The Flixbus Saga: Amsterdam to Paris
Ellie ventures into a world of cheap travel and Flixbus. This company, lesser-known in the UK, offers cheap travel routes all across Europe and here Ellie writes about her first adventure: Amsterdam to Madrid, a whopping 24-hour trip! Will she fall out of love with travelling after her experience here?
Last September, I decided to give Flixbus a go. Until then, I had never done a bus journey longer than about ten minutes, so committing to a seven-hour stint from Amsterdam to Paris seemed pretty daunting. But the price convinced me to go for it – and it went great! I paid a little extra to choose a window seat, and on the way back I passed the time chatting to my neighbour about her crocheting Etsy store. I returned to Amsterdam with a newfound appreciation for buses as a cheap and easy way to travel around Europe.
This would be the first of my three Flixbus adventures.
Given how well my Paris trip went, when it came time to figure out how to get to Madrid to visit a friend, my first thought was, naturally, the bus. It cost way less than a return flight or train ticket and would give me the unique opportunity to see the sunset in France and the sunrise in Spain.
It would take twenty-four hours. Seven hours to Paris, an hour or two to stretch my legs, then fifteen hours to Madrid.
The first hurdle came when the Algerian-French sea captain seated beside me insisted on buying me something in a service station only an hour into the journey.
After a day of weighing up my options and persuading another friend to join me on this ludicrous odyssey, I decided why not? It wasn’t too expensive to fly back, so we booked a one-way bus ticket to Spain.
The first hurdle came when the Algerian-French sea captain seated beside me insisted on buying me something in a service station only an hour into the journey. I said I was fine, but that seemed to annoy him, and I ended up getting back on the bus with a smoothie I didn’t particularly want. A generous gesture, but one that was totally unnecessary, made me a little uncomfortable and had me questioning what I had gotten myself in for.
The second hurdle also involved service stations. On the second leg of the journey, it soon became clear the toilet on the bus was blocked, leaving us forced with no choice but to venture off the bus to search for a clean, unblocked loo. And let me tell you, queuing in a random Spanish service station at four in the morning, bleary-eyed, delirious from a lack of sleep, will certainly get you wondering if you should have just sucked it up and paid the extra money to fly.
The final hurdle came when I realised I’d lost my headphones. Nightmare. Luckily, my friend lent me his, or I think I would have actually gone insane.
But we made it to Madrid mostly in one piece, and, believe it or not, overall I had a good time! I’ve certainly not lost my love for buses, and I’d definitely do it again.
In fact, I am doing it again, this time to Prague. It’s a night bus both ways, so should be a breeze. Fingers crossed I won’t have any sea captains insisting on buying me smoothies, but you never know. If I’ve learnt anything from these experiences, it’s that you can have the weirdest experiences, but hey, at least it’s cheaper than flying.