Sometimes you travel for the experience; other times it’s to try something new. And when you just want to get from A to B with minimum expense, that’s where FlixBus comes in. With deals starting as low as €5, this is a tough option to beat for the budget-conscious traveller. And, generally speaking, a bus is a bus. They take the most efficient route between cities and maybe let you browse the internet on the way. You may not get luxury service, but you’ll probably get there eventually. And ‘there’ is a lot of places, given FlixBus’ extensive route network. Here’s our honest independent FlixBus review, including choosing routes, booking tickets – and revealing what Flixbus is like inside.
Covers: Western Europe, expanding into Eastern Europe. Recently launched within the U.S.
Pros: Cheap, free WiFi, extra legroom, extensive fleet, goes to smaller destinations
Cons: Can’t reserve a seat, can be confusing, variable customer service
Honest answer: because it’s cheap. It’s not especially charming, but their fleet is extensive enough to cover a very large territory. Smaller destinations that may not easily be served by train are much easier to reach by bus. And their amenities, when they’re actually there (more on this later), are fairly good.
FlixBus has hundreds of destinations, mainly through Western Europe. Given that FlixBus is a German company, their highest concentration of routes is around Germany and its neighbours, but they’re continuing to expand. As of July 2018, they serve more than 1,700 locations across 28 countries as shown on their growing Europe and US FlixBus Route Maps.
Popular routes include:
Copenhagen → Berlin FlixBus route map | Buy tickets
London → Paris FlixBus route map | Buy tickets
Zagreb → Ljubljana FlixBus route map | Buy tickets
Berlin → Paris FlixBus route map | Buy tickets
Strasbourg → Amsterdam FlixBus route map | Buy tickets
Zurich → Florence FlixBus route map | Buy tickets
Probably not that much. Tickets start around €5 for a one-way ticket, but go up closer to departure dates, all the way to €99 for a three-month, five-city pass. Some tickets may occasionally exceed that on longer or more popular routes, especially if you’re purchasing very close to your departure time). The further in advance you book, the better your price will be; and they send frequent sales emails once you’re on their mailing list.
The easiest way is through the website or dedicated app. If you’d rather book in person, check their list of offices and travel agencies. You might be able to buy a ticket from the driver, but you risk the bus being sold out, paying significantly higher prices and having to pay cash. Just book in advance. There is an additional fee on their website for using a credit card or PayPal.
FlixBus tickets are the general admission concerts of the bus world. You’ll get in, but getting a good spot is up to you. There is no option to reserve a seat in advance, and just the one ticket type. Because buses make multiple stops, the availability of seats will depend on where your stop is along the longer route.
You can opt for an overnight bus service on select longer routes; the seats may recline a little more, but it’s not guaranteed. And if you’re interested in longer-term flexible travel, the InterFlix pass is good for five one-way bus trips within 3 months. It does have stipulations, so make sure you check all the restrictions to be sure it’s the best choice for your schedule.
This is likely the biggest hurdle you will face in your use of FlixBus. The bus stops aren’t always at designated stations, or even necessarily marked. Hopefully there will be some kind of FlixBus sign. If not, look around for the crowd of other confused-looking people with suitcases. Make sure you check the location of your stop on the FlixBus website beforehand. If you have mobile data or Google Maps offline, you can try to match the small map on your ticket to the corresponding GPS point on Google Maps. The app also has maps to the stops.
Many of the buses are bright green with ‘FlixBus’ written in large letters on the side, but not all. If a bus comes to your approximate location, don’t assume that it’s not yours just because it’s not marked. Even if you don’t speak the language, show your ticket to the driver just in case.
You can present a printout of your FlixBus ticket, the digital version you received via e-mail, or the digital version in the app. You should also make sure you have your passport with you, even if you are going between Schengen countries. Customers have reported being denied boarding without passports.
You may get a double-decker or single-level bus depending on your route. Some buses sell drinks and snacks inside, but sales are at the discretion of the driver so don’t count on it. We recommend bringing some refreshments of your own as the bus won’t necessarily make any stops. The website says that all buses have toilets, but this may not always be the case. FlixBus seats are usually upholstered and coach-style, sometimes with the possibility of a slight recline, but again, may vary by bus.
FlixBus claims that all its buses offer WiFi, but the reliability and speed of the service may vary greatly between buses. Don’t assume it will work, or even necessarily exist at all.
In short, there is the possibility of food, WiFi and toilets, but they are by no means guaranteed.
There is no formal bag check system, so baggage storage is at the driver’s discretion. This can lead to lost baggage or issues with large or unusually shaped items. As you would on any other sort of transit, clearly label all your bags and make sure your important documents and medications are on your person, not under the bus. FlixBus provides printable baggage tags when they email you your tickets, if you have access to a printer.
FlixBus allows one item of hand luggage (max. 42 x 30 x 18cm, 7kg) and one larger bag (max. 80 x 50 x 30cm, 20kg). If you have larger items or more than two bags, you may be able to bring them for an additional fee if you discuss it with customer service first. Check their website for the most up-to-date FlixBus baggage policy.
New friend convince you to stay a little longer? You can cancel your ticket on FlixBus’ website up to 15 minutes before your scheduled departure time for a €1 cancellation fee per passenger per trip. You don’t get a refund, but you’ll receive a FlixBus voucher for the cost of your original ticket (minus the fee) that can be used towards your next booking. Keep in mind these vouchers do expire.
You might be out of luck. Because some of the stops are in such unusual locations, there usually isn’t an office. Do not expect to speak to a human other than the bus driver, who also may not be able to help you or even speak your language. You likely will not encounter a kiosk or customer service counter, so make sure you show up with your ticket and don’t expect to be able to print it at the station (assuming your bus stop is at a station).
There is a FlixBus customer service hotline and online form, but it’s only available in German or English. Some users have reported being kicked out of the customer service offices (if the bus station has them) at midnight or that the English-speaking hotline is only available during certain hours.
You’re still driving on the road with everyone else. If there is traffic, you’re going to be part of it. This means that the bus might show up later than scheduled to your pick-up point or arrive late to your destination. Make sure you leave plenty of time for any transfers.
There is also always the possibility of mechanical issues, which can cause additional delays. If things get too delayed, your bus may be cancelled and you may not find out in a timely enough fashion to make alternate plans. FlixBus claims to send service notifications of schedule via text message, but these don’t always arrive on time – and that’s assuming you have a working data plan to receive the notification in the first place.
Users complain about lack of customer service as well, so if your trip doesn’t go as smoothly as planned, you may have trouble reaching a FlixBus employee or getting any kind of refund or compensation. Many reviewers have complained about their complaints being dismissed when they are answered at all. If something goes wrong, your options may be limited.
Main image: FlixBus
This FlixBus review was originally published 8 November 2017.