When it comes to travelling through Europe, I will often choose to travel by coach if it is considerably cheaper than flying. Most of the time this happens when I’m booking VERY last minute, but I have managed to save over £300 on travel on more than one occassion.
Okay, so it’s not one of the most ideal modes of transport, but if it gets me from A to B AND I get the opportunity to explore a new city - I’m not too fussy.
As I have done this several times this year alone, I often get messages from people about it works when you travel overseas via coach. To help anyone else decide whether or not it’s for them, I thought I’d answer some of the most asked questions in this handy post.
Where do you book?
There are several different sites you can book on depending on the tour operator you want to use, however I tend to search the dates I want to travel on GoEuro, as they combine a couple of different coach lines to give you the cheapest options, as well as the different times you can choose to travel.
Coach lines where you can book directly include Flixbus, Eurolines and National Express.
Can I reserve seats?
In some cases, you may be able to reserve a seat on your journey (and I’d HIGHLY recommend it if it’s an option as the coach line do not mark seats as reserved, so once you get onto the coach you could be sitting in a reserved seat and not know it).
As far as I know only Flixbus and National Express currently allow you to reserve a seat, however it may not be available on ALL journeys.
How much luggage can I take?
Similarly to a flight, you’re allowed to take one item of luggage (20KG) and one carry on item (7KG). If you need to take more luggage this may be an option depending on space, however you will have to pay a small fee.
If you have an item that is larger than a standard bag (Ski equipment, musical instrument or bike etc), it is best to get in touch with the operator you’re travelling with to find out what their policy is. I have seen ALL SORTS of random things go into the luggage hold, so don’t be afraid to ask what you can and can’t take with you.
Do I need to check in before I travel?
So far, I haven’t had to check in before I travel, however I know that there are certain countries that require you to check in at the operator desk before you board the coach.
My best advice for this would be to read all of the documents you’re sent before departure to find out whether or not you need to check in. If in any doubt, check the operators site or give them a call.
Where do they store the luggage?
Larger pieces of luggage are stored in the hold at the bottom of the coach, whereas smaller pieces can be stored in the overhead storage on board. If you have anything valuable, I’d recommend putting it in your hand luggage where you can keep it with you at all times, and avoid it being handled incorrectly when people remove their own luggage from the hold.
Make sure you label all of your luggage with your name and address, as often you’re not allowed to travel if this is not done.
Can I pack liquids in my suitcase?
Yes, there are no restrictions on what liquids you can take.
Can I take food on board?
Yes, you can take both hot and cold food on board most coaches, however be mindful of other passengers. Most coaches will also have the option to purchase drinks and snacks on board, although I think they can be quite pricey in comparison to buying them beforehand.
Does the coach take the ferry, or use the channel tunnel?
I WISH I knew the answer to this as I much prefer to take the ferry, however prior to booking this isn’t something you can find out. Once you have made your booking you can check your journey’s route, which will show whether or not you will be taking the Euro Channel Tunnel, or heading to Dover for the ferry.
Do I need my passport?
Yes, whether you are travelling by ferry or channel tunnel, you will need to take your passport for border control.
How do you go through border control?
This will differ depending on whether or not you are taking the Euro Channel Tunnel or the ferry, and whether or not you’re leaving the UK or returning. To make things easier, I thought I’d split this question into four sections.
Euro Tunnel: Folkstone to Calais
When you arrive at the station in Folkstone you will be required to go through border control. This will often be your first chance to get off the coach after boarding, however as this needs to be done quickly you won’t be able to browse the Duty Free shops or go to the toilet at this point.
Once you have passed through further security checks, you may be required to go through another border control with the UK border police. There may also be a chance that you will need to have your luggage checked, so be prepared to take your case out of the hold and take it through security. This hasn’t been every time I’ve travelled, so I can’t guarantee you’ll whether or not you’ll have to do this.
Euro Tunnel: Calais to Folkstone
Before arriving at the Calais Tunnel Station, the coach has to go to a stop where the entire coach is checked by security. This includes luggage (you don’t have to leave your seats), passenger count and any other checks they need to do.
Once you arrive at the station, you will have to go through UK Border Control. This requires getting off the coach and showing your passport. There may also be further checks where you’re required to show your passport a second time and have your luggage taken through security. This has varied on my trips, so you can’t guarantee that your luggage won’t need to be checked.
Ferry: Dover to Calais
When you board the coach you will be asked to fill out a form with all of your passport information. Make sure you do this straight away, as it can result in the entire coach being delayed at border control.
Once you arrive at the Dover port, you will have to go through UK Border Control. This requires getting off the coach and showing your passport. There may also be further checks where you’re required to show your passport a second time and have your luggage taken through security. This has varied on my trips, so you can’t guarantee that your luggage won’t need to be checked.
Ferry: Calais to Dover
When you board the coach you will be asked to fill out a form with all of your passport information. Make sure you do this straight away, as it can result in the entire coach being delayed at border control. Before arriving at the Calais ferry port, the coach has to go to a stop where the entire coach is checked by security. This includes luggage (you don’t have to leave your seats), passenger count and any other checks they need to do.
Once you arrive at the Calais port, you will have to go through UK Border Control. This requires getting off the coach and showing your passport. There may also be further checks where you’re required to show your passport a second time and have your luggage taken through security. This has varied on my trips, so you can’t guarantee that your luggage won’t need to be checked.
What happens when you go on the ferry?
When getting the ferry (my favourite method) the process is quite simple. As mentioned above you need to go through the various different types of border control, and then it’s off to the loading bays to wait for your ferry! If you’re lucky you won’t have to wait long, however this is a great time to get up, stretch your legs and go for a bit of a wander. At both Dover and Calais their are places you can grab a bite to eat and use the bathroom.
Once it’s time to load the coach will wait their turn to board the ferry, going into one of the many car parks at the bottom of the ship. When leaving the coach, make sure to note the color and number of the door you go through as you will need to find it again later.
Once parked up you will be able to wander around the ferry as it makes it’s way to your destination. This is roughly an hour so you have time to shop in duty free, have a meal in the food court or sit on the top deck watching for the White Cliffs of Dover (which are STUNNING by the way).
As you start to get closer to your destination the ferry starts to get a little bit more crowded as people find their way to the doors that they’re parked near. This got a bit too overwhelming for me, so I waiting until the rush had died down.
Make sure you’re back at the coach in time for pull off though, as the coach driver will not wait for you.
What happens when you take the channel tunnel?
Once you have passed through border control, you enter an area where you have to wait for the next train. When I have travelled at night they have often been two-three hours apart, however in the day you won’t have to wait longer than 20 minutes to board your train. If you have long enough, you can grab a snack or go to the bathroom while waiting here.
Once it’s time to board, you will remain on the coach and make your way through the train. Although you can exit the coach while the train is moving to use the bathroom, the space is quite tight.
Once you’re on the train the coach will turn everything off, so you will lose power to charge your phone as well as the air conditioning. This is the hardest bit as it is SO WARM on the coach during the journey, hence why I prefer the ferry.
The journey is around 40 minutes, in which you’ll exit the train and be on your way to your next destination!
Will there be regular stops?
On all of the journeys I have taken by coach there haven’t really been any specific comfort stops, however there has been plenty of opportunity to get off the coach and stretch your legs (or use the bathroom).
When you get to either the channel station or ferry port there is often a lot of waiting around for the next train or ferry. During this time you can get off the coach, go to the shops that are dotted around or grab something to eat. If the coach is running ahead of schedule you may also be able to get off the coach at the drop off and pick up points.
If you’re concerned about needing to stop, speak to your driver.
Are there plugs and charger ports?
Yes, all coaches should have USB charging ports at the very least. Some coaches also have plugs (often they are European adapters so make sure you pack it in your hand luggage).
Some coaches even have WiFi!
Is there a toilet on board?
Yes, there will be a toilet on board every coach! It’s quite small, but if you gotta go, you gotta go!
Is there a lot of room on board?
I’ve written about this before from a plus size perspective, but in my opinion a coach is no different to a plane in terms of how much space you have. Yes, it can be a little tight but with plenty of opportunities to get up and stretch your legs, it is definitely something that is bearable (in my personal opinion).
HOPEFULLY, I’ve answered everyone’s questions but if you have any more please let me know in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer.