During the impromptu visit to the UK, my boyfriend and I had a short trip to Mont Saint-Michel in France. We had dreamed of visiting this magical place, and finally made it! We took buses from London all the way to Mont Saint-Michel, trying 3 bus companies – FlixBus, Ouibus (now BlaBlaBus), and Eurolines. Since I had wondered about the differences between bus companies in Europe, I made some notes on each ride. So here are my reviews of FlixBus, Ouibus, and Eurolines for this particular route!
After comparing schedules & prices for every leg of the journeys, we ended up using FlixBus twice for our outward bus journey: London to Paris & Paris to Le Mont Saint-Michel. The Channel-crossing coach service and the domestic one left different impressions on us, which was interesting to compare.
London to Paris
To make the most of our bus trip, we took an overnight coach from London Victoria Coach Station. Quite often, I had to wait for coaches to arrive at the terminal but didn’t need to this time. The FlixBus coach was already there upon our arrival at the coach station. People were queuing to load their luggage and board. Despite an international service, we didn’t have to go through the hassle of baggage check either. (I remember doing so with Eurolines a few years ago, though they might have stopped too now? If anyone knows about the up-to-date info on this, please comment below!) The coach driver was accommodating, giving us an estimated arrival time, as we showed him the vouchers.
Because everything from queuing to boarding went smoothly, the coach could also depart on time. And as the driver told us, it did arrive 2 hours earlier than what was advertised! (Now, this was perhaps too prompt to fit our following ride, but it was better than being late).
Seats & Facilities
Let’s move on to seats and facilities inside the coach. Seats were pre-designated when we booked online. And at the end of our holiday, we realised how amazing this system was (vs. Eurolines). Also, the legroom, which has a great impact on coach experiences for long journeys, was more generous than most of the coaches we took during this trip. WiFi was available and so were the charging points.
The FlixBus coach used the Eurotunnel to cross the Channel, where the passport checking process was efficient.
Overall, I’d say our journey out was pretty great! It was straightforward and we didn’t have anything particularly negative to point out. The only thing is, we shouldn’t have anticipated the next part with FlixBus at the same level as this.
Paris to Le Mont Saint-Michel
Since our arrival in Paris was a lot earlier, our transfer time got longer. It might be alright at a normal time of the day looking around Paris, but not on this occasion. The departure was at 7:05 am, and I think we arrived in Paris (Bercy Seine Station) between 3~4 am. The original ETA was 5:10 am, but as mentioned above, we were too early. The area except this station was dead quiet, and there was nothing to do. It felt like we were in a ghost town. I wouldn’t have tried heading out the terminal, had I been on my own. The terminal didn’t also feel that secure, but at least there were some people waiting for buses… Cafes would only start to open around 6 am; we tried the one that said ‘open from 5:30 am’ on Google Maps & its website, but the owner kicked us out since it was before 6 am.
With the most boring, cold, and painful waiting time being over, at last, we headed back to the station. But the bus was late, so the arrival at Le Mont Saint-Michel was also about 30 minutes late. This was alright since that is quite common for coach services.
However, what was NOT O.K. was the driver’s behaviours while driving. He was the last person to be able to focus on driving! As our seats were on the 2nd row on the door side, what he was doing was noticeable even if we didn’t intend to watch it. He kept using his mobile, snacking and sorting out his jacket hung on the side to find cigarettes (and did smoke) to name a few. All these happened while he was driving, and some of his activities even involved the front row passengers. This made me wonder if they were his family members (like parents helping out their kids). They helped sort out his jacket and wipe a steamy window for the driver, handed out snacks, chatted with him, and so on. I might have not spotted any of these if I had sat at the back; but that doesn’t mean his driving would’ve been safer!
Seats & Facilities
As for seats and facilities, this coach had less legroom than the previous one with no WiFi and charging points. This wasn’t a huge issue for us though; we were knackered from the first ride and a few hours of waiting outside in cold Paris. Seats were not designated, so we queued for boarding as soon as we spotted the bus parking at the station.
There was no announcement for every bus stop and Le Mont Saint-Michel wasn’t the final destination. This meant I had to make sure we don’t miss the stop from sleeping. Because many people get off at Le Mont Saint-Michel, as long as we were half-awake, we could notice it.
As you can tell, this section of the bus trip wasn’t that pleasant. The ride was bumpy and shaky, and I think the distracted driver didn’t help the situation. Due to this, I was going to confidently say this was the worst coach experience…. (until the last bus ride).
Le Mont Saint-Michel to Paris
After a lovely time in Mont Saint-Michel, we set off back to Paris with Ouibus. We’ve heard about and used FlixBus and Eurolines before, but they didn’t fit well in either price or bus time. Then Ouibus came up, as I was searching for a better schedule for us.
The bus stop at Mont Saint-Michel for Ouibus seemed random, since there was no sign or hint if we were at the right place to wait. We managed to find another passenger waiting for it, and shortly after the bus arrived. The driver was nice and the bus departed on time.
Seats & Facilities
We got the seat numbers via email approximately 1 hour prior to the scheduled departure time. No one seemed to sit as told though, as there were plenty of empty seats. The legroom was wider, and WiFi and charging points were available.
The Ouibus was direct to Paris (Ibis Clichy Batignolles) and quicker, even with a break at services en route. It arrived almost on time – 4~5 minutes late due to the traffic in the hotel road area. We took the metro to the nearby station (Porte de Clichy) to move to Paris Gallieni Station for the final part of the journey.
Like our first ride with FlixBus, Ouibus from Mont Saint-Michel to Paris was pleasant and straightforward. With the luck of few passengers too, I would give 2 thumbs up on the Ouibus ride. 🙂
Paris to London
Finally, it was the last bus journey left to end the quick getaway to Mont Saint-Michel. We got on another overnight bus – with Eurolines this time – to make the most of Saturday back in the U.K. Remember I said the second one with FlixBus would’ve been the worst? Well, this one beat it.
When we arrived at Eurolines’ station (Paris Gallieni), the waiting area was confusing. People were around but spread out, so it wasn’t clear who came first and where we should wait. I just could see this would go really bad… which came true precisely as I expected. The coach arrived at the departing terminal on time, but didn’t set off at a promised time (10 minutes after). I think the main reason for it was the non-existence of the idea of queuing. Everyone pushed to get on – it was a bun-fight – because seats were not designated in advance.
Seats & Facilities
After the boarding struggle, we found that the legroom was so little; the gap between seats was highly likely the narrowest comparing with the other coaches on the trip. The previous coaches had a space for our rucksack and a camera bag around our feet, but we really struggled on this one. Seats were pretty grubby (as well as the Paris Galleni station). I found a charging point but didn’t bother to use it.
This coach had a very quick stop in Calais and used a ferry there. The ferry took about up to 2 hours. The ferry ride itself wasn’t bad at all, as we could have a break from the jammed coach for a couple of hours! It was busy from ski trip groups, but catering services on board looked great, even at 4:30 am.
While the driver and his driving were all fine, thanks to the shocking impression for boarding and seating situations, Eurolines came last on the list. As we got closer to London Victoria Coach Station, we couldn’t be more thankful to get off soon.
Every bus ride can leave a different impression, so I’m not going to generalise my opinions on each of them from this trip. But hopefully, I can write about some improvements on some of them next time!
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