Cheap Travel Review: Ouibus vs. Flixbus

On my last trip to Strasbourg and Germany, I had the opportunity to indulge in a bit more cheap travel via bus. Here are my thoughts.

Overview

French train operator SNCF owns and operates the Ouibus.

It’s German counterpart, Flixbus, operates independently of local train operator Deutsche Bahn.

Price

ouibusflixbusprice

Pick: Ouibus

If going by price alone, Ouibus will almost always be the cheaper option. Ouibus never gets more expensive than about $30. This is because if it were any more expensive, it’d be cheaper and faster to take the train, which is also owned and operated by the same folks. Flixbus jacks up prices to ridiculous numbers closer to departure time. Check out the above price comparison for a trip tonight. About 30 euros for an 8 hour trip on Ouibus compared to 85 euros and 20+ hours for the same trip on Flixbus.

Convenience

Pick: Ouibus

Ouibus offers better convenience than Flixbus, when considering routes and amenities. Wifi was dodgy on Flixbus. While my Flixbus ticket to Germany was about $10 cheaper, it meant waiting at a bus stop for 4 hours from midnight- 4 am. Pretty scary for a female solo traveler that is traveling to Germany for the first time. Flixbus routes sometimes include 3-4 bus changes.

Destinations

Pick: Flixbus

Flixbus goes almost everywhere! It’s in France, Scandinavia and has 80% market share in Germany, so many times it can be quite easy to get around. Ouibus is quite limited in comparison, only operating in France and neighboring countries. The time table for Ouibus stays the same everyday, with sometimes only 1-2 trips a day. Flixbus tends to offer more trips and also more stops in each city. For example, Ouibus has one bus stop in Strasbourg, Flixbus has two.

Punctuality

Tie, Meh

Neither Ouibus nor Flixbus is especially impressive when it comes to time. Ouibus is routinely late, and one time the bus was MIA until minutes before departure. Unfortunately, the attitude at Ouibus is a bit “go with the flow,” when the bus is late, no one knows when it will be there. That said, we always seemed to make up for it on the road.  When my second Flixbus was late, I received a text message letting me know exactly when the bus would arrive and it did arrive at the predicted time. The late arrival did ultimately delay my arrival time to my final destination, but in all fairness, it started snowing that night.

Customer Service

Pick: Ouibus

The drivers on Ouibus are always spectacular and very friendly and helpful. Both times I’ve had questions about my destination, the drivers always try their best to help. At the beginning of each bus ride, they do this cute little introduction. Flixbus drivers were less friendly but helpful. Sometimes. I watched two bus drivers hassle a passenger (why? I couldn’t figure it out). It seemed to be in jest, but at midnight in the middle of a snowstorm is not the time to joke with someone and tell them that they can’t board the bus. The Flixbus driver on my first bus never smiled and hardly said a word, but he did respond to questions when asked.

Overall winner: Ouibus! If I had to pick, I’d choose Ouibus for the convenience and customer service.

Have you tried Flixbus and Ouibus? What’s your pick?

 

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When to Take On Cheap Travel

My flight to France costs $229 and probably the only reason I was able to afford going to France this summer. If you’re wondering whether cheap travel is for you, here are a few things to consider:

When you can tolerate pain and suffering – My body ached throughout my entire trip and it was due not only to the cheap seats I scored, but also the time and amount of travel I did to save, taking buses and hopping on multiple short flights as opposed to one grand long flight in business class. If you are short or don’t have extraordinarily long legs, than you may be able to hack it.

When you’re traveling ground and need Wi-Fi. Much to my surprise when it came to internet access, the buses had trains beat. My trip on Ouibus, while hampered by a full bus of snoring passengers and mysterious smells, had seamless WiFi from start to finish. I was actually able to get some work done. Though my trip on SNCF, was much faster, I stared out of the window on the open country side wishing I’d packed a book in my carryon.

If you can fit everything in your carry-on.  The most important thing to remember about cheap airlines is that you’ll have to pay a very hefty fee for any bags (even your 1st), so I planned to bring everything in a carry-on.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cheap airlines I used, Wow Air (Iceland) and Norwegian, were not sticklers about the carry-on weight and size requirements. In fact, as long as your carry-on luggage looked remotely like a carry-on, you were allowed no questions asked.

I suspect this may be a different case if and when the flight is full, which neither of mine were.

All said and done, I’d probably avoid cheap travel unless I had to get somewhere and that was the only way I could afford it. I felt horrible throughout my trip because I traveled so extensively and so poorly (I could’ve used a good night’s sleep in business class) and missed out on souvenirs because I didn’t have room in my carry-on. However, if you’re making a quick trip that doesn’t require a lot of travel, a cheap airline may be right for you.