The German market for domestic scheduled coach services is quite young as coach companies were not allowed to operate scheduled services before 2013.
Since the liberation of the market there are a lot of different new companies with the largest being Mein Fernbus, Flixbus, the IC Bus and the Postbus. To attract most passengers and for being competitive with the high speed train network by Deutsche Bahn, the prices for tickets have been low since the start of that business what made some companies already quit again or going into bankruptcy.
I am not a fan of travelling by coach to be honest, as I am quite tall (1,92m) and most busses have an incredibly low seat pitch, but this time I decided to give it a try.
My plans were to go from Düsseldorf to Hannover alone to meet friends there and make some party. To find the best and cheapest way to get there I used www.goeuro.com to compare prices. As there are no flights between these two cities and a car ride with only one passenger is not too cheap on that distance I had the choice between bus and train. I decided for the bus due to a return ticket price of just 27€ as the train ticket was more than twice as much. The bus service needs about 1 ½ hours longer for the trip but the price made it attractive. I chose the Postbus as they are known to have the largest seat pitch, what actually was the most important thing for me. Booking was quite easy, the www.postbus.com homepage is easy to use and I received my tickets for printout.
Just a few days later I found myself standing at the bus stop right next to the main station of Düsseldorf. The bus arrived on time, the bus driver was friendly and I had a good seat in the front of the bus with plenty of space between my knees and the seat in front of me so that it would’ve been no problem if the seat next to me would not have been free. When leaving Düsseldorf, my first thought was: “Is it always this empty?”. Only four other persons were in the bus, between some stops there was only one other passenger beside me. With those ticket prices this can’t be economic in any way. As I had a seat in the front I was able to listen to what the bus drivers where talking about and I picked out, that the loadfactor of the buses isn’t much higher most times.
Anyways, as the free seat next to me was a good thing, I tried the free Wifi on my tablet. It was working good and is another point in which the coaches are having better service than the trains as internet in trains is always expensive. The Postbus also offers a selection of films, TV-Shows and music you can access for free through their online media center. I wasn’t using the media center as I brought a book, but saw another passenger using it and it was looking smooth. Beside that, there is also the possibility to buy cold and warm drinks and snacks such as nuts or sweets inside the bus.
The ride to Hannover itself was quite unspectacular, the bus is comfortable, not too noisy, one can leave the bus at the stations for a few minutes and it was on time. And so was the ride back. After a night in Hannover (which I spent in the Harmony Hotel, if you are looking for a cheap place to stay there, my stay was ok), I was taking the bus back home. Same as the day before: on time, much space (bus was not even half-full), a comfortable ride and a friendly bus driver. I was also quite happy with the stations they used as they were both right next to the main station of Düsseldorf and Hannover so that a traveler has a good choice of transportation to get to his final destination in the city, but this isn’t the case in every city, some cities (such as Bielefeld) have a coach station outside the city center.
My conclusion: if the price is that good, I would use the bus again as long as the trip doesn’t take longer than 6 hours, as the higher comfort and time advantage of flights or train would be negotiating the lower price than. The seating comfort is good, there is free Wi-Fi and entertainment available as long as you bring your own laptop, tablet or smartphone and most of the busses I saw at the stations were on time.
Anyways I don’t see a future for such low prices as the German railway company Deutsche Bahn has now been publishing plans to increase service and comfort in trains and lower prices to get the passengers back on the rail and because these empty busses (I haven’t seen any bus by any company on this route that was more than filled half and it is the Cologne-Düsseldorf-Dortmund-Hannover-Berlin route, connecting many big German cities) won’t operate economic soon.
But if you find a good price: don’t hesitate, use the coaches in Germany, I can recommend the Postbus, but the other companies might not be too bad too, but seat pitch and entertainment can make a difference.
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