Travelling within Germany: Train vs Bus

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Traveling within foreign countries can be quite different to what we are used to at home. For me personally, I always research how to get around the best way when I visit different cities. Recently I found myself traveling by a long distance bus for the first time instead of taking the train and I want to share my thoughts about it.


Traveling by train

Traveling by train is very common even though the trains are famous for their delays (fortunately, my train was only one time delayed for 30 minutes). You can research your route in advance online and also by the ticket online or at the machine, when you choose to buy the ticket at the counter you usually pay a bit more (around 2 Euros – for the service). In general ticket prices are fixed for the journey all year which means that around holiday seasons prices won’t rise.

Traveling by bus

Lately, many bus companies focused on long distance journeys. The tickets should be bought in advance to secure your spot and you need to bring a printed out copy of the ticket or the digital version because the QR code will get scanned before you enter the bus.

Common things

You can buy and pay online for the ticket.
The websites are available in multiple languages
Seats are not assigned – there are not seat numbers, you can take the seat you want.

Differences

When you travel by train you don’t have a guaranteed seat (standing for 40 minutes in a packed train is not fun). The bus tickets vary in price which you will notice when you are looking for your connection, the prices can depend on season and time you travel – in my case booking last minute, I still paid 1/3 less compared to the train ticket but the journey was 2hrs longer.
Not all connections by bus are good to travel but I noticed that if you need to change buses it may result in needing to wait for 2 hours (or longer) for the connecting bus. So I can make sense to pay a bit more for the train ticket to reduce the time. But if you travel with light carry on, you have the chance to explore a new city to make use of the time until your connecting bus departs. I noticed that traveling between big cities it’s rather easy to find good bus connections than from smaller towns to big cities. In my opinion the luggage storage in the bus is more comfortable than in trains as you don’t need to worry where to put your suitcase in order to be able to see it and not to disturb other passengers. Wifi is in buses usually always available (if not, the drivers say).

My opinion

Buses and trains have both advantages and disadvantages. In general it’s useful to compare in advance and take time to research the available routes. Sometimes it’s better to pay a few bucks more to safe a bit more time because it makes a difference whether I travel from city A to city B for 4,5h by train than 10h by bus (including interchange time). When I took the bus I had to wait around 1,5h to the connecting bus which was okay as I had some time to have lunch and look inside some shops but the weather was quite bad that day, so I avoided as much as possible to wait in the cold and rainy. What I liked most about the bus is that they scan the tickets in advance before you enter and not as in the train that at one point a steward randomly appears to check the ticket while I’m taking a nap.

Note

Due to a coincidence I noticed that you get better route options when you check on you phone.  I usually make all my purchases and bookings from my laptop, because it’s more convenient for me than from the phone. My sister lately checked for bus tickets on the Flixbus website for a bus I couldn’t find earlier a decent route without waiting for 5 hours for the connecting bus and somehow she saw many direct buses between the departure and destination. When she wanted to book from the laptop, none of the direct routes were shown, only the inconvenient ones! It’s pretty interesting that there are routes you can only see when you access the website via your phone – it can save time and money!

Bus companies:
Flixbus/ Mein Fernbus
Postbus
Dein Bus

Trains:
Deutsche Bahn

Has anyone made already any experiences on traveling by bus or train within Germany?

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