page last updated March 27, 2017
Typical FlixBus coach
With some minor exceptions, domestic long-distance intercity bus services (Fernbus) were
largely prohibited in Germany prior to 2013 due to anti-competition
protected the railways. After a lawsuit between the Deutsche
Bahn (DB) and startup DeinBus in 2011, the industry was
deregulated in 2013 and intercity bus services boomed.
to 2013, intercity bus passenger traffic hovered around 2 million
passengers per year. That number climbed to 8 million in
2013, 16 million in 2014, 23 million in 2015, and 25 million in 2016.
bus service was allowed prior to 2013, and those
services are well-developed, especially to
eastern and southern Europe.
general, bus travel will be cheaper than comparable rail service. This is primarily a result of fierce competition as well as
lower overhead to operate buses.
while bus travel is generally cheaper than train travel, the trade-off
is that it is usually slower. This is due to buses generally
being limited to 100 km/h (while even 'slow" trains exceed 150 km/h),
traffic congestion, and the requirement that bus drivers
take scheduled rest breaks. Buses also tend to be more
cramped than trains. When deciding between bus and
rail, be sure to consider the trade-offs of cost, time, and comfort.
bus service is
provided by private companies. When the industry was
in 2013, more than a dozen companies started offering service.The competition was fierce resulting in the loss or
of several companies, a trend that will likely continue for a few more
years until the market stabilizes.
peaking at 328 in late 2015, there were 246 intercity bus
Germany at the beginning of 2017. The largest market share--
far-- is owned by FlixBus, which consolidated with the other market
leader, MeinFernbus, in 2015. (Interestingly, FlixBus now operates a
few discount intercity rail services.) Niche companies include
DeinBus, which nearly went bankrupt before being rescued by investors;
Regiojet; HELLÖ; ONEBUS; and IC Bus, which is operated
DeinBus coach at a station
Fares and tickets
carriers has resulted in bargain fares. However, ongoing
consolidation in the market has meant lessening competition and a
resulting increase in fares over the past couple of years that will
almost certainly continue in the future. Still,
competition will likely remain cheaper than comparable train fares. In response, the DB has started to offer special fares and
discounts of its own to compete with bus services, so it's always worth
other transportation services, you'll almost always get the best fare
by booking online in advance. You can also typically purchase
tickets over the phone, usually for a small surcharge. Some
companies operate ticket offices at major stations or storefronts in the
larger cities, and tickets can also be purchased through many travel
agents. However, in both cases, you will likely pay more than
would by purchasing online.
Tickets can also usually be
from the driver at departure, but this will almost always be the most
expensive option as well as the least certain as the bus may already be
fully-booked by departure time. Drivers may only accept
cash. If you wish to board at an on-request-only stop, you
have to purchase your ticket ahead of time.
are several aggregator services that will check the fares of all the
bus services as well as the DB. Links for recommended aggregators and
the individual bus companies are at the bottom of this page.
on buses requires individual tickets for each journey-- there are no
passes like there are for the rail system that allow unlimited and
spontaneous travel nor are there frequent-traveler discount programs.
copy of your ticket (either paper or electronic) and your identity
papers are usually required for boarding, although DeinBus only
requires your identity papers.
Cancellations or changes
and rebooking policies vary among the operators, so you'll want to
check those rules before purchasing if that's a concern. Most
will refund your money less a processing fee, but some will only issue
you a voucher for future travel with that company. The
for cancellation or changes also varies anywhere from 15 minutes to 24
hours before departure.
case of cancellations initiated by the company or significant delays (e.g. a bus
breakdown or missed connections due to traffic delays), you'll need to
contact the company to determine your options.
a ticket only guarantees you a seat on the bus; most companies do not
provide the ability to reserve a specific seat in advance. To
seat, arrive early.
of the carriers use
air-conditioned, modern over-the-road motor coaches for transport
including some double-decker buses. Smoking is not allowed on
Wi-Fi and entertainment
buses have free Wi-Fi service with Internet access available. However, the service can be unreliable with passengers
drop-outs or slow data rates at times. Most companies also
a free entertainment service via Wi-Fi (use your own device) with music
and movies available.
buses also feature electric outlets for recharging your electronic
devices. These outlets are usually 220v, so you will need to
sure your device either accepts that voltage or you have a transformer. You may also need a plug adapter.
Food and drink
companies allow you to bring food or drink on the bus and most also offer
a limited menu of refreshments for sale on board. Coffee,
soft-drinks, and a small assortment of dry foods (mainly snack foods
and candy) are usually available at quite reasonable prices.
Toilet facilities and rest breaks
buses have an on-board toilet. Most buses will not stop for rest breaks
unless required by law for the driver. If the bus
stop for a driver break, passengers are generally allowed to disembark to use the facilities;
be sure to stay nearby or ask the driver when the bus will depart so
that you are not left behind!
Typical bus interior (FlixBus)
Baggage policies vary widely among the carriers, so you'll need to check the
rules with each individual company. Be sure to label your bags with your name, address,
phone number. You should also consider adding something to
your bag more easily recognizable such as a bright-colored handle grab,
strap, or tag. Luggage cannot be transported unaccompanied.
an airplane, there is a luggage hold beneath the passenger compartment
as well as overhead and underseat storage in the passenger cabin.
Large bags should be placed in the luggage hold with only
smaller, carry-on type bags brought on board. Note that
are often required to load and unload their own bags from the luggage
hold. When loading, note that the hold area may have separate
compartments marked by signs for each destination served by the route;
be sure to put your bag in the section corresponding to your
with regular baggage, the policies for bulky items and bicycles also
varies. Most do allow baby buggies/carriages and wheelchairs
without an additional fee. Most do not allow pets other than
service animals; the latter usually requires you to notify the company
ahead of time.
All buses are equipped with seat belts (lap belts) and all passengers
are required to use them while seated.
Berlin central bus station
bus companies generally do not operate their own stations, but rather
use existing public bus facilities. In most large cities, the
buses will stop at either the central bus station (Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof/ZOB), usually
near the main train station (including the shiny new ZOB in Munich), or
the long-distance bus terminal
the airport (or both.) Large cities may have multiple stop
locations. In smaller towns and the suburbs, the stop may be
located at a train station or simply at a bus stop on the side of the
road near the town center.
Your ticket will give the address (and often a map) of the stop location for both your
and destination. If you are making a connection, be sure the
where you will change buses is the same or, if not, that you know how
to get between the stops for your connection and how much time you will
need to do so.
some cities, stops have been moved from the city center to outlying
areas due to concerns about congestion (or other political reasons.) Whatever your ultimate destination, be sure you know how
you'll get there
from the bus stop. Fortunately, most stops in cities are
at or near public transport.
At the larger bus stations, there are departure boards
similar to those at train stations and airports that show upcoming
departures and what platform they will be departing from; use these to locate your outbound bus. Before
boarding a bus, confirm its destination using the destination sign on
the front and/or side of the bus. Ask the driver if in doubt.
Arrivals/departures board at
Berlin central bus station
Disembarking between stops
of the bus companies generally prohibit intermediate or ad hoc stops. If the bus stops for a required rest break for the
driver, passengers are
allowed to disembark to use the facilities; be sure to stay nearby or
ask the driver when the
bus will depart so that you are not left behind!
of the domestic bus companies also offer international routes
either themselves or in conjunction with another carrier. You
will need to make sure you have the required paperwork
visa, etc.) for entry into your destination country.
sites of interest