Flight or FlixBus? Let’s take a look at my recent journey…
I have never been too picky when it comes to means of transport and while living in the UK, I got used to long bus rides like the 4-hour journey between London and Cardiff. My partner and I also once embarked on a 12-hour overnight bus journey from London to Aberdeen in Scotland. Admitted, it was a bit of a tough one, but earlier in life, I had done Denmark to Paris by bus several times, and as a child, I did Denmark to Spain a couple of summers with my family.
While many people might hesitate when it comes to long bus journeys, for me, it’s definitely an option to consider when it comes to means of transport. Today, low-cost airlines are tempting most of us, but on certain distances, you might find the bus to be a great alternative, as there are many different aspects to keep in mind. Journey time and price are the most obvious, but what about comfort and environmental issues?
Working as a travel journalist, I love travel planning and it’s always interesting to compare different options, so I was excited when I recently got the chance to travel between two major European capitals by bus – Madrid and Lisbon.
In my home country Denmark, FlixBus has become the go-to company when it comes to intercity-bus journeys like the popular route between Copenhagen and Aarhus (my hometown of Odense is found halfway on this route) or journeys to the two major airports of Copenhagen and Billund.
In Spain, where I currently live there seems to be much more competition, but FlixBus connects the capital to exciting cities like Barcelona, Bilbao, Cadíz, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, San Sebastián and Zaragoza, just to mention a few. So with my base in Madrid, the roads are stretching to each corner of the Iberian Peninsula – just waiting for adventures in comfort.
After doing the Madrid to Lisbon (and return) journey, I gotta say that comfort should weigh heavy in your mind when considering Flixbus as an alternative to flying this route. As you will see in my calculations further down, time-wise you will not surprisingly save some time by flying – but considering the distance by road, you might be surprised about how relatively small the difference is, after adding the long waiting time that comes with navigating the airport. Let’s take a look at the numbers…
FLIGHT: MADRID TO LISBON
Transport from downtown to the airport: 28 minutes
Time in advance: 2 hours
Flight time approx.: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Time from landing to receiving luggage approx.: 30 minutes
Transport from the airport to downtown: 24 minutes
Total: 4 hours and 42 minutes
FLIXBUS: MADRID TO LISBON
Transport from downtown to the bus station: 20 minutes
Time in advance: 15 minutes
Journey time on average.: 8 hours and 41 minutes (including breaks)
Time from arriving to receiving luggage approx.: 10 minutes
Transport from the bus station to downtown: 18 minutes
Total: 9 hours and 44 minutes (With FlixBus you’ll have the chance to choose a night departure and sleep on your journey).
As for transport time from the airport, this example of Lisbon isn’t actually the best, as many airports are further from downtown in other big cities, as well as most bus stations are already in downtown unlike the Oriente station in the Portuguese capital. But anyway.
You will notice that the total journey time is more or less double up when going by bus, but as said, there is a big comfort element to consider too. We all know that airports can be hectic. The recommended 2-hour buffer from you arrive to the plane actually takes off includes waiting in line to check-in bags, “stripping down” for the security protocol and then waiting in line to board the plane. For comparison, you just have to arrive 15 minutes in advance when boarding the FlixBus, loading your bag takes a couple of minutes and then… off you go!
You can sit back and enjoy the ride with more leg room than most planes offer, easily access the wifi and plug in your devices for endless power (just use the USB). In case of the Madrid – Lisbon route, you will even have a proper break to stretch your legs, find a “normal toilet” and grab an affordable cup of coffee or a bite to eat.
Another aspect of comfort is possible transport sickness that some are unfortunately prone to. It often depends on the route and the condition of the roads. The journey between Madrid and Lisbon for this example is very straight forward and mainly goes along major roads (as most big intercity routes in Spain) that make for a smooth journey with low risk of transport sickness. On the other hand, the comfort of your flight is very dependent on the weather situation.
Flight (direct and economy class): When looking a few months ahead IT IS possible to find many cheap flight tickets from around 40-45€ (with just a cabin bag included), while a same-month departure seems to vary between 65€ and 200+€ (and could be even more expensive).
FlixBus: You can find tickets from 9,99€ (luggage included) even a few days before the date of the journey. The most common price level for this route ranges between 14,99€ and 21,99€. Highest price I came across was 44,99€.
Yes, this is naturally a big issue too and something to consider whenever you travel. These numbers are based on statistics from Germany and might vary, but just to give a general idea:
Flight: 214 grams of greenhouse gases per kilometre per person.
Flixbus: 32 grams of greenhouse gases per kilometre per person.
In fact, the majority of the FlixBuses are ‘Euro 6’ approved and thereby live up to the highest European environmental standards with low CO2 emission. Furthermore, it is possible for passengers to add on a CO2 compensation fee when they book their tickets.
SENSE OF JOURNEY
I personally love travelling by train or bus because it gives me a good sense of the journey, and I can admire the landscapes rolling by which in this case is really worth it. A big part of the journey between Madrid and Lisbon takes you through the often overlooked but beautiful region of Extremadura including a part of the scenic Monfragüe National Park. If you download the FlixBus app, you can keep track of where the bus is at all times and see if it keeps the time schedule too.
The flight might offer excellent views during take-off and landing, but mostly, it just feels like waiting time.
Other alternatives like train or car will offer the same sense of journey, but unless you’re in the passenger seat, the car won’t allow you to fully admire the landscapes, to sleep, read or even catch up on a bit of work. The train will, but it will also come at a considerably higher cost.
Now you have the facts. The choice is yours!
You can search for tickets at: FlixBus.com
I was invited by FlixBus to take on this journey, but the idea for this article and the opinions are completely my own.
How do you feel about long bus journeys in Europe – and which ones have you done? Please share in the comments below – or on Travelooney Blog’s Facebook page.