A guide to the international megabus: London to Amsterdam
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In all honesty, I love the megabus. It’s cheap, it’s efficient, and there’s sometimes free WiFi on board. It’s also a hell of a lot more eco-friendly than planes – and to be honest, I fly far too much (I think it’s 20 planes in the last 2 years…). It takes quite a bit longer, but for me, the low carbon footprint and the kinder it is to my bank balance makes me want to take it everytime.
The megabus route from Bristol to London was an absolute lifesaver during my four years at university. Anyone who has lived in London will know what a difference it is getting into ‘your’ side of London; so arriving on the bus at Victoria rather than Paddington meant that I could just pop on a train to the suburbs and be home half an hour later.
But what about continental megabuses? They were only introduced recently, and they’re still quite a novelty – you can board a bus in London and get to France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium or even Spain, and change to go further afield. But can you really cope with a megabus journey of double digit hours? Is this survivable?
My answer is a resounding yes. The cheapest way to get around in Europe is without a doubt the megabus. London to Amsterdam takes about 10 hours, yet I paid a mere £10- and many are cheaper. And to other European destinations they can be even less – Paris for £6, Brussels for £8. At these prices, there’s no reason not to take the megabus.
Here’s how to take a long distance megabus – like an absolute boss.
Preparing to take the megabus
Pack a nice bus bag
I don’t mean an aesthetically pleasing bus bag (although, whatever makes you happy!). I mean, fill it with nice things that are going to make your journey that little bit more pleasant.
For me, this consists of:
- Face wipes – these are probably my most important item. Takes off any make up in the evening and helps you feel all fresh in the morning.
- Travel toothbrush and toothpaste – good for the same reasons!
- A comfy pillow (even two if you can fit them in) – the dream is to have one to sit on and one to rest your head. But failing that, make sure you have the one so you don’t wake up with a stiff neck!
- A blanket – for ultimate warmth when sleeping
- A hairband – to keep your hair out of your face when sleeping/ the next morning
- Comfy trousers (if you’re not already wearing them)
- A cosy hoody
- Change of clothes for the morning
- Plenty of food
- Lots of water
- Paracetamol and my favourite headache remedy, 4head
- Tissues to act as toilet paper
Key things to remember when preparing for the megabus:
Put comfort over fashion
I tend to do this most of my life anyway, but if there’s one place where comfort should always win, it’s on the megabus. Tracksuit bottoms, baggy t shirts, no make up – whatever makes you comfiest will ensure you have as pleasant a journey as possible.
Take a load of water
‘Bus air’ always makes me dehydrated, and it’s always better to have extra water than to run out!
Bring along healthy snacks
One thing that will make you feel worse after having sat on a megabus for 10+ hours is a sugar crash. Fruit, veggies and nuts will keep your energy levels at a high!
When you get to the station or bus stop
If you’re leaving from London Victoria, they ask you to be there an hour early. This is just a precaution, but try and get there as early as possible. Check in is normally by the bus itself but can be at the check in desks. You’re allowed to board the coach as soon as it arrives, so be sure to be there early to nab a good seat!
You’ll need to print off your confirmation email, as EU laws state you have the have a physical ticket on you and it acts as this. Have it ready for boarding the bus.
Your luggage will be tagged and you’ll receive a stub – keep hold of this.
Once you’re on the bus, obviously first look around to see if there’s any empty double seats (generally the further back, the more empties). These buses do tend to fill up along the way, but there’s always a chance that you might get to France or Belgium while retaining a double seat. Obviously avoid a seat near the toilet – and seats closer to the back might mean extra room to stretch your legs out.
The megabus journey
The bus takes about 2 hours to get from London to Dover, so it’s up to you if you want to try and sleep in this time. Personally, I wouldn’t bother before the ferry and would opt to read my kindle or listen to music instead. There’s lots of faffing around at the ferry and you have to embark/ disembark the bus so you won’t be able to sleep the whole way through.
Once you get to Dover you’ll have to go through passport control – the driver will explain where and when to get off. Then, once the coach is on the ferry, you have to get off again and go up into the main body of the boat. Here, there’s a restaurant, shops, bars, arcade games and loads of sitting areas – so you can keep well entertained for the 1 hour 30 minute crossing.
Make your way back to the megabus promptly after docking in Calais; nobody wants to be that person making the whole bus late! The good news; once you get on board the bus, it’s sleep time!
I’m awful at a lot of things, but I’m a bit of a pro at sleeping on public transport. I have major issues with insomnia in my own bed, but put me on any form of moving vehicle and I’m out like a light. We thought this might represent how I’m never happy staying still and that moving is more natural to me… or it could just mean that I’m a really odd person. But anyway, I’ve concocted of a magic formula for sleeping on buses.
- Make sure you’re super comfy
I’m talking velour tracksuit bottoms (so ugly but SO cosy), all make up off, hair in a top knot, bed socks on, blanket wrapped around shoulders. New levels of snug.
- Block everything out
An eye mask and ear plugs are essential. Maybe not your best look, but you’ll be the one laughing when you reach your destination completely well rested.
- Adjust pillows accordingly
If you’re able to do the two pillow trick, pop one underneath you and one on the window/ the back of the chair/ the shoulder of the person next to you (probably only if you know them). If you just have one, make it a neck support.
- Pop your feet up
This might be just one for us short-legged gals, but I find that I can’t really get on with megabus floors. The footrest is perfect to give your feet some levitation.
- Take some deep breaths and look out of the window if you can
I find driving through an area I don’t know at night so tranquil and relaxing. It sends me right off!
- If you struggle, try listening to music or reading
Whatever normally works to send you off should help you sleep on the bus too!
For a night bus, try to sleep the whole way, for obvious reasons. It’s a great way to save money on a night’s accommodation too!
For a day bus, it’s a little trickier – it’s a bit harder to sleep, and a little less logical as it may muck up your sleeping pattern. I’d definitely advise booking the night bus where possible, but on a day bus, a combination of snoozing, listening to music, reading and catching up on any work seems to do the job of passing the time. Lots of people were watching films on tablets too.
If you’re travelling to Amsterdam, you’ll stop at Lille, Gent, Antwerp and Rotterdam. Rotterdam is about 45 minutes away, and I’d recommend at this time starting to ‘freshen up’ ready for an exciting day exploring!
I always feel a lot better if I wash my face with my lush ‘ultrabland’ wash and put my handcream on. So I did just that on the megabus.
I always travel in as comfy clothes as possible (which for me equals velour tracksuit bottoms) so I take a spare set of ‘not so comfy’ clothes (aka jeans) to change into. A face wipe, quick brush of my hair and spritz of deodorant later and I’ll feel like a new woman, ready to cope with a day of exploring a new city!
Give yourself a big pat on the back once you get off the bus. You’ve done it, you’ve braved Europe’s cheapest overland transport method and now you’re ready to explore a great city. Make sure, in all your pride and excitement, you don’t forget to collect your hold bag. You’ll need your ticket stub that you received all those hours ago in London to retrieve your bag.
More megabus information
You get dropped off at Sloterdijk station, where you can catch a quick train to Amsterdam Centraal for 3.20.
Paris – thanks to Miss Happy Feet for this information
It is either a 8-9 hours bus trip during the day or 10 hours overnight. Bus departs from Quai De Seine Arret Megabus and arrives in Victoria Coach Station, London. Be sure to pack in an inflatable neck pillow to prevent neck pain!
Why you should get the international megabus
Not only did I get to Amsterdam and back for£25, but I only paid £8 for a return from Bristol to London – so my entire journey cost me a grand total of £33. Once you consider getting to and from an airport, plus the extortionate cost of flying, the megabus is a fraction of the price. Plus it’s a lot kinder to the environment than taking a short flight and it cuts out all of the ‘airport hassle’.
In terms of seat comfort and facilities, it’s like taking a long-haul flight; as long as you keep yourself occupied with things to do, the time just speeds away. Getting the megabus to Europe means that you save vital money for wine and gelato, and it’s an experience in itself. It’s a revolutionary, great value way to travel and I’d recommend it to any budget or conscious traveller.
I’d love to develop this article further to include information about travelling to other European cities via the megabus. Have you got the international megabus to or within Europe? Please let me know any tips or information you have about the service below!