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I am planning a month-long trip in mid-June to Europe; mainly Italy, Switzerland, France and Spain in that order. I'll like to know about a bus service that I can use while in a country, and to travel from one country to another.

I found this pass provided by Eurolines, can this be used within a country for eg.Rome to Florence? I'll really appreciate if somebody can guide which bus service are available in each country and can help travel from one country to another or is it better to book point to point rail tickets.

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It's a personal opinion, but for a multi-country trip like yours rail is a better mode of transport than bus. It's more comfortable and faster. Any particular reason why you are focussing on busses? –  DJClayworth Feb 18 '13 at 21:53
    
Maybe the price? Bus travel can be cheaper ... –  PERSONA NON GRATA Feb 18 '13 at 22:10
    
@DJClayworth yes price is my constraint, I dont mind spending more time on road by bus, also I am in process of gaining knowledge about traveling in europe. –  gbagga Feb 19 '13 at 3:27
    
In some places, bus is more developed than train (Split, Croatia is dead-end for example, no possibility to go East), but in general train network is well built. –  Vince Feb 19 '13 at 10:14
    
I never actually used Eurolines but I occasionally checked their website and never found their offer attractive. If I am strapped for cash, Eurolines still seems quite expensive. If I am flush, trains or even flights are well worth the price difference. If every (euro)cent counts and you want to travel without advance booking, I guess that hitchhiking or car sharing are your best options but otherwise you should really consider the train. –  Relaxed May 17 '13 at 21:11

6 Answers 6

In many European countries private bus operators are not allowed to compete with the public transportation system. This is the case in France, Switzerland, and the Benelux countries. This means that a bus operator like Eurolines cannot transport people within those countries, even though their buses might have several stops. In Germany the ban on domestic routes has now been mostly lifted, but the bus network is still in its infancy there. So in most case for long distance it's rail.

In many countries the public transportation network is integrated, and buses serve to complement the railway network. For example: In Switzerland you will rarely find a bus service that parallels a railway line, and where such line exist the price will be the same. You can get from Zürich airport using an IC train, a Suburban train, a Tram and even a bus, but you will pay the same price regardless.

So when confronted with a situation where the train from A To B is perceived as being to expensive many people then inquire about a bus service. In countries like Spain or the UK that works. But in other countries there is no alternative.

However, many way to get reduce the costs of train travel exist. The so called "Eurail Pass" however is not one of them. What I always suggest is for long international train trips is to book in advance (you can get London - Basel for 59,- Euro for example) and for local trips just to buy them locally on the spot. There are quite a few good deals to be had.

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You can check out Eurolines and Busabout for a bus Europe travel if you're in a budget. My relatives recently traveled there but I remember they have used http://www.voyajo.com/ for their trip.

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According to the Timetable tab of the page you mention, there is no service from Rome to Florence included in this pass. However, this does not mean that there is no bus service at all between Rome and Florence. Eurolines Italy has regular services between these two cities.

The countries you mention have excellent train services. As a general rule, trains are more expensive than buses. They are usually more comfortable and faster. Note that these are trends and no universal laws. Trains or bus? It depends on you and the importance you give to criteria like price, comfort and speed.

Regarding bus services, the Eurolines group has the most complete network in Europe. However, there are other more localised/specialised companies. How to find out about them? Do searches on the internet, have a look at travel guides, or ask precise questions on sites like this one (e.g. Which intercity bus companies are operating from Florence? Which companies are operating buses between Rome and Paris? etc.) . I think that outide the Eurolines network, there is no centralised resource on bus travel in Europe, such as there is seat61.com fro train travel.

Also check if a pass is worth the money. You seem to have an idea of where you want to go. Check how much it would cost to buy individual tickets rather than a pass. Feel free to combine bus an train in this case. If you are planning and booking ahead, you can make some good deals. Passes are not necessarily the cheapest option. You have to eat lots of kilometers to make them profitable. However, they give you more freedom. That can also be worth some money.

There are two extreme approaches to planning a trip. (1) Take a pass, look where it lets you go and then plan your trip accordingly. Or buy a pass, plan nothing and let yourself drift along the routes included in the pass. (2) Make a list of places you do want to see and the plan your trip accordingly. Buy individual tickets for trains or buses, whatever suits you best. Possibly combine them with more local passes.

Don't hesitate to dig this site. It has a couple of questions that might be relevant to you, such as e.g. this one.

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Consider that the bus isn't always the cheapest way to travel through those destinations. In fact, some of those locations might be cheaper to purchase domestic flights through. Double check that the pass is worth it, because 9 times out of 10 tourists buy a bus/rail pass and don't price out that it's cheaper to book individual tickets.

Enjoy your trip!

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The big operator for inter-country bus travel in Europe is, as you found it, Eurolines.

Unfortunately, intercity bus lines are not that well organized. Speaking for France, there are about two or three bus companies in each of the 95 départements, no common database for finding timetables and company web sites more or less amateurish. If you are fluent in french, you can google "bus <departure> <destination>" and hope the found site is up to date. Moreover, until recently intercity travel was a monopoly of the national rail company, thus no correct network has developped, other than the one by Eurolines.

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In western europe most people would agree that train is a better choice than bus to travel around.

If you plan to travel there for 4 weeks I can only recommend you the interrail - http://www.interrail.eu/ (if you are not european if think you have to go for eurail http://www.eurail.com/).

I have done it 4 times and was never disappointed !

Enjoy your trip in Europe ! (make sure you visit lake Geneva ;))

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Just to re consider above answer what do you mean by 'if you are not european' ? –  gbagga Feb 19 '13 at 16:20
    
@Gbagga Eurail is not sold to European residents (AFAIK mainly to avoid competing with national train companies and make sure their usual customers cannot purchase a pass to circumvent the regular fare). Do note that it became a lot less attractive over the years as many important links are now served by premium trains. This means you cannot just hop on the train as before, you need a seat reservation (from a small contingent available to pass-holders) and an extra fee, see seat61.com/Railpass-and-Eurail-pass-guide.htm –  Relaxed May 17 '13 at 21:27
    
Adding to my previous comment, after (re)reading seat61.com, it seems it is mostly a problem for France (seat quota), to a lesser extent Spain and Italy (extra fees and mandatory seat reservation but still a good chance to take any train you want). For other countries, it still looks good. –  Relaxed May 17 '13 at 21:30

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