I am sat writing this article on a Eurolines coach from London to Geneva, via Paris, in order to get away for a cheap snowboarding weekend in Les Arcs. It’s an 18 hour coach journey so what better time to write a review of Eurolines coach travel for a snowboarding holiday?
Eurolines is the continental arm of the often, but unfairly, joked about National Express. I have travelled by coach a lot in the past, but rarely in the UK, and never with National Express. In Australia, North America and Asia I have survived many coach journeys of over 24 hours, and in one case 50 hours in Indonesia which included chickens, break downs (bus and travelling companion) and an upset stomach. So 18 hours in Europe does not seem too bad.
I think it’s worth starting by giving the reasons why you would choose Eurolines coach travel for a snowboarding holiday. I will then talk about my experience, and finally summarise the two into a ‘is it worth it’ section.
Booked almost last minute my Eurolines return to Geneva from London costs £95. At the time of booking the cheapest flights, at very inconvenient times, were £165. That’s before luggage, which on budget airlines costs £35-50 each way, so the flight would end up around £250.
Of course if you book flights way in advance you can get them a lot cheaper, but including carriage of a board bag a flight for under £125 is almost impossible. It is also worth pointing out that these will not be convenient flight times, you will probably have to be at the airport a couple of hours before the crack of dawn. If you have the foresight to plan in advance, you can also take advantage of Eurolines deals with saving of 25% and more possible.
It is not just travel where you make a saving but also in accommodation. If you want 3 full days on the slope it means being away for 4 nights, if 2 of those nights are on a coach then you halve the accommodation costs by choosing coach travel for a snowboarding holiday.
Ok bear with me on this one. On the face of it an 18 hour coach journey is not going to save you time over a 2 hour flight. However for a snowboarding trip convenient arrival and departure times mean extra days on the slopes.
For this trip I arrive in Geneva at 7am, with many ski resorts under 2 hours away I can be in resort for first lift. To do the same I would need to fly in the night before, and pay for accommodation, or accept the first day will be a half day. On the way home the coach departs Geneva at 11pm, meaning I get a full day on the slopes and time for a leisurely dinner before catching the coach. Of course there are late evening flights, but you normally pay a premium for them and will still find yourself leaving the slopes a little early on the last day.
If you take the coach for a 1 week holiday you can get 8 days on the slopes compared to 6 days on traditional snowboarding holidays. That is 1/3 more time snowboarding at a lower cost, until you buy the lift pass of course!
You can take 2 medium suitcases of upto 20kg each, plus snowboard bags are accepted at no extra charge. You can even merge your allowance for one bag up to 30kg which is enough to take all 3 of my snowboards, plus a lot of extra gear I probably won’t need. My bag was never weighed and I put it on the coach myself, so I expect you could take more if you wanted,although don’t quote me on it!
There is also no hanging around a luggage carousel hoping your bags will turn up. Worrying that your expensive snowboarding gear will arrive damaged, or not at all. When you get off the bus you are free to head off straight away without any airport faffing.
For many I am sure 18 hours on a coach would be their idea of hell, but you can approach it as time to relax. Take a good book, play games on your phone or tablet, watch a film, listen to music or get some sleep. Many of us don’t get much time when we are doing nothing so embrace it and catch up on some indulgences you don’t normally have time for.
In my case I decided to work on this article during the journey. Perhaps not very relaxing but it means I will have more spare time to relax with my family when I get home.
I am now writing this on the last leg of my journey home, in each case the journey required a coach change in Paris so have caught 4 coaches. There is no getting around the fact that it’s a long time to spend on a coach so for my review of Eurolines coach travel for a snowboarding holiday, I will look at comfort, cleanliness and both on and off coach experience.
I am 5’8″, so coach leg room, as with flight leg room, rarely cause me any problems. Of the 4 eurolines coaches I caught, I had a pair of seats to myself 3 times and I always had enough leg room. However leg room varied by coach and by seat, so if you are tall get on early to pick those with more room.
The seats are comfy, all reclined and all except one journey had a fold down table and mesh to hold book and drink etc. All coaches have a toilet, curtains, personal air con and individual lights. The seats are as comfy as most short haul airlines but with more legroom.
All the coaches I caught were fairly new and the overall cleanliness pretty good, although not quite to airline standards. When getting on a coach at Paris, that had come from Belgium, a little rubbish had been left behind by the departing passengers which was not very nice, but this only happened once.
As I am sure you can imagine by the end of a journey the coach toilet was not particularly nice, but I have been in a lot worse, particularly on the ill fated 50 hour journey in Indonesia. Overall I would say the cleanliness is better than I expected.
Having a pair is seats to yourself is always nice and improves the experience, however the journey I was next to a stranger was also fine. For the two overnight journeys I slept well, although I never find it hard to sleep when traveling particularly when it is ‘lights out’. I am sure if you are a bad travel sleeper you might get less than me, to help I recommend you take eye mask, pillow and a blanket.
On one journey, a big group of girls in their late teens, were making a lot of noise chatting loudly for the first couple of hours. But on the other journeys there was minimal disturbance from other passengers.
It may sound like a strange thing to say, but in comparison to airports, bus stations are both easier and harder to deal with. Easier because check in is fairly simple, then you just walk up to the bus with your bags, show your ticket and get on. All of this can be achieved in 15 mins before departure, although I would allow 30 to avoid feeling rushed.
They are harder, because with the exception of London Victoria bus station there is very little info. In particular Paris Gaulle bus station has no info in arrivals to help with those catching a second bus. It would be fair to assume that the ticket you were given in London would be fine for the next leg of the journey, but no you have to go downstairs and check in again to get a new ticket. At Paris check in there is little to indicate which queue you should join meaning I queued twice.
Border control is another area that is both easy and hard. Easy because the border officers get on the coach and check you passport. Hard because on a bus of around 30 people there will always be one or two that don’t have the correct papers, or who catch the eye of the border police, meaning the whole bus has to wait.
At French border control before we boarded the channel tunnel we were also asked to all get off the bus, collect our luggage to put it through airport style scanners. My snowboard bag got some interesting looks, thankfully I resisted the urge to say ‘a body’ when asked what I had in there.
This meant we got delayed so we arrived in paris just before my next bus was due to leave. Fortunately delays are all factored in and they held the bus as I dashed downstairs to go through the ‘essential’ second check in process.
Despite it taking a long time, and at some points not being the easiest mode of transportation, I feel it is a great option for those on a budget. It is also a great way to get to the mountains for those trying to maximise time on the slope without paying for extra accommodation. Finally anyone that has a lot of luggage should consider coach travel for a snowboarding holiday as you can take twice as much as flying.
If money is not a problem it is easier and quicker to fly, but if you can use the time productively and can sleep on a coach it is a great option. For me the best reason to choose coach travel for a snowboarding holiday is you get more time on the slope, at a lower cost, which more than makes it worth it.