Let’s just start this was the succinct phrase ‘bloody Flixbus’. I’ve been on many Flixbus trips and in recent years my experiences were getting better after many annoying journeys. That meant I was hopeful that the service might be comfortable and easy.
I arrived at the bus station 45 minutes early (I feel the need to always be early to recce the situation), pleased that it clearly stated that I should board at gate 13. I thought that this was marvellous, until I realised that there were only five platforms. Brilliant, just the confusion that I didn’t need. I roped in a young Polish guy who I guessed correctly might speak English and he had missed his bus, but he said that Flixbus could depart from one of the three places due to changes at the bus station. It could be from either end of the bus station, or it would be from outside the front.
I will say that Flixbus support is very good and they responded to my Facebook message quickly and we soon discovered that they didn’t know where their coach went from either. I have to credit them with replying so promptly and politely though.
This is the dilemma. Flixbus say to wait outside the bus station, which is the bit just above ‘parking’ in the above map. However, I was aware that was a stupid place to stand as coaches weren’t using the bus station, they were either going off near to the Jamaican Shop (very decadent), outside the front, or right down the bottom of the map on that little turning circle.
Flixbus do have coach tracking, which saved the day here. If I had waited where Flixbus customer support said to wait then I would have missed it, the coach parked up right at the bottom of the above map. That’s actually quite a distance away and it isn’t visible from the bus station, so very easy to miss. To me, this is completely hopeless, it’s like a railway station not having any platform numbers and expecting customers to just work it out.
The driver was friendly enough, although there were no checks of my documents. For unknown reasons Flixbus give a reserved seat, but it’s visible only on the app and not on the ticket they send. I didn’t much care where I sat, but there was someone in the seat that I had been allocated. I have no idea why Flixbus need to give out seat numbers to those who don’t want them, they’re pretty much entirely ignored by customers and it creates confusion when none was needed. The bus departed seven minutes early, so I assume that I was the only customer being picked up in Częstochowa.
I don’t know the safety rules in Poland, but there no announcements, no customers wearing seatbelts and the like. Without being rude, the interior of the coach was also quite Hogatharian. We had some customers passed out drunk over seats, some just drunk and some who were standing whilst the coach was in motion and they promptly fell over. It wasn’t a problem for me, but it wasn’t really an ideal set-up and it was clear that the sole driver, who wasn’t wearing anything that might suggest he was the driver, wasn’t going to burden himself by dealing with anything.
The coach was generally clean, but it was a slightly rickety thing and the seats reclined so far as to be a complete nuisance for the customer behind. That didn’t impact me as the coach was very quiet and I had no-one in front, but it seemed a cheap vehicle and not at all decadent.
The coach arrived on time and in one piece into Warsaw West. The fare was £10, similar to the train, and I decided to go by coach to see how it compared. The whole Flixbus outfit worries me though, there are what I consider to be customer safety issues that the company isn’t worrying about, let alone the problems that customers have getting any joy after complaining. One customer on a review said that the driver on their service hid an illegal immigrant on the coach into the UK and got caught, with Flixbus doing nothing to get customers to their final destination. The detail provided suggests that it might be true, but if not, there are hundreds of other complaints logged on-line.
So, that’s it for me, I’m not going to risk another Flixbus service, I don’t think they’re safe enough or have a robust enough procedure to know what is going on. They have now launched in the UK, but I think I’ll stick to National Express and Megabus. It’s probably a better experience for those departing from major termini, as it’ll be clearer where they’re going from and it’d be possible to get a seat. But, I think I’ll stick to th Polish railway network in future.