My first Flixbus ride ended before I was even on the bus. Back then, nine years ago, I was supposed to go to Hamburg for a weekend, fall head over heels in love with the Hanseatic city and choose it as my later adopted home. If my tired eyes had just studied the ticket more closely early in the morning, they might have noticed that, contrary to my assumptions, the departure was NOT scheduled for 7:30 a.m., but for 6:30 a.m. (that 6:30 and 7:30 are two different times, should be doom me again later in this story). The Flixbus hotline was very helpful and rebooked me for a later trip. So the love story with Hamburg was able to take its course. And so does the love story with the Flixbus.
Of course there are those sleepless nights, when you roll over in your seat folded up in impossible positions, those seat neighbors whose last shower was probably two months ago, those smelly, cramped bus toilets and those endlessly long journeys that are punctuated by traffic jams the Autobahn will be even longer. But all these little annoyances weigh nothing compared to what Flixbus offers: Travel across Europe for very little money. And that – at least in my experience – is often more reliable and comfortable than by train. Exactly ten years ago, the bus company inaugurated its first line between Munich and Nuremberg. Since then, Flixbus has been growing rapidly - apart from the Corona years. Last year the company transported 60 million passengers.
Including me, of course. I have traveled countless times by Flixbus in recent years. Either on vacation, on short city trips or in my home near Frankfurt. And almost every journey is linked to an unforgettable memory. There was the time when I drove to Brussels with my roommate and we couldn't find the bus when we left because it wasn't painted in the grass-green Flixbus shade. When we finally got in, we had only the seat by the rear door, so that a blast of freezing air crept into our bones at every stop. We had learned from the mistake: On a trip to Prague a few years later, we had blossomed into bus professionals and were there early enough to occupy the last row and, thanks to sleeping masks and oropax, to completely block out what was happening around us.
There was the one time when we missed a flight to Zurich (there it is again, the problem with the times) and had to switch to the Flixbus instead. Flixbus, the savior in need. A one-hour flight turned into a 13-hour bus ride. However, my unbroken record is 17 hours to Stockholm – a little torture, but the flights were simply too expensive just before New Year's Eve. Also, unlike on a Ryanair flight, I could at least carry unlimited amounts of liquid (mulled wine) in my suitcase. After a short break in a southern Swedish village, the bus driver wouldn't let me get on. But that wasn't because of the mulled wine, but because he thought I didn't have a ticket. Although I repeatedly showed it to him, only a call to the Flixbus headquarters solved the problem.
There was the one time when I suddenly found myself on Lake Constance on a trip to Venice because the Flixbus was crossing the water via ferry. A scenic view that I didn't expect at all. Even in the USA I traveled with the Flixbus. When another tourist at the San Diego hostel suggested I continue with Flixbus, I thought he meant the US company Greyhound. In fact, the German company took over its US counterpart in 2021. But even before that, the green companions were already rolling through parts of North America. So I was sitting in the front row of my familiar Flixbus when the Los Angeles skyline appeared on the horizon. At that time I became friends with some girls from Ireland. I've often made nice acquaintances with the many other students and young people who use the Flixbus as a low-budget means of travel. For example with a French Erasmus student who even visited me in Hamburg.
Otherwise, the Flixbus clientele offers either material for interesting social studies or medium-sized tantrums. The latter, for example, with a man who was making a loud phone call in the middle of the night and filling the bus with the smell of chicken wings, of which he had a whole bucket on his lap. At that time I had flown from Cuba to Düsseldorf via Manchester, still had to go back to Hamburg and wished for nothing more than to sleep. Then there are the passengers who seem to be trying to manage their move with the Flixbus and stuff whole pieces of furniture into the luggage compartment at the back of the bus. Or the people who smuggle pets. Because both dogs and all other animals are actually excluded from carriage. But that didn't stop a woman next to me from carrying a parrot in her purse.
Whenever I traveled home by bus, my family eagerly awaited the stories from the Flixbus. Or the "Fixbus", as my grandmother used to call it. After all, she was closer than my father, who once wanted to know in a grandiose slip of the tongue: "Are you driving with BlablaCar or Netflix?" That no longer happens today - Flixbus has made a name for itself, is now on the road in more than 40 countries and serves routes in Turkey and South America in addition to Europe and North America. With "Flixtrain" the group has also expanded to the rails. Although Flixbus does not provide any information on its sales, 2022 was the most successful year to date, said co-founder and CEO André Schwämmlein on the occasion of the anniversary. The introduction of the Germany ticket could put a damper on the success. Flixbus wants to be included in the flat rate for regional and local transport at a monthly price of 49 euros, but so far the wish has remained unfulfilled.
I, too, have switched to the train for trips within Germany. Although the train journeys are usually associated with delays, cancellations or other typical problems, the trains usually reach their destination faster. Ever since I got a Bahn-Card, the saver price tariffs have been on par with Flixbus.
But for trips across European national borders, I still like to climb into the green vehicle. Because of the price, because of the environment and of course because of the memories. Some are awkward or repulsive, some funny and whimsical, and others very beautiful - just as a love story should be.
Sources: German Press Agency, "Süddeutsche Zeitung"