/ Money, Travel & Leisure

Take the slow coach to Paris? Not at these prices!

Last week saw the launch of iDBUS, a new coach service from London to Paris. But with a journey time of nine hours, and prices starting at £90 return, why would you ever use this service?

The news of SNCF’s new service, which also serves Lille, comes just three months after budget coach operator Megabus launched services to Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Boulogne.

Clearly there is increased demand for coach travel to the continent in these straitened times. With Paris prices as low as £2.50 return on Megabus and £18 return on Eurolines, it’s understandable that people are prepared to endure the nine-hour slog in return for extra cash in their pocket on arrival.

But the lowest return price that iDBUS offers is a whopping 36 times more expensive than Megabus’s cheapest fare, and five times more than the comfortable Eurolines service.

All aboard the nine hour coach

The new service is even pricier than the Eurostar’s cheapest fare at £69. Not only is this comfortable and affordable, it has the advantage of taking just over two hours to Paris.

Eurostar passengers leaving London at the same time as the iDBUS could feasibly have enjoyed the views from the Eiffel tower, taken a boat trip on the Seine, and browsed the markets around Montmartre before the coach finally chugged into town nine hours later. And all at a lower price.

I’ve got nothing against coach travel at all. In my student days, I would happily spend hours, sometimes days, trundling along on a bus to extend my meagre funds. And before the arrival of the no-frills airlines, budget travellers had few alternatives to the coach. But these days there are alternatives, and coach prices surely need to be more competitive?

Is a coach trip fun for all the family?

iDBUS told us that it is targeting its services at students and families, but savvy students will soon spot the cheaper options, and the thought of trying to entertain children for an entire day’s bus journey makes the blood run cold.

One possible advantage of the new service is its fixed-price structure. To get the best prices on the Eurostar, Megabus or Eurolines you need to book in advance, whereas iDBUS should offer the same prices whether your departure date is the next day or in three months’ time.

But I had a quick look at next day prices, and although the cheapest Eurostar was £164, it was possible to get a return Megabus for £50.50, and Eurolines service for £75 – still cheaper than the minimum £90 iDBUS fare.

So I’m a bit baffled. Am I missing something? Would you choose the coach over flying, ferry or train, even at this price? Or if not, how much cheaper would the coach service have to be for you to consider eating into your precious holiday time?

Phil says:
30 July 2012

Coach travel is slow and uncomfortable. The only reason people choose it over faster modes of travel is price and if iDBUS can’t compete there they must either have a very good extra they’re not telling us about or they will fail.

Coach travel everywhere isn’t necessarily uncomfortable, I travelled by coach in South America and it was another experience. In Argentina and Chile they had large leather seats that fully reclined and even stewards standing around to serve food and wine! And the food, being Argentina, was steak 🙂 Also they had a wide selection of the latest films in English with Spanish subtitles as they didn’t seem too bothered about copyright and camcorders in cinema.

Downside? Being South America there are few passenger trains, and when I went their economy was bad and the £ was actually worth something, so while very cheap, may not be a fair comparison.

Kerwin says:
5 October 2012

To answer your question Guy; “it was convenient and matched my goals.” I’m a transportation geek and needed to get from London to Paris cheaply at the last minute. IDBUS provided that for me. Full disclosure, I contacted them about getting the introductory fare, although I was ready to pay the 41 GBP that was the regular fare and they offered my a free ticket to try the service.

I found the ride comfortable and enjoyed it although I’d love it if they had food service onboard. Just come prepared I guess. I took Megabus from the same Victoria Coach station to Edinburgh and it was not a good experience as the seats were uncomfortable and the windows had no blinds, so the early morning sun woke everyone up.

I overheard others on the bus saying that it was cheaper for them to take the bus as they had a family of three and wanted to get to London at the last minute.

So it just depends on what you want from your trip, how much advanced notice you have to travel and the availability of the fare you want to pay.

And yes, I’d choose the Coach over flying, as that was actually what I did :-). it leaves from the center of London and I can still pay a low fare even if booking the day before. Despite the fact that I had to get up very early to catch the 6:00a departure. Also, if you want to arrive in Paris in the morning and save on a hotel, you can take the redeye bus. So it just depends on your wants and needs.

You should try the service first hand to see how they are.

Here is my review if you want to take look – https://conversation.which.co.uk/transport-travel/coach-to-paris-prices-eurostar-train/.

Kerwin says:
5 October 2012

Actually here’s the link to the review 🙂