Yesterday evening I boarded a Megabus coach in Amsterdam. Today I stepped out of another coach in Newcastle and then had to make my way to the station and take a train to Stockton-On-Tees. I didn’t get much sleep between points A and point B, but I only paid £50 for an 800km coach journey, so I think I got good value for money.
The MegaBus pick-up point in Amsterdam is at the P&R Coach Park at Zeeburg. That’s about 6km away from Centraal Station, but it only takes a minute to walk to the no. 26 tram halt on Stationsplein and the waiting time between trams is not long (6 to 8 minutes). Zeeburg is four stops away, the journey costs €2.90, and it only takes around 10 minutes; so getting to the coach park is pretty easy.
I’m not one for leaving things to the last moment, so I arrived at the pick-up point an hour before the coach was due to depart. Lots of international coach services pick-up and drop off passengers at the P&R Coach Park, but there are no facilities. It’s just a carpark/coach park with a few benches for people to sit on and twiddle their thumbs while they wait for the coaches to arrive. Fortunately it wasn’t raining.
Boarding the MegaBus
When the MegaBus coach pulled into the coach park it was full of passengers and, after everyone had disembarked and been reunited with their luggage, the two drivers said they needed to clean the coach before anyone was allowed on board. That seemed reasonable, and I don’t think anyone objected, but a few people began to get a little peed-off when the drivers finished doing their cleaning, pulled the coach up to where we were all waiting and never opened the doors.
Bags and baggage were picked up, and then set down again, as we formed a queue by the door. The drivers sat chatting in the front of the bus, looked at their laptop computer and then checked their watches. We continued to wait.
From what I can remember, the time was around 21:00, and the coach was not due to depart until 21:30, so I wasn’t particularly bothered. It may have been a different matter if it was raining, but perhaps the doors would have been opened sooner in those circumstances.
When the drivers finally opened the doors, stepping on board the coach was not an instant right. Everyone had to produce their passports and tickets so the drivers could check them against the passenger list on their laptop. As a procedure this is sensible enough, but I think the drivers acted unreasonably when they told some of the passengers they were not allowed to take their hand luggage onto the coach. One guy who had a medium-sized backpack that was only a little larger than my computer backpack (which was not deemed a problem) was warned in no uncertain terms: his bag would need to be stowed in the coach’s luggage locker or he would not be allowed on board. A lady had a similar problem and had to agree to be temporarily parted from her shopping bag, which appeared to contain food and drink for the journey. It would have made an excellent travelling buddy because it turned out we were not going to get any refreshment stops along the way.
I have no idea if this somewhat unreasonable attitude on the part of the drivers had been triggered because people had made comments about having to wait to enter the coach. I never heard anyone arguing with them, but as I stepped onto the bus one of the drivers remarked on how some people in the world are starving to death while others are complaining about a little thing like waiting to get onto a coach. This was my first experience travelling with MegaBus. At that point I was not entirely impressed, but even if the drivers were being a little unreasonable, it would be wrong to assume all MegaBus drivers would behave in the same way.
The drivers had done a good job. It was a nice clean coach, and there were carrier bags attached to all the seats along the aisle so that people had somewhere to place their rubbish if need be. The seats were reasonably comfortable and even reclined a little, but not nearly enough to offer anyone the option of decent sleep during the journey. When someone is sitting in the seat behind you, reclining room is always going to be limited, but a few extra degrees would have been nice, and other coaches offer this, so why not MegaBus?
I only used the toilet once. Here again the experience did not impress. Standing tall was not an option. I had to bow my head or crouch at the knees to fit inside. I’m 6′ 2″, so I am pretty tall I guess, but many people from the Netherlands are a lot taller than me and would have a real struggle to use the MegaBus on board toilet. Other MegaBus coaches may be equipped with better toilets, I have no way of knowing, but my experience was not good.
My seat had a 3-pin plug electrical socket and USB port beside it. I am assuming most of the other seats were the same, but I was sitting near the window and didn’t notice an outlet for the seat beside me, so I guess if I’d had a travelling buddy who needed to plug in as well we’d have had to draw straws.
The MegaBus WI-FI was surprisingly good. I even managed to stream a few music videos for a while, but after the coach crossed the Belgian border, the service started to become haphazard and, for much of the journey, became non-existent. I don’t know if this is a typical thing; all I can say is I was impressed with the WI-FI when I could get it.
Crossing the Channel
When I left England in July I travelled with Eurolines and the coach went through the Eurotunnel. I can’t say I enjoyed the experience. I love ferries though, so I was pleasantly surprised when the MegaBus coach arrived at the Calais to Dover ferry terminal. I enjoyed the crossing immensely and it was the first chance I got to have a warm drink and a cooked meal. I also had a pint of lager. It felt a little strange to be drinking lager just after having eaten an early breakfast, but what the heck.
I didn’t pay much attention to the time, but I think the crossing was at around 5am (give or take an hour). I only slept for an hour or two on the coach, but I don’t need a lot of sleep anyway and I was in much better shape than many of my fellow travellers. Some people were busy sitting on chairs and looking comatose, others were stretched out on sofas or sleeping on the floor. Still others were doing their best to battle the need for sleep and looked so terrible they’d have had a good shot at getting parts as extras in a zombie movie.
Dover to London Victoria Coach Station
London does not interest me. It never has, and I still had a lot of travelling to do, so I tried to get a grab a little extra sleep during the journey from Dover to the coach station. It was not easy but I managed somewhat successfully.
London Vitoria Coach Station to Newcastle
I should have had a two hour wait at London Vitoria, but it was only 90 minutes because the coach was delayed by traffic. The route from London to Newcastle must have been particularly popular yesterday because MegaBus needed an additional coach and had subcontracted to a Scottish bus company. Everyone who was going to Newcastle was asked to board this coach instead. The people who were travelling to destinations between London and Newcastle travelled by the Normal MegaBus coach. I don’t know how many people boarded that coach, but the one I travelled on was just about full. It had no WI-FI or electrical points, but the seats offered quite a generous recline, so I snoozed when I could, talked a little to the guy beside me, and spent the rest of the time gazing out the window. I arrived at Newcastle at around 17:00.
My Opinion about MegaBus
It would have been possible to fly from Schiphol to Newcastle, but the cheapest flight I could find was double what I paid for my MegaBus journey and the thought of flying never thrills me at the best of times. Alternatively I could have made the journey to London Vitoria with Eurolines and then got a National Express coach to Newcastle. The price would have been similar, but the MegaBus online booking procedure was easier and if you create an account with their website (not compulsory) all your journeys are logged. I quite like the idea of being able to check back on prices, dates, and journeys at a later date, so this is an added bonus. If all the MegaBus toilets are similar to the one I had to use, they leave a lot to be desired and do not compare well to the ones I used on National Express and Eurolines, but I’d rather cross the channel on top of the water than underneath it, so I think I will do most of my future long-distance (coach) travel with MegaBus.
– – – – –
– – –
– – –
– – – – –