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National Express are the UK's largest scheduled operator of long distance bus services. The network is truly national in England and Wales with most cities and towns of any consequence interconnected.
In Scotland the network only covers the main cities but interconnects well with Scottish Citylink, the dominant Scottish operator.
In London, the National Express terminus is Victoria Coach Station, London's only major coach station.
National Express also offer services that terminate or visit London's major airports, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton without going into London itself.
The big attraction of coach travel is the low price compared with the main rail alternative that is normally faster but more expensive. Promotional on-line prices can be astounding, its often cheaper to take a coach to the other end of England than just getting to one of London's airports.
Coaches are modern with reclining leather seats, headrests, seat-back tables, ample leg room and toilets. Most coaches have air conditioning and power sockets for charging your mobile phone or laptop and selected services are fitted with wi-fi. All coaches are non-smoking.
Victoria Coach Station is just a like a busy regional airport. Coaches leave every couple of minutes, there are airport style departure screens and departure gates where you board the coach. There is a full list of facilities including a useful left luggage office.
The dominant national operators at Victoria, National Express and Megabus have a stranglehold on services. The European scheduled bus operator Eurolines also has its terminus at London Victoria. The most busy European routes are relatively short distance routes to Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam and Brussels but you can go to the far side of Europe using Euroline services.
Victoria Coach Station is quite central, 5 minutes' walk from Buckingham Palace and Victoria Railway and London Underground Station. Victoria is also a major London hotel district with accommodation options for all sectors of the market.
Find out more about Victoria:
You can carry two medium-sized suitcases - weighing up to 20kg (44 lbs) each - plus one small piece of hand luggage per person. By hand luggage they mean a small handbag or shoulder bag you would be comfortable with stored between your feet or on your lap.
Drivers loading the baggage do not weigh individually every bag.
Over this allowance and steep excess luggage charges kick in and there is an outside chance you will be put on a following bus. (If everyone brought their full luggage allowance there is not enough room in the luggage hold)
Things like bikes and other outsize luggage are carried subject to the discretion of the driver and them being properly packed so they do not damage other peoples luggage. (Check the National Express web site, banner link below for a full list of banned items.)
There can be big differences in what people pay for the same journey. It is common for there to be very different fares on-line on the same day for the same journey on different schedules, sometimes only minutes apart from one another.
Broad guideline principles are:
The cheapest tickets are advance purchase on-line e-tickets. The very cheapest fares are called fun fares.
Services that start or finish at a London Airport are more expensive than services that terminate in Central London.
Fares can be very different depending on day of travel and the time of travel. If you have flexibility on your travel dates you will often be rewarded. Tuesday is often the quietest travel day for many routes and consequently cheapest.
A return fare is often only slightly more expensive than a single fare.
If you miss the departure on your ticket it is not valid for a later schedule with the notable exception of services from airports. Like the airlines there are more expensive fully flexible fares which do give the ability to switch schedule.
Children under 3 travel free. Children 3-15 years can obtain child fares. There are no seniors fares.
When booking on-line you will get your e-ticket immediately by e-mail. The seats on the ticket are reserved so you are assured of a seat, but individual seat number reservations are not offered.
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The traditional market for scheduled coach travel has always been stereotyped as being dominated by students and seniors reflecting the attraction of being a lower priced but slower alternative to the main alternative, train.
There are no longer any seniors fares on National Express but they do offer a Seniors Card that for an annual fee guarantees to obtain at least a one third discount from standard fares.
There are no restrictions on peak and off peak travel times nor destinations, airports are included.There are no restrictions on peak and off peak travel times nor destinations, airports are included
Very similar to the Seniors Card. If you're aged 16 - 26 or a full-time student then for an annual fee the card guarantees to obtain at least a one third discount from standard fares. There is also a card valid for 3 years.
Megabus are the main (only) national competitor to National Express as far as coach services within the UK are concerned. Megabus only started long distance services in 2003. Megabus operate similar vehicles to National Express but their network is not as extensive as National Express operating only on the busiest routes in direct competition with National Express.
The UK network stretches from the Highlands of Scotland to south-west England, connecting some of the UK's most popular destinations, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff.
You can usually book Megabus tickets up to 6 weeks in advance and from time to time earlier. National Express tend to have ticket availability much further forward.
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• Timetables & fares • Special offers • City guides
Flixbus are a young company that has grown rapidly and has established Europe's largest intercity bus network in the shortest amount of time.
Flixbus have used technological advancements to differentiate themselves by offering e-ticketing, a booking app, free Wi-Fi on board and GPS live tracking.
Their green buses are a way of trying to show their environmental credentials and sustainable approach to their business.
Started in Germany, they now cover a myriad of routes across Europe and offer cheap prices, but specialise in cross border services in the UK rather than town to town transport options.
Cheapest prices from London to Paris
• Large bus network • Comfortable buses with toilets • Free Wi-Fi • Snacks for sale onboard • Carbon efficient coaches