If you look at the options for many destinations, one that can be very appealing in terms of both price and itinerary is coach travel. Just as some people still say “I’d never take a cruise” (though their number is shrinking) there are some declaring “you’ll never find me on a bus tour”.
David McGonigal looks at the delights and downfalls of travelling by coach.
If you wish to travel solo but don’t want to travel alone then your only viable option might be to take a coach tour. There will certainly be opportunities to join the fellowship of the group but generally your travel companions will be sensitive enough to give you space if you want it.
A big advantage of any group travel, including coach tours, is that you will have someone who not only knows where you’re going and what you are seeing but has the job of imparting that information to you. There’s time for that, too, both when you are on the ground and when you are travelling on the coach. If you haven’t been on a coach since your student days, you’ll be amazed to find how erudite and personable most professional guides are these days.
See and do more
If you're taking care of all the logistics of travel, getting taxis, booking into hotels and confirming arrangements, there will be less time to see the sights. And, by then, you might just be too tired. A coach itinerary, on the other hand, takes care of it all for you and all you need to do is make sure your bags are packed and ready for pick up. Further, a coach itinerary has been designed after a lot of trial and error so it should fill the day while not overfilling it.
Comfort and convenience
Modern coaches are very comfortable with reclining seats, large windows, enough height to see over the traffic, and even come equipped with their own toilets. It certainly beats trying to sort out local transport.
Of course coach travel is group travel. Depending on your travel preferences it can be both fun and reassuring to be with a group of fellow Australians.
Coach travel can be a great way to make new friends
Know where you’ll be when
Coach tours run to quite strict timetables. If you like to have a set itinerary, it’s much easier to throw your lot in with a pre-planned tour than attempt to do it yourself.
Perhaps the prime advantage of a coach tour is that there is always someone there to look out for you and make sure you’re alright. In some destinations that can be very reassuring, bordering on essential.
Coach tours know what works and what doesn’t so there may be some enjoyable surprises thrown in along the way. Also, a coach company has contacts denied to the independent traveller so you may be able to see and experience places and events that are otherwise off-limits.
Time to rest, read or learn
Of course, the guide may use part of your time on the coach to tell you what’s next or to answer questions, but for the most part, you have the choice to take a nap or read a book. Indeed, many coaches have their own wifi network so you can even catch up on correspondence.
Coach travel can be great value for money
Can’t pick your companions
The real fear of coach travel is that you’ll find little in common with your travelling companions or you’ll find their conversation or conduct distasteful. Most coach companies go a long way to ensure this isn’t a problem.
There’s nothing worse than finding that one seat on the bus is better than the others, either for the view or legroom, and then discover that one passenger plans to have that seat every day. Clever coach companies rotate people around so everyone gets their turn.
Time on the road
You normally don’t head to a place to spend all day observing it through an endlessly-moving coach window. Check that there will be as many stops as you’ll want – and they will include any stops you particularly want to see.
There’s little time for spontaneity when you’re on a strict timetable and have to get from A to B.
Getting on and off the coach
The modern coach is tall and you have to get up and down several stairs. While the views are great when you’re up there, some find it exhausting simply getting on and off the coach at every stop. The back stairs are the steepest so, if you think this might be a problem, discuss it before you travel.
Reduced boasting rights
Depending on your friends, they may be less impressed if you’ve seen Europe by coach than if you sailed the Med on a friend’s yacht. My suggestion would be to get some new friends, perhaps the ones you met and befriended on the coach.
Have you ever travelled by coach? Tell us about your experience below!