London to Amsterdam by Overnight Coach
London to Amsterdam by Overnight Coach Reviews
Cheap and Fun, but Wave Goodbye to Sleep May 14, 2010
Usually I fly to Amsterdam, but the activity of a certain volcano in Iceland meant that it seemed prudent to adopt this alternative mode of transport. I thought a brief description of the journey might be helpful to those who are contemplating it but who have not used long-distance coaches before. Incidentally, and to avoid misunderstanding, "coach" means "long-distance bus".
The Eurolines coaches (there are several each day) leave Victoria coach station, the overnight one at 10 pm. Check-in is quick and easy, and there are none of the tiresome security checks and baggage restrictions that you get at an airport. The coach station itself, however, is a pretty dismal place and there are only very limited refreshment facilities.
The Amsterdam run is very popular, and for both the outward and return journeys more than one coach was used, my coach being drafted in from another company; so it may not have been up to the standard of Eurolines coaches in respect of, for example, leg-room. And for some strange reason the reading lights were inoperative until we reached France.
The outward journey was via the Channel Tunnel, and we had about an hour's wait for a train. This was useful as a comfort break (the coaches have a toilet on board, but I don't recommend using it), and to stretch one's legs. The customs formalities (by the French, but on the English side) were quick and painless, and then the coach was driven into what is basically a large windowless container on wheels for the crossing. Here you have the option of leaving the coach for a few minutes.
Once on the French side there were no further formalities and we proceeded to Amsterdam with a couple of comfort breaks en route. Fortunately I had no-one sitting next to me so I could spread out a bit whilst attempting to doze, but this was not particularly successful. However, the coach was very smooth and comfortable, and I was pleasantly surprised by not feeling remotely travel-sick.
We arrived at Amsterdam Amstel coach-station (about a mile from Centraal) at 08.15, nearly 2 hours ahead of schedule. I think this may have been because, with two coaches, the journey could be shortened. For example, we were supposed to call at Eindhoven, but I don't remember doing so; presumably everyone for Eindhoven was put on the other coach.
The return journey was similarly efficient - indeed, my coach left 20 minutes before it was scheduled to do so. This time I was able not only to spread over the seat next to me, but also to stretch my legs over the aisle and rest my feet on the arm-rest opposite, not that I got much sleep. The girl in the seat in front of me was clearly an old hand, as she had brought both a blanket and one of those strange curved inflated neck-rests.
The Channel crossing this time was by ferry, and that was the most tedious part of the whole experience, taking about 80 minutes. Unfortunately you are not allowed to remain on the coach, and the ferry is not much fun at 3 in the morning. Once off the ferry the remaining part of the journey to Victoria was very fast, and we arrived before 05.30, once again nearly 2 hours ahead of schedule. I really enjoyed walking through St James's Park so early in the morning!
Travelling this way is something that I would certainly contemplate again. It is cheap and fun, and you certainly have the sense of actually travelling, although I'm not sure that I feel entitled to put Belgium on my Countries Visited map!
The downside, obviously, is that you don't get much sleep, if any, and it would probably have been very uncomfortable if someone had been sitting next to me the whole time. You also arrive at your destination unbathed, hungry and possibly with several hours before you can check in at your hotel or hostel.
The standard of driving was very high.
Part of the Waterland Meet-up May 2010 travel blog
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