I was in London during the Olympics and was trying to think of a way to depart without paying the egregious Airport Passenger Departure (APD) tax. My options were to take a bus, train or ferry. I was looking around and found a new company called IDBUS as they were offering 5 GBP fares from London to Paris.
I thought the service was something you could use if you ever had the need to be traveling from London to Paris by bus, so I did a review of their site and sent a link to the company about it. As I could no longer find the advertised 5 GBP fares available for my for intended dates of travel I inquired about them. They were happy to hear from me and offered me a complimentary pass instead of letting me pay my way. To help you make a decision the next time you travel between London and Paris, here’s my unbiased review of their services.
Although I did not book my ticket on their site, I did check out the site and its offerings. it is well designed and I had no issues getting to the confirmation page where I would then pay for my ticket. Being the aviation geek that I am, the best feature for me is the seat map. I could easily pick the seat I wanted so that works for me. Once you book the ticket, you receive an a-mail as I did with the details of your ticket. You then go online to the “My Bookings” section of the site using booking reference (in e-mail to you) and your e-mail address to retrieve your ticket. It is then necessary for you to print it and take it with you for your journey. Alternatively, you may use the booking reference as well as the first and last name of the passenger who is traveling.
Check-in at the Bus Station in London-Victoria
I arrived at 5:20a for my 6:00a departure. This was an extremely early wakeup, but I opted for this option as I wanted to see the country side and most of all I wanted to see how does one cross the English Channel in a bus. There is an overnight option as well. I was like a 2-year old child I was so excited. I had taken a very early bus from the place I was staying and after one bus change and a bit of a walk made it to the Victoria Coach station.
I was surprised at the amount of people that were present in the station at that hour, but if you have to go, you have to go. I found my gate and waited until the bus that was there left and then the display read the details for my bus.
Unfortunately 6a arrived and no bus could be seen. Eventually, it arrived at 6:04, the driver popped in to tell us he’s ready and the boarding commenced and we departed at 6:20a.
The driver used a scanner to scan my boarding pass, but for some reason it would not scan, so he had to enter it by hand. of course the other passengers were a bit irritated since it was early and people are oftentimes crabby when they don’t get enough sleep. I was about the third person to board and took my seat after having a little trouble finding the seat numbers. I had heard the two others who had boarded ahead of me complaining and wondered, how hard could it be to find your seat number on a bus, but I got it once I boarded as the numbers are a tad small.
The bus is well designed and the seats are quite comfortable with a decent amount of recline, chair tables, a place for my coat and the ability to become wider; yes wider. It does make the aisle way narrower if used though, but a decent function I thought. The bus is also equipped with a restroom that is located about midway down the bus.
The driver said hello over the PA and explained our journey, then it was time to leave and enter London’s early morning traffic. The beauty is that I can track it on the moving map display on the bus and the bus also have Wi-Fi. As an added bonus, there is a plug at my seat. What more can I ask for?
The display showed that we were estimated to arrive in Lille at 12:40p, where we would then continue on to Paris.
At 8:04a, well ahead of schedule, we arrived at the rest stop at the entrance to the Eurotunnel. The driver announced that we had 10 minutes to do whatever we wanted, then we would continue on your journey. So I took the opportunity to check out the rest stop and the area. I’d seen the area on TV so it was great to check it out personally.
Its like any other rest stop except that it has a duty free shop in addition to the other items that rest stops have.
Soon it was time to enter France. There were signs for Welcome to France as we crossed the border crossing. There was a queue to pass the checkpoint where the French guards did their security checks of the bus, then they came onboard and took all our passports/travel documents. There was one guy whose citizenship required him to have a visa to enter France. As he did not have one, he was asked to get off the bus. He never returned and we departed without him. What luck for one of the passengers and her daughter as they took his seat since he had the only seats on the bus with a table due to its location next to the back door of the bus, right across from the toilet. Effectively making them the “toilet monitor.”
The French officials eventually returned with our passports and we departed. Sadly, upon checking, I did not get a border stamp. I was keen to see what would be the icon used, since an airplane is used when you enter at an airport in France.
Entering the Euro Tunnel
We then went to a holding area and waited from 8:40a until 8:57a. I did not know why, but I later realized we were waiting for the train to take us across the English Channel as at 9:05a, we drove onto the train and drove all the way to the front of the train and stopped. I looked back and other cars followed us in as well.
It was at this moment that I realized how it all worked; the buses and cars are loaded onto trains that ply between the U.K. and France hundreds of feet under the surface. What an operation!
You are allowed to leave the bus and walk around the train. As a matter of fact, the driver had to open both the doors and you are told to open your sunroofs and windows if you are driving a car and you have those. There are also toilets on the train in case you have to go. The only thing it does not have are seats as it only transports vehicles. No walking under the Chunnel I guess.
At 9:20a, the train was sealed up and we were off arriving at the other side at 9:50a U.K. time, but since France is an hour ahead it was now 10:50a.
It was raining lightly as we drove out of the train and onto the right-hand side of the road now. This must be weird for the British drivers as only a few minutes ago, you were driving on the left-hand side of the road. I guess for the French too when they go in the other direction.
We then continued our journey onto Lille arriving at 12:14p. In Lille, our driver asked if there were anyone departing here; there was no one so he bade us goodbye and we got a new driver. In addition, another driver also joined us as he would be the one driving back to Lille form Paris I guess. The new driver was not as sociable as the first driver and I can’t even remember if he spoke on the PA or not.
I actually wanted to stop over night in Lille, but IDBUS does not have the rights to deposit passengers in Lille from London as yet; they perhaps do now.
I was really quite tired by now and took a nap on the drive to Paris. I did look out a few times though to enjoy the French countryside and traffic. It was interesting to see how the landscape and traffic patterns changed as you approached Paris.
Arriving in Gare de Paris Bercy
We arrived in Gare de Paris Bercy at 3:43p 0:17 early; I guess the late departure did not affect us too much as we still arrived before our 4:00p scheduled arrival time. So where is Bercy? Its located at the southeastern corner of the Paris and is accessible by the Metro. So you are about 30 minutes from the center of Paris, if that much. It is located within walking distance from the Gare de Lyon and has its own regional trains that leave from the station.
If you’ve traveled on IDBUS, please leave a comment.
Thank you very much IDBUS for an enjoyable journey. I’ll certainly use your service again if I have to do a similar journey or your service fits in my travel plans. I highly recommend you, the reader do the same; just hop on over to IDBUS.com for details.
Note: I was compensated for this bus ride in the form of a complimentary ticket for the journey. My review is of my own personal experience and is not influenced in any way by IDBUS.
Here are some pictures of the bus/journey for you to review: