As all of us from outside of Dublin will know, bus journeys can be the most tedious of travel methods; can bus tours on holidays turn the trend around?
While in secondary school, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go on a bus tour around Europe. A ferry, 6 countries and countless hours later I returned home from the journey of a lifetime.
The thought of travelling on a bus for countless hours might seem like a complete effort to a lot of people with very little pay-off, and I'd have to both agree and disagree with them. A bus tour is a double-edged sword. While air transport is exponentially faster, you don't get to see much of the country that you're flying over. Most people will fly into a city or an airport and not travel out beyond their final destination; whereas with a bus tour you get to see defining landscape features, some beautiful sights, and the character of the country you're in as well as getting to enjoy your destinations.
Having said that, there can be long periods of monotonous driving on dual carriageways, motorways and national roads. While European tour buses offer wider seats than the standard bus seat, as well as televisions, WiFi, and multiple toilets, the journey can get tiring so a sleeping bag is highly recommended for carry on.
At one point on my trip we were driving for 20 hours, with short stops at service stations along the route. This amount of time driving and sitting in the same position can take its toll. You can become agitated and unsettled, especially when trying to sleep. If you are someone who can sleep while travelling, then lucky you but if not, I seriously would consider some sleeping pills to help you.
However, these long hours really are only at the starting leg of your tour - when you are trying to get to your first destination, and when you are departing your final destination to return home. Every other leg in between is a doddle in comparison.
In order to make the two longest legs of the journey as bearable as possible, your carry-on luggage is extremely important. Bring a portable charger for your phone or tablet, headphones, a 2 litre bottle of water, some sweets, wet wipes and your sleeping bag. Carrying the appropriate amenities on board can massively sway your level of comfortability on a bus tour.
The best thing about bus tours are the destinations. On my bus tour, I passed through Wales, England, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany. The tour also covered the French town of Verdun; where butcher, bakers, barber shops, and homes once stood, but are now only massive gaping craters in the earth, destroyed by bombs during WW1. Douaumont Ossuary; where the remains of 130,000 French and German soldiers can be seen through small windows. These locations are of great historical significance provide of eye opening revelations into the horrendous destruction of war.
The town of Valkenburg in the Netherlands, a quaint town with small cafes adorned with flower pots on the outside, cobble stoned streets, traditional chocolatiers, and historic salt mines gives any visitor an insight into a traditional, friendly town in the Netherlands.
The city of Cologne in Germany with its impressive Cologne Cathedral, which took 638 years to build, is a beautiful city which boasts stunning medieval architecture, historical Roman
architecture and is home to over 30 museums and hundreds of galleries. The massive multicultural influence in Cologne results in it being more than a one trick pony.
I visited other sites like Disneyland Paris and Bayer pharmaceutical plant but the fact was that I had visited three major European countries and some of Europe's most historical and influential cities from a simple bus tour.
When you book a bus tour, your accommodation is paid for in advance and the bus is your travel, so you have very little to worry about while travelling. They are a convenient way of seeing Europe from the ground and discovering sights you wouldn't normally see, or spend money on just going to see that one place.
Inter-railing is extremely popular amongst students and sometimes a bus tour around Europe can go overlooked. It isn't for everyone but I'd seriously consider going on one again. It basically is like a road trip around Europe but without having to worry about who's going to drive. You get the opportunity to see some of Europe's most diverse and historical cities in a short space of time.
For those of you who can't decide where to go and just want to go off on a chilled adventure with a few friends, then I would definitely recommend checking out bus tour companies and what they have to offer.