Patrick Widdess writes poetry, prose, and arts and travel features. He is based in Norwich, UK.
Warsaw to Prague on Poland's Low Cost Bus Service
Polski Bus’s distinctive red vehicles cover routes across Poland along with international services to Berlin, Prague, and Wiedeń in Austria. In addition to cheap fares, the company boasts other attractive onboard services including toilets, reclining seats, air conditioning, and free wi-fi. I experienced the service firsthand on an overnight trip from Warsaw to Prague.
The bus arrived on time on a snowy evening at the stop near central Warsaw. The stop was clearly signposted and the company has an office at the station with English-speaking staff to sell tickets and answer any queries. I’d already booked my ticket via the user-friendly website. The service was packed. The seats were quite close together but clean and comfy with seat belts, a reading light, and a power socket for each passenger. I found a seat towards the back but felt a little squashed between the window and the passenger next to me.
Digital technology means there is a wide range of entertainment available to pass the time including movies, music, and video games. I found myself subjected to a series of videos of operations that my neighbour (a trainee army surgeon by the looks of things) was viewing on his laptop. If I looked out of the window to my right the view was pitch black, allowing for a perfect reflection of the gory images on the screen to my left.
You would think it was common sense to use headphones whilst playing games or watching movies but for the first few hours of the journey assorted movie and computer game soundtracks rang out around the coach.
My own onboard entertainment was more limited than I had anticipated. The wi-fi only worked when the bus was stationary and the reading light didn’t work. Fortunately, I had my iPhone with a power supply to keep it running.
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As the night wore on the only thing I wanted to do was sleep. The noise had subsided but I was still squashed up next to my neighbour who was watching 127 Hours. A reclining seat is not the same as a bed and I only grabbed occasional minutes of sleep before being jolted awake. It wasn’t until the bus reached Wroclaw, a city not far from the Czech border and seven hours into the journey, that the bus emptied out, including my neighbour. With two seats at my disposal I curled up as best I could—I’m about six foot—and got some sleep.
I woke on the outskirts of Prague on a sunny morning free of snow with strange minimalist ambient music playing gently over the PA. I arrived at the bus station just after six, a little stiff and in need of a few extra hours of sleep but I had time to do that and start to explore the wonders of this fine European capital city.
The return journey was a little better; it was not so crowded and I had a double seat for the whole journey. Additionally, the wi-fi worked a little better and so did the reading light.
- Easy-to-use website. This was one of the main reasons I chose Polski Bus. The website is in English and Polish, with clear information about routes and schedules and where to find stops. The booking system is very straightforward and can be completed in under five minutes.
- Cheap fares. I never saw any of the 1 zloty fares that are widely advertised on the buses and website, but the fares are always low.
- Both buses I travelled on were clean, modern, and ran on time.
- Growing network of routes. You can travel to all major cities in Poland. In the last year, a service from Warsaw to Radom has been added which would have been useful to me as I was living in Radom at the time.
- The range of onboard facilities, when they’re working, is excellent.
- Uncomfortable when very crowded.
- Some onboard facilities didn’t work as described above.
- Limited connections between destinations. Most places, including popular destinations such as Gdansk and Zakopane, can only be reached via Warsaw. I would have used Polski Bus more if there had been more routes.
Comfortable, Budget-Friendly Transportation
Overall, Polski Bus is making a good effort to deliver on their promise of comfortable and cheap travel. Other travellers I met were positive about their experiences with the service, and in spite of the discomforts mentioned, I don’t regret using the service to travel to Prague. Coach travel is never the most comfortable, but if saving money is a priority you’ll get to your destination safely at a low price. The company has built up a sound infrastructure and the addition of new routes indicates a promising expansion of this low-budget travel option.