Buses and coaches can be very cost-effective ways to travel across Europe, whether as a direct route to a resort or as part of a larger itinerary where you explore the continent. However when journeys can take a lot longer than travelling by car, train or plane, the last thing you want is a delay setting you even further back.
It’s vital that you know your rights when it comes to coach travel in the EU, as if you don’t know what you’re entitled to and you don’t push to receive it you may miss out on what you’re due!
One important standard that is maintained by the relevant regulations (in the case of bus and coach travel, this is Regulation 181/2011) is that no matter where you’re originally from, you won’t pay higher fares as a foreign national when travelling within the EU – you’ll pay the same as a resident.
Long distance journeys
Your remaining rights mainly apply to longer journeys on coaches that either begin or end in the EU – anything over 250km. Some rights may apply to all journeys.
If departure is delayed by more than two hours, or the service is completely cancelled, you should be presented a choice of:
- A refund of the ticket, and (if necessary) a free journey back to the service’s original departure point, or
- Alternative transport, under similar circumstances, to your intended destination at no extra cost
If you aren’t presented with this choice at the time of the fault, you’re entitled to complain and claim a full refund of the ticket and an additional 50% of the ticket fare as compensation.
If your journey (still 250km or more) was intended to last more than three hours, and you’re delayed for 90 minutes or more, you may be entitled to meals/refreshments and accommodation, where appropriate for the length of your delay.
There is a cap on the accommodation – it can only be for up to two nights, and at a maximum cost of 80 euros per night. You also can’t claim accommodation if the delay is caused by either severe weather conditions or natural disasters, so you need to be prepared in case of these eventualities.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be injured during an accident on your long-distance journey, you are entitled to claim compensation. In the tragic event that you were to die due to an accident on a coach, your dependents are able to claim. The carrier is obligated to provide essential care in case of an accident, including any food, transport or first aid that you may require.
Following an accident, if your luggage is lost or damaged you are able to claim for your losses.
Right to complain
If you feel like your rights are not being upheld, you have the right to make a complaint to the carrier within 3 months of the incident happening. They then have an obligation to reply and acknowledge your complaint within one month, with a final reply due within three months of your complaint.
When you’re planning a coach trip make sure you’re prepared and fully aware of your rights before you travel, in case of a delay or accident. It’s best to be ready to challenge the coach operator on your rights at the time, rather than try to claim recompense at a later date.