Zurich to Munich by Bus

24Apr18

TL;DR

If you happen to be in Zurich, and you want to get to Munich (or vice versa), then it turns out that the Inter City Bus (ICB) is probably the least worst option.

Background

I was in Zurich last week speaking at the Open Cloud Forum hosted by UBS, where it was my great honour to share a stage with Mark Shuttleworth. I’d originally planned to fly back to London City straight after the event, but a customer meeting in Munich cropped up.

Train

The first thing I checked was the train schedule, and what it revealed was not what I expected. Rather than some shiny high speed service that would whisk me from city to city in no time I was presented with two awful choices:

  1. Four different trains (== 3 changes) shuffling from one place to another taking a grand total of around 4h45 (assuming everything worked, which is usually a safe assumption for Swiss trains).
  2. Bouncing in an out of Stuttgart on high speed trains for a journey taking 5h40.

Plane

There are fairly frequent direct flights from Zurich to Munich, which take about an hour; but they’re not cheap (~£200) and then there’s the whole palaver of get to the airport, security, lounge, gate, boarding, arrivals, get to the city. A one hour flight was going to be a 4-5 hour journey, and that time wasn’t going to be at all productive.

Automobile

It crossed my mind that I could probably just get an Uber or something like that, but the complexities of crossing borders put me off.

Bus

The train schedule actually showed the bus as an option. I’m guessing this particular route is something of a bandaid over what would otherwise be a clockwork machine for getting people around the continent.

Fare was advertised as ‘from €19.90’, which is in fact what I ended up paying. The following day a colleague commented that he’d paid more for a taxi from another hotel in the city.

Getting to the bus was easy, as the bus station is rich by Zurich HB. I expected a bustling place, but for the whole time I was there the only bus present was the one I was getting.

The seats were spacious and comfortable, offering about as much space as extra legroom seats on flights.


Although the booking process offered me a seat reservation it wasn’t shown anywhere on my ticket. The first seat I chose turned out to be reserved by somebody who could see their number, and it seems I wasn’t the only one playing musical chairs.

Free WiFi was offered, but didn’t work for me, which didn’t matter as my various mobile devices all worked perfectly.

Overhead space for carry on was minimal, and I regretted handing over my bag to go in the hold given that once boarding was complete the bus was less than half full – so I could easily have just dropped it on the empty seat beside me; though retrieving it on arrival cost me mere seconds.

Looking at the other passengers my read was that there were a fair number of business travellers (~60%), some tourists (~30%) and backpackers (~10%).

Punctuality was about what I expected – the trip scheduled for 3h45 took 4h30. We hit bad traffic on the motorway outside of Zurich, and there were lots of roadworks along the way.

The terminus was right by the S-Bahn station, so getting to my hotel was a breeze – I think 3 trains that I could have caught whisked through the station in the time it took me to figure out what sort of ticket I needed from the machine.

Conclusion

Bus wouldn’t be my first choice for this sort of travel, but it was comfortable, inexpensive, productive and punctuality didn’t break my expectations.



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