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Bus from Clermont-Ferrand, France to Istanbul

Hello,

I am from the United States and am planning a trip in January to Europe. I am a 19 year old female traveling with a 20 year old male. We have plans to visit family in both Clermont-Ferrand France and Istanbul and wanted to take a bus between these cities. According to Rome2Rio's website, it will be 40 hours but we were drawn to the idea at the prospect of travelling through many countries including Italy, Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria. Is this something people have done before and have reviewed? What would the safety level of this trip be? Are there any discounts for long rides or for college students? Any more information you have on a trip like this would be appreciated.

Thank you very much,
Caroline

Posted by
5010 posts

Sounds like a grueling ordeal to me. In an earlier era, this might have been a economical way to get to Istanbul if you were in France. Today, with cheap flights, I would be hard-pressed to find a justification for it.

Have you compared the cost of this bus versus a flight on a discount airline?

we were drawn to the idea at the prospect of travelling through many countries...

While that might sound romantic, consider: you're not actually going to see much in those countries. Presumably, you're just sitting on a bus the whole time, looking out the window. For nearly two days. You probably get a chance to get out and stretch your legs once in a while, but all you're going to see is the inside of a handful of bus stations, their bathrooms, and bad food. Not how I would choose to spend 2 days of my life, no matter how tight my budget was. Good luck.

Posted by
244 posts

I did some long-distance bus travel via Eurolines back in the day, and I would generally not recommend it unless you plan to make multiple stops along the way where you will get off the bus and spend a few nights. If you plan to take the bus directly, you will travel through many countries, but will mostly see the gas stations / rest stops of each country. My own experiences at a similar age ultimately led me to avoid those long-haul buses like the plague.

These buses tend to have the least possible legroom (honestly I've been on some that were worse than airplanes), and don't always run to schedule. I wouldn't worry much in terms of physical safety, but would likely want to pay close attention to your belongings both on and under the bus. With rides that long, you have a better chance of being on board with someone opportunistic at some point in the journey. I know Eurolines does bus passes for young travelers, or did in the past; not sure for the lines you might need.

Basically, to be honest, that trip sounds kind of like hell on earth if you are not breaking it up with significant stops. But if you're going to do it that way, I feel like you might be at the point in life to see the adventure in it more than the knee pain!

Posted by
5010 posts

I see flights from Lyon (looks like that might be the closest city with a major airport) to Istanbul for as low as US$67 (depends on when you want to go, of course).

Not quite the same adventure, but...just sayin'.

Posted by
12137 posts

Hi,

You can check with STA Travel. Not a bad idea going by bus, although I myself would prefer doing this route by train instead.

Posted by
17099 posts

My short answer is: You will almost certainly regret this.

Back in the 1970s (I was in my 20s) I took a bus from Istanbul to Zagreb. I don't remember how long it took, but I think it was close to 24 hours. I also commuted by bus to college, 17 hours or more each trip. Overnight bus rides are miserable for a huge percentage of people. The odds that both you and your friend will be the lucky sort who can sleep sitting up are very low.

I regularly take long, daytime bus trips in Europe and don't really mind them; that's often the most practical way to travel between smaller cities, especially in central/eastern Europe. But overnight rides are the pits, and I now break my trips up with stops along the way when necessary to avoid a night on a bus.

As for safety, I suppose theft of you belongings would be a bit of a concern. Otherwise, my knee-jerk reaction to questions about safety in Europe is normally to say "No issue". Honesty forces me to admit, however, that my Istanbul-Zagreb bus struck and killed a pedestrian before we even got out of the city. My guess is that it was a jaywalker who materialized suddenly in front of the bus and was not avoidable, but I didn't see it happen.

Bus schedules are a bit unpredictable because of traffic. In addition, it has been my experience that bus riders do get some attention at borders in the Balkans, so there can also be delays there.

In general, the intercity buses in Europe are comfortable enough (I'm short), but a maintenance issue affecting heating or air conditioning is always possible. I took a day-long midsummer bus ride from Sicily to Puglia in a bus with broken air conditioning. A failed attempt to fix the a/c led to a departure that was several hours late.

Fly.

Posted by
6921 posts

Back when dinos roamed the earth and I was geographically challenged, I did take the train from Lausanne to Istanbul. Even by train, it was a bit tiring, a little boring, but I still see images in my head of a world now pretty much gone that was very different from the US. We crossed Switzerland, the top of Italy, Yugoslavia, but after Bulgaria the train stopped and sat on the Turkish border for a long time, Then they hooked up a coal engine. We finally arrived late, after 52 hours. Back in those days all the other women were off the train after Bulgaria, except for one French woman traveling with her husband to Iran. So three western women, one western man and everyone else was a Turkish worker, laden with gifts, going home to see family. As the train rounded a bend with everyone hanging out of the windows watching, cheers traveled back through the train as the Istanbul minarets came into view. It was quite an adventure then.... Would I have done it if I had had a guidebook beside Europe on $5 or the RS Forum for advice?

Thinking back now, my opinion is that you can fly and not remember it or you can suffer your way there and maybe never do it again, or maybe you'll do more and more. If you fly, it will be easy. If you take the bus, you should plan very well, city to city, get off at night and stay in a hotel or hostel and catch another bus the next day.

When we used to travel by bus or train at night to save money on hotels, I could sleep, but my husband has never been able to. So even one night on a bus can be miserable, and you are facing two.

Posted by
244 posts

Thank you for that story, Bets! I think it does illustrate something that can be hard to put into words - sometimes there's value in taking the inefficient path (or the long way), but it's hard to know until you're in the middle of it!

I love a good long train ride and the experiences that go along with it, even in the States (have been gradually doing the big Amtrak trips), but I find I can sleep in a train. On a bus, I just can't, and for me, that tips the adventure scale over to the nightmare side of things.

Posted by
8715 posts

Personally, if flying was ruled out, I'd look into the train. More comfortable and you can get up when you want to stretch your legs.

Posted by
616 posts

You have a stop in Sofia, arriving in Sofia around 10 am. After 30 hours’ ride, then a 10 hours ride to Istanbul.
You have all details on app Busradar
Make sure if you go by bus to have a visa valid for all countries you go through. I have used the bus for smaller rides from 3-16 hours but so long as 30 hours could extremely tiring, I guess.
Also it is not always that interesting in price. Should you visit one country or city in between, you could also take a plane from France to Bulgaria r Romania and then a bus to Istanbul if you want to experiment these kind of transport. Also pay attention at your belongings especially while you sleep, especially if the bus is full.

Posted by
12137 posts

Hi,

I would also suggest going to a tourist office in France to see which bus lines you could choose from in order to do this ride.

In Germany I know of Eurolines, Ameropa, DER, TUI, etc as possible choices. Not so in France to offer you help on this. Keep in mind that buses in Europe between countries or within a country are not like Greyhound, based on experience in Poland, France, Sweden, Germany...all very satisfactory. In 2007 I took a bus from Forbach/Lorraine to Saarbrücken, true that it was a short ride but the comfort was such that I could have spent most of day on it.

Posted by
5609 posts

I just can't imagine this. Back in the early 1990s, I did a 24-hour bus from Budapest to Paris, but France to Istanbul just seems incomprehensiby (and intolerably) long to me.

Posted by
1653 posts

First reaction is "nope"! Only acceptable situation for such a gruelling ride is if you have a lot (and I mean a LOT) of luggage to bring to Turkey. Otherwise, you'll just see miles and miles of highways, and trust me, they tend to look alike wherever you are. The landscape will not be exciting at all.
It will also definitely cost more than a cheap flight, as operating a bus for 48 hours isn't much cheaper than flying a plane for 3 hours, and with far fewer seats...

Posted by
971 posts

This sounds terrible. As others have mentioned, with cheap flights it’s not really economical either and don’t forget that your time is worth something as well.
If you really wanted to do this overland for the adventure, I would suggest you do it by train instead. Trains are much more comfortable and usually pass trough nicer countryside than the highways.