Cheap bus and train tickets offer bargain travel from London to Cologne (Köln) and other cities in Germany.
Cheap bus and train tickets are viable alternatives to low-cost airlines for travel from England to Germany. On the London to Cologne (Köln) route the Eurostar, Thalys TGV, and ICE trains can be faster than flying. Trains are the most comfortable but coach travel can be as cheap as €25 one way on Flixbus intercity coaches.
Cheap Travel from London to Cologne
Low-cost airlines helped to make traveling between London and German cities such as Cologne, Frankfurt, and Berlin cheap. However, the number of flights from England to Germany has been reduced with prices rising. Somewhat surprisingly, more traditional ways of travel including buses and trains are appealing for travelers from England to Germany. On some routes, such as London to Cologne, trains can be both price and time competitive, while trains from London to Southern Germany (Stuttgart and Munich) or London to Berlin take much longer than flying. Traditional intercity buses may be slow, and not the most comfortable way to travel, but can seldom be beaten on price.
One-way fares from London to Germany can be as low as €80 when using Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn trains only while Flixbus often have one-way fares as low as €25 for travel between London and Cologne.
Cheap Trains from London, England to Cologne (Köln), Germany
Traveling by Eurostar train from London to Paris and Brussels has been increasingly popular since the introducing of the Channel Tunnel. However, trains from London’s St Pancras International station to Germany can be fast and cheap too.
Some train journeys from London St Pancras and Cologne Main Station (Köln Hauptbahnhof) can be as short as 4:45 (plus the check-in time required for Eurostar trains – 30 minutes for most travelers). The Ebbsfleet, England to Aachen, on the German-Belgium border, is an hour faster. When traveling from London to Cologne by train, transfers are always required at Brussels South (Bruxelles Midi) Station from the Eurostar trains to either to the Thalys TGV or German Railways ICE (Inter-City-Express) trains.
- Reservations are compulsory for Eurostar and TGV trains but are usually not required for the Deutsche Bahn ICE trains.
Cologne (Köln) is a major railway junction with fast and frequent connections to other German cities. Traveling times from Cologne (Köln) to other major German cities by regular ICE trains are:
- Frankfurt – an hour
- Hamburg – four hours
- Berlin – four hours
Frequent services on both ICE and regional trains run from Cologne to Düsseldorf and other cities in the Ruhr area such as Essen and Dortmund.
Buying Tickets for Trains between Germany and London
Check-in times and security screening are non-existent for German trains and even the Eurostar requires much less schlep than any airport. One-way tickets for the London to Cologne train journey range from €80 non-flexible to €250 for full flexible and compare favorable with cheap flights on low-cost airlines. Taxes alone on flights from London-Stansted (STN) to Cologne-Bonn (CGN) can amount to UK £35. Free luggage allowances of two suitcases on Eurostar trains are much more generous than free hand luggage only on most British and Irish low-cost airlines, while on a German train travelers may basically transport all they can carry.
To save the most, be on the lookout for special offers but bear in mind that taking advantage of such special deals may require separate tickets for the London to Brussels and Brussels to Cologne legs of the journey. Also bear in mind that with true discount tickets, the second leg of the journey may not be guaranteed if the train on the first leg is delayed for whatever reason.
A special deal offered by Deutsche Bahn is the London Spezial. When crossing the German-Belgium border by ICE train only and then the Eurostar to London, one-way fares for advance bookings from anywhere in Germany to London (or return) can be as low as €60 (or €110 in first class). This deal is not valid on TGV Thalys trains.
Families with children often benefit from using German Railways trains as own children under 15 travel for free if entered on the parent’s ticket at time of reservation – thus the journey from Brussels to Cologne is free on an ICE but not on a Thalys train.
Various Rail Europe offices sell tickets to non-German residents, e.g. Rail Europe and Voyages SNCF UK. However, Deutsche Bahn often gives the best discounts and are increasingly available to travelers from all countries.
Slow Trains and Ferries from London, UK to Cologne, Germany
Trains rarely go on boats these days but it still possible to take the train to the channel and the ferry to the continent. The logical option to Cologne is via Harwich and Hook of Holland. Trains from London depart from Liverpool Street Station to Harwich. The overnight ferry to Hoek van Holland Haven (Hook of Holland Harbor) in the Netherlands takes around seven hours. Trains from Hook of Holland to Cologne require transfers in Rotterdam, Venlo, and Mönchengladbach for a total journey time of 14 to 15 hours – the Eurostar looks increasingly attractive!
Cheap Bus Tickets from London, England to Cologne (Köln), Germany
Traditional bus trips from England to Germany are still available on National Express Eurolines and on Megabus / Flixbus coaches. Bus services from London to Cologne are available a few times per day either during the day or overnight. Traveling time is around 12 hours and sometimes a bus change is required (mostly in Brussels). Buses usually use the ferry from Dover to Calais but occasionally also the Channel shuttle train.
National Express often has special offers for cheap bus travel in the UK when linking to a bus in London for onward travel to Europe.
The cheapest deals are usually available on Megabus / Flixbus – travel is either on yellow Megabus coaches or green and orange Flixbus coaches. Flixbus currently handles all Megabus European reservations. One-way tickets on Flixbus coaches are as cheap as €25 for travel from London to Cologne with full fare prices still significantly cheaper than full-fare train tickets.
Buses generally leave from London Victoria station. Intercity buses are not allowed to stop in downtown Cologne so now use either Leverkussen (aka Cologne North) or at Cologne-Bonn Airport – from either stop it is a simple few minutes train ride to central Cologne.
Intercity bus travel in Germany boomed following market liberalization but in the past two years Flixbus has managed to absorb most of the competition. Flixbus coaches generally are much cheaper than German Railways trains but slower with less frequent connections.