No sleep ’til Glasgow: Megabus sleeper bus v Caledonian Sleeper train

*June 2015 – thanks for visiting Saltwater! This post brings most traffic to my website and I hope it’s useful for you. In 2015 the Caledonian Sleeper was bought by Serco who will be rebranding over the next couple of years. Bargain berths are sadly not as easy to find as they once were, but it’s still worth a look.*
Just back from a few days in Scotland (beautiful as always). We took the Megabus sleeper bus up to Glasgow and the Caledonian Sleeper train back home, but I couldn’t find many reviews of the bus before we left. So this might be useful if you’re looking to travel up to Scotland on a budget and don’t want to fly.

Megabus sleeper bus
Megabus photo credit interbeat on flickr

Photo credit- interbeat- Flickr

Price: £29 one way
Leaves from:
London Victoria coach station at midnight
Arrives at: Glasgow Buchanan St coach station around 7am
First things first: the Megabus sleeper is a glorified bendy bus with capsule type bunk beds. You can’t really sit up in ‘bed’ and if you are on the bottom bunk of three, you basically have to lie flat on the floor and shuffle in sideways. Good: free tea, coffee and fizzy drinks. Also a free croissant in the morning. Phone charger sockets in all bunks, which is handy.
Bad: not good for anyone who’s claustrophobic! Set your phone alarm as the bus crew will wake you up about 15 mins before arrival.
How did I sleep? Surprisingly, really well!

Caledonian Sleeper train
Caledonian Sleeper

Price: Bargain Berths are £19, £29 and £39 – book online three months in advance for the cheapest ticket. Otherwise you are looking at more like £100 one way.
Leaves from: Glasgow Central at 11.45pm. You can get on board from about 10pm. Arrives at: London Euston station around 6.45am.
Good: fairly spacious for a sleeper cabin (but it’s all relative). Hidden sink and space for a small bag. Free hand towel and soap provided. Free cup of tea/coffee and the world’s smallest piece of shortbread for breakfast. You can also get a free mini toiletries kit if you ask, but..
Bad: the train stewards aren’t the most friendly bunch in the world.
How did I sleep? Ok, but not as well as on the bus. Still a good deal for £19!

9 Comments Add yours

  1. iddles says:

    I couldn’t find anywhere to review the megabus sleeper service, so I’m going to hijack your comments box ^_^

    I don’t know how you managed to sleep on the megabus. Although the journey is almost entirely motorways, which means there aren’t many bends, there is still a lot of movement. On the way up I was on the top bunk right next to the articulation point, which seems to get a lot of yaw (nodding-axis) movement. This wasn’t too bad, and I managed to get a few hours sleep. On the way back down however, I was right at the back of the trailer section, again on the top bunk. Even if you’re travelling in a straight line on a motorway, the vehicle will still wobble side-to-side in the lane a bit, and a trailer will sway side to side constantly. If you’re lying on your back this isn’t so bad, but if you try and sleep on your side, you will be pushed onto your front or back constantly. Imagine you’re asleep on your side and the house is on fire, and someone bursts into your room to try and wake you up by frantically shaking you. That’s what it’s like, for 8 hours.

    On the way up the crew assured me that the ventilation was on, but the heat was stifling. It was a very sweaty journey. On the way back down however, it was nice and cool, as a bedroom should be. This suggests that the fleet aren’t very well maintained; I’m sure the ventilation on the outward journey was broken. Also on the way back down, the bus broke down before it had even left the bus station; it took two trips for an engineer to megabus’s depot to grab two different battery boosters (the first wasn’t working) and we were eventually on the road. But it’s quite staggering that I could have flown for two to three times the price: that’s not really that much more of a budget considering those airlines somehow manage to keep their fleet of planes from dropping out of the sky, and megabus seem pretty slack at even keeping their buses on the road. While waiting, some fellow passengers said the same fault had happened on the way up.

    I respect megabus for innovating and I really like the idea of a sleeper bus service; it seems like a fantastic way to save time; in principle, if you’re asleep, you won’t even notice the journey, and no time will have been wasted. The reality however is quite different. I spent most of my first day in Glasgow catching up on sleep in my hotel. That was a waste of a day. Another factor that I had anticipated but not quite appreciated while booking (although this is not megabus’s fault by any means; just something you might want to consider), was that most hotels do not check-in until midday. My hotel didn’t let me in until 14:00; so that was 6 hours of milling about. Despite having brushed my teeth at the coach station and dropped my bags off at left luggage, I still didn’t really feel like sight seeing; I was too knackered. Add £5-10 for the luggage locker, £5-10/hour in coffee shops, £10 to see a film I didn’t really want to see, milling about for 6 hours isn’t such a cheap option. If I’d actually managed to sleep on the bus I might have been more imaginative, but it’s difficult to sleep when the bus is shaking you like a British nanny.

    In summary, this is a good option if you are very strapped for cash. It’s certainly better than the hellish night (or even day) coach trips where you are crammed into a narrow seat the whole way. However, my sister joined me in Glasgow the following day and gloated that her train journey actually cost *less* than my megabus ticket because she’d booked so far in advance! Next time, I’m definitely going to fly, get the train, or maybe even drive. Amazingly, the train only takes 4h 30m. And if you have a laptop or a book, that’s not necessarily wasted time.

    Nice idea megabus, but I won’t be taking the sleeper bus again, unless your engineers come up with movement-dampening beds. I won’t hold my breath ;-)

  2. I was seeking this particular info for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

  3. jon says:

    The Megabus sleeper bus wqas great- I’ll use it again. The so-called sleeper train is
    n’t – it’s a scam. I’ll never do the train to Glazgy again.

  4. Ben says:

    Another comment on the sleeper bus…

    I’ve used it twice now. Generally a good service, though the staff were staggeringly rude, at one point threatening to throw my shoes out of the bus as I had left them briefly in the aisle. They also shouted down a very nice woman who pointed out the loo was broken. Apparently “it was all her fault. She was doing it wrong”

    The single biggest issue for me, which should be easy to fix, is the temperature. There was an air-vent blowing hot air all night near the articulation point where my berths were, meaning that even without the duvets it was too hot all night. From the other reviews, and other customers, it seems other parts of the bus are less affected by this. In a bus full of engine and 28 people, all giving off heat, and all wrapped in thick duvets, I can’t really imagine ever needing heating, though cooling might sometimes be needed!

    Apparently they are about to launch 10 more buses, double decker now, with mroe bunks to more cities in the next few months…

  5. regular commuter says:

    I used the megabus gold last night from Glasgow to London. The staff where incredibly attentive and friendly. The complementary drink and snack at the start and end of the journey were appreciated. I think it’s a great idea and they do all they can to help you sleep eg black out curtains. However, I am not sure I would use this again as I discovered i was claustrophobic, air was stifling and you can’t sit up in the bunk. There is not a lot of space so the easiest way to get in and out of the top bunk is crawling on your hands and knees. When I calmed myself down I did manage some sleep.

    1. Claire says:

      Good to hear you found the staff friendly. I agree it’s a bit claustrophobic!

  6. Exhaustedtraveller says:

    I took the megabus sleeper last night – never again! I’ve taken the sleeper train in the past but good reviews about the bus from family members persuaded me to give it a shot this time instead. Also the train is a bit dated and twice as expensive, whereas the buses look new and pretty. I was prepared for the extra wobble, that i can handle. I was NOT prepared for the coffin sized space I was allocated to sleep in. You literally cannot sit on your bed, and the safety railings at the head and foot of the bed make it so that to get out you need to shuffle out of the middle with your feet first. Horrific experience. Plus there is a hot air vent that runs right alongside so you wake up every half hour because your throat is sticking to itself and you can’t breathe…

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