This is a story about what happened when me and my sister visited Brussels a few days before Christmas in 2014. It is an example of why you should have access to emergency funds and be prepared because even if you are only going away for a couple of days anything could happen!
We went to Brussels with MegaBus and spent a night in a hostel. We had a great couple of days and did it all very cheap and cheerful. Our return bus was to depart just past midnight so we decided to head to the bus stop at 9pm so that we had plenty of time. Unfortunately for us even our regular precautionary measures couldn’t save us from what was to come…
We arrived at the street listed on our ticket but couldn’t find a physical stop or sign to indicate the MegaBus did stop there so we asked a doorman on the street who told us he had never seen a MegaBus stop there. Oh dear. We asked a couple of passerbys who were locals and directed us to the street listed on our ticket and even offered us a lift but because of our head start we still had plenty of time so decided to air on the side of caution and walk. The directions got us most of the way but we couldn’t find the right road name so took to the takeaways and corner shops for help. We were starting to get a bit more concerned as time creeped into the last hour before departure and even more so when a staff member from a takeaway took our ticket and left in a bid to find where we wanted to go. He did come back and with more wondering we found the street which matched to that on our ticket. BINGO. Or not. Still no MegaBus sign or any people waiting (by this time we’ve 10minutes before departure). We are now hitting slight panic, after all it is the early hours of the 23rd December, we’re in an unfamiliar place and we need to get home!
This is when I whack out the mobile. I didn’t have a local SIM card or any deals set up but desperate times. I called the bus company for help but the woman I spoke to didn’t even know where we were supposed to be but did inform us the bus was running about 20minutes late giving us a little more time. We worked out a general direction and started running. Unfortunately for me, asthma, running and panic equals problems breathing which makes running harder. We battled on in the general direction we had been told. But eventually a half hour had passed since the departure time and we realised even with the delay we had missed our trip home.
We weren’t sure what to do next so just walked onto the main road to find out what was around and just at that moment a MegaBus drove past. We knew it was our bus. My sister jumped into action trying to figure out how we could catch up with it and flag it down but we only had €3 left between us and knew it wouldn’t work. It was now 1am and we were exhausted, stressed and upset. We knew we’d have to find somewhere to stay for the night but we’re in a new part of town we didn’t know, with drunks shouting and being rowdy and we were done with the day so ducked into the first hotel on the street. As we walked in Gemma told me to turn on the tears to try get a sympathy rate on a room. This tactic helped however we had unknowingly walked into belgiums top boutique hotel! The cost for one night was more then the combined cost of transport and hostel up to this point! However, It was nice especially after the highly stressful day we had. We got wifi and were able to plan our next move. My sisters boyfriend got onto MegaBus back in the UK but they didn’t offer much sympathy (after all 50 odd other people had managed to find the stop). Worse still there were no seats for the next day. We realised we would have to get the Eurostar in order to make it home for Christmas (Once again forking out for unplanned expenses).
We got a great night sleep in our comfortable room, a nice shower and loaded up on a delicious breakfast before heading out to the train station (this time we left 4 hours early and had extensively researched where we were heading). We arrived hours early however were given Christmas cookies on arrival and were shown a fun green screen to take fun photos on and had access to free wifi. We pledged our allegiance to Eurostar and swore off MegaBus forever (or at least until our emotional wounds had healed). We arrived in London and my sisters boyfriend picked us up to drive us back to Bournemouth and in the end because of the different yet faster transport we arrived only 5 hours later then scheduled but exhausted!
And that is why you should always be prepared because even if you think you’ve been sensible and done the research it can still all flip and everything CAN go wrong. Whilst things went south for us it could have been a lot worse, if I couldn’t call for help or we didn’t have the money for the hotel and Eurostar we would have been stuck. Have access to some emergency funds and a mobile phone and allow yourself plenty of time and remember if things do go wrong at least you have a funny story to share.