updated: 2020/11/14 Thanks to @carconducteur on Twitter for the correction. The company changed their name to BlaBlaBus. The Ouibus url will redirect to their new site. You can book tickets from both the OUIGO app and the Voyages SNCF app. TLDR - save yourself the hassle and don't book a ticket.
The first post after a wonderful birthday trip shouldn't be to complain about a company, but here we are.
“Why didn't you just take a high-speed train?”
Initially, I was supposed to head down south to Toulouse to see some friends. When that fell through, as in I never received a response to confirm, I was looking for another place to visit for a few days that was still close enough to Paris since I was set to depart from Charles De Gaulle. In just a matter of days, the Thalys train ticket was at about €100 (approximately $ 117 USD) one-way. This was a no-brainer. I needed a cheap ticket out of Paris.
For €47 ($55.41 USD), I purchased an aller-retour (round trip) ticket from Paris to Bruxelles. My return ticket was to Charles De Gaulle so that I didn't have to take a taxi cab back to CDG from the rive droite.
When Plans Fall Apart
Leaving Paris via la gare de Bercy was the easy part. I arrived about an hour before departure and I noticed several things. For starters, people were pissed off. The information booth was filled with folks attempting to buy tickets and yelling about bookings. Several buses pulled up to the quais (dock/platform [pl.]), but there was no sense or reason to the operation. Normally, I'd suggest technology over paper, but this time around I'd have to say you would be left out in the cold if you tried to use the OUIBUS/BlaBlaBus (now OUIGO) app to do anything. This is the exact reason why our boarding took about 30 minutes. The driver checked passports and tickets on laggy smartphones. I had a printout, but it didn't matter. We were already behind schedule. I checked the site to get my seat number as the chauffeur didn't think it was pertinent information.
The cabin was cozy and I had access to a 220v outlet and a USB port. The air flow was nice. WiFi (pronounced wee-fee) was spotty and limited to 50mb, which was used up about an hour into the trip. The bus also had a WC, but I didn't use it.
Three hours into the trip, the driver took a 45-minute break at rest stop just outside of the Belgian border. This was, according to their site, included as part of the journey time. Pas vrai. We arrived about 2 hours late into Bruxelles. This ate into my time in Bruxelles, but I made up for it by having espresso and staying out late.
The Beginning of The End
After a less than a spectacular inbound trip, I left OUIBUS/BlaBlaBus a ‘neutral' review. While the amenities on the first bus were decent, I couldn't forgive them for the 2-hour delay. What if I had a train to catch? Or a flight? I was lucky neither was the case, but I could see how it could affect someone's itinerary.
Bright and early at 7 am I made my way back to the Bruxelles Midi Station to catch the bus back into Paris-Roissy-CDG Airport. I was sad to leave Bruxelles but relieved to be heading back home. It was pitch black outside when I heard the bus driver calling people over to form the queue. I present my passport to which he snickers ‘Americaine.‘ I laugh and respond, “Malheureusement (unfortunately).” I hand him my paper ticket and ask, “CDG?”
A second driver is rushing him to get people on board. When I asked what my assigned seat number was, he paused for a moment and then blurted a random number.
I sat down feeling uneasy, so I checked the website and indeed my seat number was 41. As I made my way to my assigned seat a woman there told me in French she was told to sit anywhere. I didn't want to move her. So I just said, “Pas de problème.” I went to the last row and chose a window seat. As we began our journey I started to smell the foul odor emanating from the WC, which only got worse by the minute. I wasn't the only one being accosted by the putrid scent; however, I was able to keep my breakfast inside of me.
Once I started to see recognizable landmarks I was relieved that I was going to make it into CDG on time. Did OUIBUS/BlaBlaBus redeem themselves? Non.
Instead, the driver appeared to be lost. He had three GPS systems and written instructions. We drove between terminals. Ever go around in circles on a bus? It isn't fun. When he finally found the correct station and platform he parks. Nobody seems to get off except one couple and I figured this is their stop also. I grab my things and I get off the bus. To my surprise, the couple lights up a cigarette and from a distance, I see a frantic bus driver on the phone. Now I'm worried. I ask to get my bag from the baggage bin and he waves me off. I'm frantically looking for my ticket when he orders people to get back on. Maybe he's at the wrong terminal I thought. I take the first seat right up front because I want to make sure I get off quickly at the next stop.
We end up driving straight into gridlock traffic. I suddenly realize that we are moving towards Centre-Ville and away from CDG. One passenger gets yelled at for asking if he'll make his train on time. As the time goes by, I become more aggravated and start to live tweet my whereabouts to OUIBUS/BlaBlaBus including snapshots along the way. WiFi is no longer connecting and the Orange F network is having trouble keeping up. At approximately 12:15 pm, we are dropped off at some random bus stop near Gare Routière de Bercy.
I can't see a taxi stand anywhere, so I walk towards the bus station. It looks different than the bus station I remembered. That's because I was at the train station (Gare de Bercy-Paris) that just happened to have OUIBUS platforms. (I now know that I could have kept walking to the other side, but trust me when I say, it was quite the walk because I couldn't even see the OUIBUSes/BlaBlaBuses anywhere!) I go up two flights of stairs with all of my belongings only to see a park. I'm racing against time and head back down. I'm hungry, sweating, and tired, but I am determined to get to CDG. I walk back towards the bus stop and flag down the first taxi I see. He asks if I ordered the taxi. I didn't want to lie, but I also needed to go. With a dejected look on my face, I said, “Non, pas moi (No, not me).” After looking around he then asks me where do I need to go.
He waves me in and I throw in my luggage. I arrive at CDG at 1:16 pm. He didn't accept cartes bancaires ou cartes de crédit, but luckily I had one €50 bill, which I handed to him as he gave me a receipt. I found the nearest bench and tried to process what had just happened.
Note: Because the Orange F signal was weak, one tweet didn't make it through. I took a screenshot.
If you go through my Twitter feed, you'll see that I was given a link to a complaint form which I have since then filled out. However, I'm not sure how effective that will be since their site is horrible. I've sent it three times and once through Facebook messenger as I have yet to receive any kind of confirmation email. On top of that, the negative comments on their Facebook page have given me no hope. I should have just taken the train and will do so the next time I decide to take a trip to Bruxelles from Paris. OUIBUS/BlaBlaBus should change its name to NONBUS. Don't be taken by the cheap fares. It's tempting, I know. Still, with all the drama that comes with the ticket, I'd rather pay more and have peace of mind. Avoid at all costs, or it will cost you!
Here are links to other reviews: