Oui bus left me behind in Calais! Unforgettable! I had many travel war stories before, but this was a first ‘left behind’. This wasn’t entirely Ouibus’ fault though. There were many factors that created this mini-episode.

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The day was young, but the bus was late… like 45min late. So other tourists and I were waiting by the Bercy (Paris) station like rocks. Happily hopped onto the double decker Ouibus. Spacious seats and generally quite clean. It had wifi and usb charger, could any budget traveller gets happier than that? There’s a bathroom downstairs as well.

Now, the slight nightmare began at the UK border. As usual, because of the crazy ever changing UK home office rules on EU spouse (which was actually quite illegal; obstruction to EU free movement?), officers were naturally quite cautious of me. So they went on to check my passport, visas etc for about 20min?

There’s wifi, but it is not stable. Be warned.

Meanwhile, back on the Ouibus there were 60 others passengers waiting to get onto the next ferry (Calais to Dover). Naturally, I would get ditched for holding up everybody. I kind of expected that to happen anyways.

 

Well, the problem was not the left behind part. The true problem was the lack of communication / information. The ouibus driver didn’t know who / what number I was supposed to call. And what if I did not have roaming on my phone? Alright, so he advised that I look up online. Hello? I didn’t have roaming wifi!!! Anyways, when I did get wifi eventually, the customer service closed at 19h00. The incident took place after hours.

 

The sweet UK custom officers offered guidance and help (unfortunately, it was too late; must say, they were the most kind to try to help, bless these officers).

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I was too late to board the last ferry to Dover (cost €45, almost twice my ticket from Paris to London; return tickets London-Paris was £40). Plus, after arrival at Dover, I needed to fork out another £40 to get to London.  Well, even if I did pay, I would only get onto the next day ferry.
While in the terminal, there was free wifi (20min)!! Thought I was saved!!! So wrong, their wifi was too slow to even load the ouibus page. I still did not have the ouibus number!!! I was so desperate that I tweeted that I was stranded. That was a total useless move by the way.

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OOOoooo, special mention, I hadn’t heard this line for more than a decade while traveling in France, but at the Calais terminal, there were French employeeS that said to me… (plus walk away)

Nous sommes en France. Parler en français.

LOVELINESS!!! ‘We are in France. Speak French.’ And poor Calais tourism board was trying to promote the city. Perhaps they should switch their English posters for French ones?
Next, I called my husband to explain my situation. He was about to enter London tube. Cut.
Called a friend quickly to found the oui bus number. Their customer care closed at 19:00. Tadum! Dead end for me, destined to sleep on a bench and remain stranded. On a quick thought, there was supposed to be another bus after mine. Let me try to wait at the border control; which normally wasn’t allowed.


Walked for 10min in the pouring rain to get to the border control. Thank goodness for another kind hearted custom officer for letting me stay inside, otherwise I was bracing to wait in the wind and rain for 5 hours.

 

How did I eventually get home? Well, I was saved because a friend found out about the emergency number. **BATTERY CHARGER was a TOTAL blessing that that point. With only 1min of free wifi left, I found the number in the email attachment from ouibus. The heavily French accent gentleman helped me to arrange for the next bus pick up. So there I was. Relieved to be on the next bus.

Despite being exhausted. I finally had my grooves back and started taking photos like a tourist. The bus took us into the HUGE ferry. Everyone had to leave the bus once inside the ferry.

 

At this point, I hadn’t eaten anything for 14 hours. I headed straight for the restaurant. SAVED!!!! Breakfast at 2h00!!!!

Quite a lovely ferry actually, it had entertainment centre, a bar and duty free shopping.

Conclusion

If you re-enter UK border with EEA 2006 stamp (aka spouse of EU), the 20 – 30min each time is guaranteed (my 3rd time already, so I think this is the standard).

 

Ouibus was obviously prepared / organised for these type of situations, they just needed to ADVERTISE this part a bit more loudly.

 

Bad thing happens is a normal part of travel. This experience will not stop me from using ouibus in the future.

 

 

My suggestions for Ouibus were:

Best way – Bus driver should get hold of ‘left behind’ passenger phone number AND offer to contact ouibus office to arrange for next bus pick up. The bus driver should have organised this.

 

Otherwise – (pray that the passenger had enough battery & roaming service) Give the passenger the emergency number to arrange pick up. I understand that the emergency number is available in fine print on the PRINTED ticket, but it is not on the OUIBUS APP. How many people actually print out the tickets these days?

 

Incident occured on 11 April 2016 bus number 1113 Paris Bercy to London Victoria. Case has already been reported. Thumbs up to the operator, Satish for getting me that ride home.

 

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Author

30+ Paris. Laughs a lot. Writes about travel to fight beauty hoarding. Rooibos tea. Blogging is my loving hobby.

14 Comments

  1. I think the French response was totally reasonable, you were in France, why do so many English speakers expect foreigners to speak English, it comes across as pompous. You could have used your internet time using Google translate. Geeze I would have left you in Calais too & why would you not have snacks. For someone writing a blog about your travels you seem really unprepared and ditsy

    • Thanks for reading my ditsy blog, Clare.

      hm… on preparation to be stranded traveling on a direct point A to B via an overnight bus, I hope no one will ever need to be prepared for that.

  2. What a nightmare! I have a tip, we have pay as you go simcards from 3, for £20 per month top up you get 300 minutes, 3000 texts and unltd internet that you can use abroad as well. It worked in France for us for four months that we were there, however it doesn’t work in Germany. They have a list of countries you can use it in and there are lots! Hope that helps for your next trip.
    Emily

  3. Oh wow what a journey! At least you kept a cool head, I think I would have panicked about how to get home haha x

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