The United Kingdom is blessed with a large network of buses and trains allowing both locals and tourists the opportunity to explore even the smallest towns and villages. However, if you are new to the UK you might be shocked by the cost of bus and train travel. Nevertheless, with some prior knowledge and research it is still possible to find very cheap travel tickets.
Travelling by train
Book in advance
The cheapest advance fares are generally issued by train operators in quotas (limited or fixed quantities) 12 weeks prior to departure. Basically, the sooner you book the more chances you have of saving. Make sure to register with The Trainline’s Ticket Alet, a service that will send you an email as soon as advance tickets are avialble for purchase.
It’s worth checking the “early booking” discounts the day before your journey or even on the way to the station, as the cheap tickets might still be available.
Flexibility can play a major part in your search for cheap train tickets. Before committing, be sure to compare the fares for different times and dates. If possible, refrain from travelling on Fridays and Sundays and avoid peak hours (i.e. arrivals before 9.30am and 10am, departures between 3pm and 7pm). Furthermore, by taking alternative routes and avoiding connections/stops in the busiest stations, you stand the chance of saving money. You should also consider buying one-way (single) tickets, as unknown to many, two one-way tickets are frequently cheaper than a return ticket.
Split your tickets
Another option for making great savings on train travel is to purchase a ‘split ticket’. Rather than travelling directly from A to B, a split ticket will take an alternative route, stopping at another station during the journey. The total travel time may be little longer, but you will not have to change trains and are guaranteed to save money. Visit Splityourticket.co.uk for further information.
Consider getting a Railcard
If you are going to be travelling by train regularly then you should look into your eligiblity for a Railcard. National Railcards cost between £20-28 per year and offer discounts of 1/3 off almost all train fares. In addition, a variety of Regional Railcards are available that present the chance for huge savings on fares within specified regions of the UK. Also, if you are travelling to the same destination 3 or more times a week, then an Annual Season ticket would be a more cost-effective option than daily tickets. For more information on the types of Railcards and application forms, visit the National Rail Enquiries website.
Where to look for the cheapest train tickets
Two of the most popular online booking websites to search for cheap train fares,Thetrainline.com and Redspottedhankey.com, claim to offer discounts of up to 80% for advance bookings. Such big discounts are subject to availability and can incorporate alternative and longer routes, however, certainly present the chance for huge savings. On average, savings on advance purchases with TheTrainline and RedSpottedHankey are 43% and 51%, respectively. Another good website is Eastcoast.co.uk.
Keep an eye on special offers
There are far more promtions and special offers on train travel than people know about. Make sure to frequently check the Cheap Train & Coach Deals section at Moneysavingexpert.com, which lists one-off promotions and money saving vouchers. You can also check the National Rail website for a list of regional promotions throughout the UK. Furthermore, if you know your journey will be operated by Virgin Trains, consider using the Virgin Farefinder instead of a booking website.
£1 train and bus fares at MegaBus.com
MegaBus.com offers budget bus and train travel in the UK and reguarly has £1 one-way ticket offers on selected routes. These tickets are limited and include a 50p booking fee per transaction. Once the cheapest tickets have sold out, the most you will pay on MegaBus or MegaTrain is £10.
Travelling by bus
If, even after searching all the options, train travel still appears too expensive, then consider travelling around the UK by bus or coach. In the UK a bus refers to local travel and a coach for intercity, long distance travel.
National bus services
The National Express is the largest bus and coach service in the UK, providing services to around 1000 destination. Booking in advance is always going to be beneficial, however, you should also familiarise yourself with the offers and discount cards. With Coachcards offering up to 30% off and Fun Fares, limited tickets for £7.50 or less, huge savings can be made. If you are looking to explore England, Scotland and Wales in depth then look into the National Express Brit Xplorer. Providng that there is an available seat, the three different passes – Hobo (7 days, £79), Footloose (14 days, £139) and Rolling Stone (28 days, £219 – grant you the freedom to visit your destination of choice on the day you want.
Alternatives to the National Express within the UK are Citylink, which offers services throughout Scotland as well as to Blackpool (North England) and Belfast (Northern Ireland), and Megabus (see above). With Super Single tickets for only £1 and up to 30% off with discount cards, finding cheap tickets on Citylink routes is easy. Furthermore, when booking online with any of Citylink, National Express and Megabus, select the option to have your ticket sent to you via SMS. By doing so, you will avoid any postage and printing fees and thus reduce your travel costs.
Use local bus services
If you have time to spare then travelling on local buses can save you money whilst presenting the chance to see parts of the country not reached by national services and trains. Show Bus is a great website that provides comprehensive lisitngs of all local bus routes in the UK, timetables and fares from £1.
In addition, you can make some great savings with a PLUSBUS travelcard. When you buy a train ticket, ask for a PLUSBUS travelcard, which will grant you unlimited travel on buses and trams (limited cities only) around the town/city at the the start and/or finish of your train journey. PLUSBUS is available from £1.50 and accepted by over 200 bus companies in the UK.
Travel on the Postbus
Operated by the Royal Mail and with fares from £2 to £5, the Postbus covers routes in the most remote regions of the UK. Seats and times are limited, however, discounts are offered to passengers under 16 and senior citizens.
With all this information in mind, you should now be in a better position to explore the many cities, towns and attractions that the United Kingdom has to offer, even if you have a small budget.
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