I'm always amazed when my most well traveled friends complain about how expensive British trains are and how much they have spent on rail travel...especially when I have tried my best to explain how easy it is to find a cheap fare. All it takes is a willingness to be flexible about the time of day you travel, the foresight to book a little bit in advance and the knowledge that on advanced tickets, sometimes two one-way tickets are cheaper than round trip.
Just this week, a colleague told me about an astronomical price she'd paid for a ticket to a city just a little over an hour from London. She'd waited until the morning she planned to travel to buy her ticket at the train station. "I knew it would be cheaper if I bought it in advance but I like to be spontaneous and I figured, how much difference could it make, after all," she said.
Quite a lot, as a matter of fact. Just to prove it, here are some samples of round trip (return) train fares to popular UK destinations from London, purchased for immediate travel, compared to advanced travel:
- Bath The full, flexible "Anytime" return fare is £168. Planned ahead, the same journey in one week's time is £30.50 when purchased as two one-way tickets.
- York Last minute, "Anytime" fare is £249. In a week it's £67.50 as two singles.
- Cardiff "Anytime" fare £199. In a week and one day, two singles are £34.
Each train company assigns a fixed number of "Advance Fare" tickets and when they are gone, they're gone - so the earlier you book, the better your chances of getting the cheapest fare. But usually a week or so in advance is sufficient.
Get the lowdown on UK train travel so you can travel sensibly and save money:
- How to Buy Rail Tickets and Book UK Rail Travel
- National Rail Enquiries - How to Find Train Times and Fares
- BritRail Passes for Cheap Touring
© Ferne Arfin