Advance train tickets in the UK

Sep 13th, 2010, 03:21 AM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Very useful info. But I'm a bit confused. I've been using the national rail site to research my upcoming trip. So are you saying the prices I'm seeing are only valid if I buy the ticket on-line? It will be more than that if I buy a ticket as a "walk-up" (just before I want to go)? About how much more? I do see some prices that say "advance purchase" but most of them do not say that.

Second question - if I do buy them on line the day before do I have to print anything or can I just copy down a confirmation number. I'll have my netbook with me, but no printer.

Third question - does anyone know if a US credit card works in the machines. I know in France they don't, you have to go to the ticket window. Lots of discussions here about how our magnetic strip cards don't work cause they don't have the chip.

Thanks
isabel is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 03:57 AM
  #22  
 
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isabel - yes the prices you see on the website are only if you book them then. The quoted prices may be the same the next week but as the cheaper fares are sold the price goes up steadily the closer to your travel date you get. Walk-up fares are ALWAYS higher than the online fare.

Earlier this year I missed a train because there weren't any parking spaces (fare was booked several weeks ahead for something like £18 return). When I bought a walk-up ticket for the next train I was charged £56 for the one way!

You are coming to the UK in November? So to get the prices you are looking at now you need to book them now.

If you book online when you are here, it is OK to write down the reference no. In fact thetrainline.com will text it to your phone.

I don't know about the station machines, but I think you need a chip and pin to use them.
julia_t is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 06:20 AM
  #23  
 
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julia_t, do you mean the station machines to pick up tickets? I have American cards (no chip or PIN) and have used them successfully several times.

I haven't been in the last year, though, so if they've changed the machines, you may be right.
jent103 is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 08:28 AM
  #24  
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Julia, thanks for the hint about booking trains separately rather than paying extra when you have to change trains. I would not have thought of that.

Pal, unfortunately a train pass is more expensive than booking separately this trip.We are making lots of short trips.
Saraho is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 09:22 AM
  #25  
 
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Don't overlook the megatrain uk website. We used it on our recent UK trip and realized considerable savings. Although they have limited routes, if they service your route and the schedule fits you can save quite a bit. There isn't a special train - just deep discounts on certain routes and times. Supposedly the trains have a car reserved for their passengers but we never found one so just took a 2nd class seat. The conductor has a list of megatrain passengers. The UK also has a megabus system, same as in the US (the buses look identical to those in the US)and the megabus system works the same as here.
basingstoke2 is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 09:52 AM
  #26  
 
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jent, because all my cards are issued by British banks they all have chips and pin codes.

However, I cannot for the life of me remember if you actually do have to enter a pin code when you put your card in the machine!

I think I just put the card in and and enter the reservation number.

Tell you what, I have to go and collect all my booked tickets so I will do that on Wednesday and take note of what the machine asks and report back here afterwards.
julia_t is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 12:56 PM
  #27  
 
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Q for folks like julia t who travel a lot on trains - if there are competing train franchises running similar routes is one better than the ever - say in being on time, comfort, etc.

Or do you chose strictly on price? Perhaps there is no competition on lines you ride but it seems at times there are more than one train franchise serving the same two points.

thanks for any insights - trying to see what train companies are performing the best in eyes of customers.

(Britain has about 28 or so independent rail franchises, which are put up for bid periodically.)
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 03:12 PM
  #28  
 
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Ok, still confused here. I went on the trainline.com site, they have the same prices as I found on the nationalrail site. They say they are "anytime". The "advance fare" column is blank. But does this still mean I have to buy it ahead of time? The route I am looking at is from Leamington Spa to Liverpool and the fare is £33.60. It says it's only valid for trains passing through Crewe. On the national rail site it says the connection is in Birmingham. On the national rail site the later trains are only £15.50 and they do say "advance fare". (And they weren't there when I checked last week). This is all so confusing.

My hesitation with buying the tickets now (for travel in Nov) is that I'll have trouble picking up the tickets due to my American credit card. I had experiences similar to Tod's (earlier post). Also, while I'd like to save 15£, the flexibility of buying on the day of travel might be worth that amount. But if it's going to be a much higher priced fare if I wait then I probably would risk buying ahead.

So the two questions I'd love to have answered: if someone has used an American card in the machines recently (past few months) - or - gone to the ticket window and had them issue the ticket that you pre-purchased. Second, are we talking 10 or 20£ to wait, or are we talking much higher amounts?
isabel is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 03:52 PM
  #29  
 
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We picked up tickets at the ticket window with our American card twice, no problem. We also bought a couple of tickets in Scotland at the window using the card without a problem. In fact, we had no problem with out American cards anywhere in the UK including at ATMs, but we never did try them in the ticket machines.
basingstoke2 is offline  
Sep 14th, 2010, 12:26 AM
  #30  
 
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I don't pretend to understand the rail companies at all!

Pal, I choose my trains by time and convenience. The lines I seem to travel on mostly are First Great Western and Arriva. Often they are just two carriages, but sometimes depending on the time of the journey it might be a great long train.

isabel - I think the reason you are not seeing any advance fares is because either they don't run them on that particular route, or because they are already sold out. I just had a look and picked a random date of 10th November. There are no advance singles before 9.43am, and then they are £15.50 - half the price of the anytime single fare of £33.60.

With regard to the routes and changes, I too find this confusing as it varies depending on the website you book through. I've questioned it at the station and they tell you it doesn't matter. Actually it doesn't really matter because it will often be the same train regardless of where you change. I now just book the ticket and follow the change given with that booking.

I'll let you know about the ticket machine when I pick up my next batch of tickets next time I pass the station.
julia_t is offline  
Sep 14th, 2010, 03:11 AM
  #31  
 
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<<< The UK also has a megabus system, same as in the US >>>

Other way around - US has a Megabus system, same as in the UK
alanRow is offline  
Sep 15th, 2010, 08:13 AM
  #32  
 
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I collected my tickets today from the machine on the station platform.

I put in my payment card but was not asked to enter a PIN number.

If you have booked multiple journeys, you have to re-insert your card to retrieve the tickets for each journey.

Hope this helps.
julia_t is offline  
Sep 15th, 2010, 11:07 AM
  #33  
 
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Other way around - US has a Megabus system, same as in the UK>

About the same as saying the U K has a Greyhound bus system and the U.S. has a Greyhound bus system
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 15th, 2010, 11:37 AM
  #34  
 
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I think AR's point is that Megabus is a UK company (Stage).
basingstoke2 is offline  
Sep 15th, 2010, 11:37 PM
  #35  
 
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It masy be late, but for anyone wanting the answer to Saraho's question, rather than emotional dumping about some tosser's perceived slight:

1. With a very few exceptions, there's absolutely no point in buying train tickets in advance for journeys entirely within about 100 miles of London. As far as I'm aware, the ONLY exception are normal train tickets from London to Oxford, and the few routes, like London to Winchester, on which the Megatrain booking engine offers advance booking discounts. In every other case, the walk-up far is identical to what you'd pay if you booked months in advance. Cambridge, Brighton and Winchester are inside this area: Bath isn't, so you need to book tickets in advancve to Bath to save money.

2. For almost all journeys from London beyond the 100 milesish barrier, advance booking makes financial sense.

3. A Senior Railcard offers a third off just about ALL quoted eligible fares, however deeply discounted they are. The Card costs about £25, so it probably makes sense if you're likely to be spending £75 or more on train. It doesn't apply on some peak hour trains, but the definition of "offpeak" for Railcard discounts is more generous than elsewhere in the train ratecard. To calculate the potential benefits, cost a jouney on the nationalrail website with and without the card.

You MUST have a Senior Railcard to get onto a train (or to collect a ticket from a manned ticket office) if you're claiming the discount: you don't need it to book at the discounted rate or to collect a ticket from a machine. So you can book Senior Fares in advance, then buy the Card just before your first journey.

Once you've got the Card, you can get it "attached" to an Oystercard, by taking it, with your Oyster, to any manned Tube ticket office. This reduces the daily cap on Pay as You Go Oyster fares within London (including fares on overground trains within the TfL boundary) by 33%
flanneruk is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 03:04 PM
  #36  
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We just returned from our trip to the UK. We had a great time using buses and trains- only wish we had public transportation like that in the US. We did not book in advance but used our senior railcards and got tickets from point to point rather than to the end destination when it was cheaper that way. We had very helpful ticket agents, conductors and fellow passengers so we ended up feeling very confident about hopping on trains or buses to go where ever we wanted.
Saraho is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 03:08 PM
  #37  
 
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Well done you. I still quail a bit at the work one has to do to get the best deal, but I never got used to this newfangled privatised railway thing.
PatrickLondon is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 06:47 PM
  #38  
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Thanks, everybody, for your excellent advice about using trains in the UK.

It was actually fun when we caught a one car train in Llanwrst,Wales. We had to wave it down to get on and then tell the conductor when we wanted to get off.

We rode a bus from Conwy, Wales down some very winding, narrow roads- beautiful scenery- very green and dotted with sheep. Again, we just told the driver exactly where we wanted to get off (by the castle)- it was great to have door-to-door service.

We had similar good experiences with both trains and buses in Scotland, too.
Saraho is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 11:25 PM
  #39  
 
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<<< Trouble is every company is different and it can get complicated >>> No it isn't. You don't need to know the train company you are travelling with, all you have to do is ensure you get on the right train.

<<< On line is best, nationalrail have a web site as do Virgin at thetrainline.com. National rail are a tad cheaper as they do not charge so much for credit card >>>

National Rail don't book tickets, thetrainline charges for booking tickets and for using CCs. They are better than raileurope (NEVER USE THEM FOR UK TICKETS) but that's like saying having a finger cut off is better than having a hand cut off

Like airlines you get the best prices if you plan ahead and know where and when you want to travel. However unlike airlines cheap tickets NEVER become available before 12 weeks and sometimes much later

Use a website like eastcoast.co.uk which will show you all the possible prices for your journey. You can book tickets through them as they allow foreign CC use - but some people do report problems so you can use firstscotrail.com or crosscountry.co.uk instead. Regardless of which company you use they will sell you exactly the same tickets which you will have to pick up from a convenient train station as they don't send tickets overseas. You need the CC used and the booking reference BUT ensure that you pick up all the pieces of card produced as you'll need all of them - there's generally one card for the journey itself, one card for the free seat reservation and one card which is a receipt.

But always check Megatrain - they just have a carriage on an existing train but it can be substantially cheaper than other methods IF they offer that route at that time & date
alanRow is offline  
Oct 1st, 2010, 01:04 PM
  #40  
 
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Though this thread is getting pretty long, it does have great info. I just want to make sure I'm not missing anything before I buy my tickets.

I want to go from Leamington Spa to Liverpool in November. I found I can buy a ticket from Leamington to BHM for £7.30 and one from BHM to Liverpool for £9 (total £16.30). That's better than buying one ticket from Leamington to Liverpool (£33.60). So I should do that now and then pick up my tickets, using the same credit card I booked with, at any train station in the UK. Correct?

I will also want to go from Conwy to Leamington Spa. That trip looks to be the same price if I book it all at once (two changes) or as separate tickets. That fare is £51. So I should buy that one now also.

I also want to go from Liverpool to Chester, and from Chester to Conway but I would rather be flexible about the times of those trips and there seem to be very frequent trains, and the price is pretty low (£4.35 from Liverpool to Chester, and £14.50 from Chester to Conwy). So if I wait till I get to the train station can I just get those tickets at the last minute? The prices will still be in about those ranges, and they don't sell out?

Thanks
isabel is offline  

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