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Britain by Train and BritRail Passes for the Clueless

Britain by Train and BritRail Passes for the Clueless

Feb 3rd, 2009, 10:15 AM
  #41  
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OPENING DOORS ON BRITISH TRAINS

Why would this merit comment - train doors open automatically, right?

Wrong on some British trains, such as the older InterCity 125 trains where you must roll down the window and open the train door from the OUTSIDE!

A safety measure to prevent train doors from opening by mistake (or purpose) from the inside.

I have never seen such a crude (and perplexing - why i mention it - i've seen many a flummoxed tourist fumbling to open the exit doors and not knowing how to) on any other European trains and in Britain more and more the usual automatic locking and opening is becoming the norm - but there still are plenty of trains where you must open the door from the outside only.

Very very Quaint.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 6th, 2009, 12:53 PM
  #42  
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Author: PalenQ
Date: 02/06/2009

I am copying an answer i posted to someone saying they were going from London to Edinburgh and back and were finding train fares too high - i recommended they look into a BritRail Pass as it could be cheaper than the fares added up both ways (and also provide totally flexible travel - hop any train anytime - not be restricted on the exact train and face non-changeable non-refundable conditions of carriage.

<Here's a bit about the pass:

If you will be going up to Edinburgh and back in a 3-day period or 4-day period consider the BritRail Consecutive Day pass:

3-days straight - 1st cl =$305 ($259 if 60 and over)

4-days straight $379 1st cl ($319 is a senior 60 and over

In Standard Class (2nd class)

3-days $199; 4 days $249 ; youth under 26 $159 and $199 respectively

If you are going to be in Scotland longer look at the bit higher price 3-day flexipass (good over a 2-month period - 3 unlimited days of your chosing) - better for folks stopping off like in the Lake District, York, etc.

If you have more than two traveling adults the 3rd thru 9th pay only 50% of what the first two full paying adults do

Kids under 16 accompanying parents get a free pass.

Between Nov and end of Feb all prices are about 20% discounted - the Off-Peak Special

For other pass prices and a whole lot of good info on rail travel in Britain: http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id11.html#abcons
and www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com

and it is not unusual that at www.nationalrail.co.uk you will not find the deep discounted fares available for the day and time you want to travel. One BritFodor who lives in Edinburgh has posted more than once that she could never get a good fare when she wanted to go - but again it's all on the national rail site - the various fares, conditions, etc.



PalenQ is offline  
Feb 13th, 2009, 01:32 PM
  #43  
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Copying and pasting comments about railpasses vs discounted restricted fares from another thread
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Author: flanneruk
Date: 02/12/2009

Britrail appears to be a French-owned American company that makes its money by quoting absurdly specific plans on the basis of the Network Card-discounted fares quoted on the National Rail site.

And simply ignore the downright fraudulent claims Britrail makes about point to point prices.


Author: rogeruktm
Date: 02/12/2009

For whatever reason flanneruk hates trains in his own country, so don't take it as set in stones comments he makes. I used my Britrail pass for 8 days and just returned yesterday. In spite of the snow from Scotland to London I made every connection. The Brits were very envious when we compared ticket cost. 1st class average of 30 pounds per day good for any train at any time. So, it works for me. Flanneruk takes a horrid commute train daily into London so he bases his experience on that trip. I did trains from Aberdeen to London with stops at many places on the way. Great fun in spite of the miserable weather.

Author: PalenQ
Date: 02/12/2009

The 4-consecutive day BritRail England railpass is a tremendous bargain IMO for what you envision - especially since your kids get a free pass to match what the adults buy

and none of the frustrating looking for online discounts that peg you into a certain train or have restrictions on trains you can board, off-peak conditions, etc.

The railpass allows you to board any train anytime - just hop on - fully flexible tickets are often exorbitant - as you apparently have seen on nationalrail.co.uk

Kids under 16 get free passes - one for each accompanying adult. Thus the chid's fare 5-15 applies only to a couple having more than two kids or kids traveling on their own. The free Family Pass that is issued with the adults' passes requires only that a kid be under 16 and traveling with adults - but only one free kid per adult.

Also consider the England Railpass Flexi - costs more per day of travel then the 4-consecutive day pass but gives you an overall 2-month validity period in case you do not want to lump all your train days together. Passes are not sold in UK stations cause Brits cannot use them - only for foreign tourists and really no comparable, in price at least, all-lines pass available locally.

The BritEngland railpass can be used on all of the 28 or so independent British rail franchises - there are no 'BritRail' trains but the pass can be used on any train on any franchise anytime you want. Even if you bought individual tickets with the most several restrictions i think you would possible just save a few pounds - at an incredible cost of losing flexibility and having to make advance arrangments. Some great sources of info on British trains and railpasses: www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com - the last one has a free phone consultation where you can ask questions like you did in your OP of experts IME. And yes do check out www.nationalrail.co.uk to compare possible fares - if you don't save a lot then IMO go for the complete flexibility of hopping impromptuly on any of zillions of daily English trains.

Britrail BTW is not a French-owned American company as erroneously reported above (it's actually a Canadian company based in Quebec)

Author: PalenQ
Date: 02/12/2009

I said BritEngland Pass because it is cheaper than a BritRail Pass, thinking that you are only going thru a small section of Wales - from just beyond Chester to Holyhead

check Chester to Holyhead fares on nationalrail.co.uk and then compare to adding those fares onto the cost of a BritEngland Railpass and the BritRail Pass, which would include Wales.

Author: PalenQ
Date: 02/12/2009

Yes indeed all that bluster from flanner about passes never being a good deal is simply a bunch of rubbish.

like roger i have had BritRail Passes for years and always have found them a great deal - esp the hop on at will aspect.

If you do fly to Dublin then the only pass you would look into would be the London Plus Pass - which gives unrestricted train access to all the cities you mention - including Stratford and even to Bath.

You could use it to get to Bath, to me England's finest city - stay there and then buy a regular ticket to go from the English/Welsh border to Holyhead, a cheap ticket since it's not very far.

The London Plus Pass also gives transfer from London airports on the Airport Express trains that can be used outside the validity of the pass. A 4-day London Plus Pass would be hard to beat for four day trips - esp if you want to end up in Bath, on Ireland's doorstep practically (and actually see the country from the train rather than just more airports)

Locals like flanner are often a wealth of advice but it seems when talking of trains at least he often has blinders on - to say a pass is always a waste of money is simply rubbish IMO. (It may be and all the fares are at nationalrail.co.uk to compare - and do not underestimate the total flexibility aspect of the pass vs restricted discounted tickets (where if you miss that train you are out of luck and then have tobuy a full-fare ticket)

Author: flanneruk
Date: 02/12/2009

"flanneruk hates trains in his own country".
Bollocks

"Flanneruk takes a horrid commute train daily"
Triple bollocks in spades

If the only way you can make your case is to attack - with spectacular inaccuracy in this case - someone else's motives, you're simply incapable of making a case.

Which probably means your case isn't worth making.

Anyone who seriously believes there's one pass that makes any kind of sense for a train trip to Salisbury, a daytrip to Oxford and a single journey to Holyhead either can't add up or knows tiddly squat about this country's geography and transport system

Or both.

Author: jent103
Date: 02/12/2009, 04:03 pm

Others are much more knowledgeable about passes than I am, but I've done point-to-point in the UK and it doesn't have to cost a fortune, as long as you plan ahead. As flanner suggests, start with nationalrail.co.uk. That site consolidates the different companies' prices and schedules, and then will point you to sites where you can actually purchase the tickets.

Author: PalenQ
Date: 02/12/2009

<Anyone who seriously believes there's one pass that makes any kind of sense for a train trip to Salisbury, a daytrip to Oxford and a single journey to Holyhead either can't add up or knows tiddly squat about this country's geography and transport system>

including you i guess for making this blanket statement

I require flexibility - meaning i want to go to the train station and hop on the next train

The fully flexible train fare London to Holyhead is 120 pounds or about $190 or so in 2nd class

then are you saying that i can flexibly travel to both Stratford and Oxford for $9? Because that is just what you are saying

A four-day consecutive BritRail Pass like OP was considering is currenty $199 p.p. (and kids go FREE)

So for flexible travel as i require i pay $190 just for the London-Holyhead train - no way can i do a day trip to Oxford (even by slow bus) or take a train to Stratford and then to Holyhead for $9

Flanner explain to me, for my requirements how the following quote from you is not just pure baloney?

<Anyone who seriously believes there's one pass that makes any kind of sense for a train trip to Salisbury, a day trip to Oxford and a single journey to Holyhead either can't add up or knows tiddily squat about this country's geography and transport system>

That said if my requirements were less and i wanted to pin myself down then i'd think you may be right (if i could get the cheapest fares) - so my quibble with you is lumping everyone together and blankedly saying it is foolish to contemplate a railpass for these trips. And i like to travel first class - in that case the first class flexible fare London to Holyhead would be i'm sure more than the whole cost of a 4-day pass.

The mistake some folks not familiar with the British rail fare structure is automatically considering a pass - and you are correct in alerting them to the other options as you superbly do - but do NOT throw the baby out with the bathwater in saying as you often do that passes never make a good idea - it depends on several factors.

Author: rogeruktm
Date: 02/12/2009

After more thought I think part of the difference is the fact that flanneruk lives there and his plans most likely are more flexible than a tourist. So if I am in London, as a tourist and decide to train to Durham at a whim,I have to pay through the nose for an expensive ticket With a pass,any train, any time and a set cost. For the record I departed Aberdeen to Edinburgh, 1st class, then a Virgin train to Carlisle, 1st class and then the Northern train to St. Bee's. No reservations, no pre- booked tickets,and my fully flexible cost was the daily average of 30 pounds.

Author: aj345
Date: 02/12/2009

I spent a LOT of time on the nationalrail site today, and I am still considering the options. Although the savings are great, you give up flexibility as PalenQ points out. I think the 4-day Consecutive pass would be worthwhile if we stayed over two nights on the way to Holyhead, which will also break up the long trip. And thank you PalenQ also for confirming that my 15-year-old would go free. That means our total for all train travel would be $518 - $259 per adult - and we'd have to do a lot less planning, see more of the country, and not commit to specific dates and times.

Author: azzure
Date: 02/13/2009

I believe that if you go to the National Rail site you can buy point to point tickets very cheaply, if you wait until you are within 60 days of the journey. At any rate, that is what we did, and we traveled from London to York for about £35 for the two of us.

Author: PalenQ
Date: 02/13/2009

And simply ignore the downright fraudulent claims Britrail makes about point to point prices.>

What fraudulent claims - they advertise 'British Open Tickets' and if you compare those prices to fully flexible 'open' tickets sold in the U.K. you will often find that they are not overpriced at all.

Recently took a train to Manchester from London with my BritRail Pass and there was an announcement for passengers to be sure they were on the right train if they had train-specific (discounted tickets flanner mentions) or they would be charge the full standard class (2nd) class one-way fare of about 130 pounds (or some ridiculously high figure) - at that time about $270! I would be that BritRail's price for similarly open fully flexible fares would be less actually. (And a 4-day railpass was $199 - for 4 days of fully flexible travel!)

So flanner is comparing apples to oranges when he harangues about BritRail posting absurd pricing - comparing highly restricted perhaps impossible to book fares with 'open fares' or fully flexible fares.

Yes apples to oranges - flanner should also aim his cannon at Britain's own rail franchises who do charge ridiculously high fares for open tickets, much like BritRail.com hawks.

Perhaps BritRail should point out that much cheaper tickets exist, with drawbacks - good point

but would flanner the merchandiser guru put signs in his stores that 'customers can buy the same product cheaper at a competitor a few doors down' - think NOT.

The real problem is why Britain's privatized rail franchises are allowed to themselves charge such obscenely high open fares - such as the 130 quid each way to Manchester and why Brits like flanner don't equally decry that.

a bit of hypocrisy it seems. And there has been discussion in Britain of leveling out the huge fare discrepancy to encourage more spontaneous train travel. Now if you do not book a long-distance train in advance - far in advance perhaps - then you face an enormous walk up fare, which discourages spontaenous travel.

Well anyway with fully flexible open fares often being so astronomically high a railpass becomes a better deal then ever - for what it gets you fully flexible travel - hop any train any time.

There are more aspects to railpasses than flanner seems to judge them buy - comparing them to discounted tickets with stringent restrictions. Even on a day trip to Stratford the cheaper fares typically (i have not looked up Stratford specifically) restrict your outbound travel before 9:30am Mon-Fri - and many folk would like to start earlier than 9:30 for a day trip a few hours each way by train, etc.

Don't judge efficacy of railpasses by comparing them to the cheapest possible means of carriage IMO - full flexibility is a HUGE perk.



PalenQ is offline  
Feb 18th, 2009, 09:39 AM
  #44  
 
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Josser -

Let me clarify about any third world comment i may have mentioned - no i should not say third world but rather comparing British trains to those on the Continent - in that comparision British trains stack up IME rather poorly. I have yet to be on a train where the complimentary coffee i get in first class did not rattle in its saucer the whole way - never have seen this on the Continent - so the tracks are not nearly in as good a shape - infrastructure problems constantly occur - 'signalling problems' being a prominent one - and also staff shortage - driver don't show up, etc.

And the 2nd class trains cars in Britain i believe are more narrow than those on the Continent - meaning less room as they still have the same 2 by 2 seats on each side of an aisle - and the seats are simply much harder IME to get into and out of and typically 2nd class is full or nearly so and there are bags everywhere - and cleanliness - i would again say that in 2nd class it pales vs Continental trains - often IME empty soda tins, a ton of newspapers, fast-food wrappers, etc. I actually stepped into a pile of vomit recently - it had been covered by a newspaper - that has never happened to me on the Continent - commuter trains of southeast trains - i ride them often - can be incredibly filthy and graffiti even marring the views.

First class on the other hand is as good or better than any on the Continent - and complimentary tea or coffee the whole way and often a veritable meal (Virgin Trains) - and are rarely even half full - lay your bags next to you rather than having to lean over someone to try to stuff something into an overhead already full rack.

My advice is for any tourist traveling around the U.K. is to go first class - 2nd class will get you there but apply the same criteria to train travel as you would to accommodations. You can sleep perfectly well in a youth hostel but do you?
Palenque is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 01:22 PM
  #45  
 
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TYPES OF PASSES

FLEXI VS CONSECUTIVE DAY

BRITRAIL PASS (Valid in England, Wales and Scotland)
BRITRAIL FAMILY PASS
BRITRAIL PARTY PASS
BRITRAIL YOUTHPASS + EURAIL YOUTHPASS TIE-IN

BRITRAIL ENGLAND PASS

LONDON PLUS FLEXIPASS
BRIT-IRELAND PASS

NEXT - We'll take a look at each pass with sample itineraries, etc.
Palenque is offline  
Feb 20th, 2009, 01:29 PM
  #46  
 
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FLEXI VS CONSECUTIVE DAY PASSES

A flexible ('flexi') railpass gives you a certain number of unlimited travel days to be used anytime you like over a 2-month period - a day here - a day a week from now, etc. - or consectuive days - such passes have a number of boxes on them that you are supposed to write that day's date in in ink before boarding the train (or at least before the conductor comes thru)

Like any pass you must ACTIVATE your pass at a train station ticket window before boarding you first train - thus the 2-month period begins and you then write that date in the first box on the pass. To activate you show all the passports for each name on the pass and the clerk writes the passport numbers on the pass (or you can do it ahead - or the clerk may leave the passport number line blank and then you should do it. Then you board any train you want and just flash the pass to the conductor when he comes along - usually he/she will just perfunctorily glance at the pass.

If taking overnight trains (like the Caledonian Sleepers between London and Scotland) then with a flexipass you put the next day's date on your pass and thus do not have to use two days even if the train leaves before midnight. Then when you arrive in Scotland you pass will still be valid for the whole day - meaning you could (as i did once) take a Sleeper train from London to Inverness and then use the pass to take the scenic Highlands rail line to Kyle of Lochlash and only use one day on your pass. The Isle of Skye is just a short bus ride from Kyle of L so one one day on a pass you could go from London the Isle of Skye!

NEXT - CONSECUTIVE DAY PASSES


A CONSECTU
Palenque is offline  
Feb 21st, 2009, 08:46 AM
  #47  
 
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CONSECUTIVE DAY PASSES

Well obviously this means 3-, 4- 8-, etc. straight days of train usage - as much as you want anytime anywhere - just hop on.

Why a consecutive day pass? Because they are cheaper per day than a Flexipass - so for folks say going to Edinburgh from London and wishing to stop off in York or some other cities for a day or even a few hours en route may find these to me cheaper than even the cheapest online discounted fares (or may not depending on the date and how far in advance you book those cheaper non-refundable non-changeable fares. Especially someone landing at Gatwick or heathrow airports and going on somewhere that same day can use the pass on airport express trains then to go say to Bath or Scotland and return to London with the consecutive day period. In Edinburgh you could also do short day trips to Sterling or St Andrews on the pass without paying an extra pence for those train trips.

NEXT ANALYSIS OF EACH - TYPICAL ITINERARIES, ETC

Note - Questions, comments, disagreements all welcomed.
Palenque is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 11:14 AM
  #48  
 
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BRITISH TRAIN STATIONS - An Aside

Before continuing on pontificating about passes i'll mention one of my favorite things about riding the British rails - the many old Victorian-era brick train stations.

In many ways Britain was the country that made rail travel a regular fabric of its way of life - in the late 1800s when lines were built everywhere and the British Rail system was the envy of the world. And the still glamorous brick stations from this era are still used (though there are some casualties in larger cities where old stations were bulldozed and replaced by drab modern ones - like Birmingham New Street, London's King's Cross - now being restored to its former glory - London Paddington, etc.

But for there are still lots of neat old Victorian stations - my favorite is York - a grand train shed.

Stations inevitably have cafes and pubs and take out stores - and there are usually no restrictions on what you can bring aboard so stock up in stations rather than paying the predatory pricing in the train's buffet ('buffy') car, where 'small change is always appreciated' says the 'purser'
Palenque is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 07:50 PM
  #49  
 
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Palenque - thanks again for this thread. I'm buying our passes tomorrow. Trying to figure out the rail system in the UK has been a nightmare. Website problems, confusing websites, and high prices to boot.

We're going for an 8-day consecutive pass, standard class, for $299 for us and $239 for our student daughter and her friend. Even though we won't be traveling for 8 days by train, it still works out cheaper than point to point. Also, the flexibility is there. We found that we weren't able to book most of the "Advance" fares due to time conflicts, and the regular prices were just ridiculous.

I'll post an update when we get back at the end of the month. I'm really looking forward to just hopping on a train and going. We've done it before on the Continent and it's a liberating feeling.

Thanks for your help!
soogies is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2009, 11:22 AM
  #50  
 
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soogies - in turn thanks for the info - getting the cheap fares that are often hyped is not always easy - especially when you may want to travel. I am one who does not want to book some non-changeable ticket weeks in advance, etc. But for the folks taking only a few trips and not needing flexibility that's fine too. Please update me and us on this thread - i'm sure you will love British trains. And don't forget how some of those doors open from the outside only!

cheers
Palenque is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2009, 04:28 PM
  #51  
 
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Thanks, Pal.

Has any of you used Megatrain? The price is certainly right if you can find a train on the desired day.
stokebailey is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2009, 04:40 PM
  #52  
 
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Josser, I certainly don't want any Britons annoying me while I'm trying to read either. So don't try it, or I'll snub you.
stokebailey is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2009, 06:39 PM
  #53  
 
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Palenque - Thanks for the headsup on the doors!!

I just ordered our RailPasses from Rick Steves and the price went down from yesterday.

$285 for 8 day consecutive standard class. I'm happy because I do love the flexibility a pass provides.
soogies is offline  
Mar 4th, 2009, 08:45 AM
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Stoke - no i have not ridden Megatrain - for one reason i always have a pass - but if Megatrain (a la Megabus) works then you can ride for a ridiculously cheap price. I will have to learn more about Megatrain to tell you the truth.
Palenque is offline  
Mar 4th, 2009, 08:52 AM
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I looked at Megatrain last night, and you could only book up to the end of April. No seats were available for my London-Chesterfield trip then, but looking at today and the next few days there were plenty of options. Makes me wonder whether they just book unsold seats for other train lines, rather than have actual physical megatrains?
stokebailey is offline  
Mar 4th, 2009, 09:18 AM
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Megabus and Megatrain are part of the Stagecoach travel company. Although they have a dedicated fleet of coaches for road journeys, their train journeys use those of Stagecoach rail operating companies (e.g. South-West Trains), or those of other rail companies. The rail journeys they offer are very much on off-peak trains, and may use less direct routes (e.g. Bristol to London).

Fine if the journey times suit your plans, but there is a reason they are cheap.

Megabus used to use old double-decker buses from Hong Kong, which were noisy and uncomfortable. They now have more comfortable vehicles.
chartley is offline  
Mar 4th, 2009, 09:35 AM
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Thanks, chartley. The London-Chesterfield Megatrain trips appears to have roughly the same duration as the other lines.

No snobs, us, so even if there were chicken coops strapped to the top and goats baaing down the aisle we could handle it for a few hours, in mental exchange for a lavish lunch at the end financed by the money we'd save.
stokebailey is offline  
Mar 4th, 2009, 10:20 AM
  #58  
 
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We have Megabus now in the States - i just saw one heading for Chicago - dirt cheap too. It were a double-decker bus too.
Palenque is offline  
Mar 4th, 2009, 10:56 AM
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A friend of ours headed home for winter break from the U of Chicago pulled up in cab just has her megabus was pulling away. They were kind enough to put her on the next bus.
stokebailey is offline  
Mar 19th, 2009, 01:48 PM
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Bus travel in Britain is often dirt cheap and there are zillions of buses going everywhere all the time - unlike most of Europe where buses pick up where trains stop - from stations to the hinterlands.

But give me the train any day - you are now free to move around the train - and have guaranteed easy access to lavatories and keep your luggage with you.

Most buses i've taken are very crowded and the seats have less leg room than trains it seems (not sure about this as some standard-class train cars have really tiny seats compared to Continental trains - buses can also get snarled in traffic, esp around large cities.

but if want the cheapest way if not the most comfy consider the bus - and a national bus pass which i do believe still exists.

www.nationalexpress.com i think is the major bus company though stagecoach.com and others like Arriva run many buses.
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