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Britain by Train and BritRail Passes for the Clueless

Britain by Train and BritRail Passes for the Clueless

Old Mar 17th, 2010, 12:24 PM
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3. Can i use them from Heathrow Airport right after i land?
Yes valid on every regular passenger train in Britain - regardless of which of about 28 or so independent rail franchise, due to privitzation of old British Rail, runs the train - including Heathrow (and Gatwick) Expresses - but you must first validate your pass at the ticket window for the 3-day period, in your case, after that you just hop on any train anytime - the conductor will just glance at your pass, usually.

4. Do you need to book a seat in a train in advance or you just jump on to one?
No trains in Britain TMK require seat reservations but IME they are advised on any long-distance standard class (2nd cl) train as these IME can be awfully crowded with most of the seat reserved - seat reservations IME are often free up until the evening before but this varies from line to line i suppose. But, you can always board the train regardless of whether you can find an empty seat or not.
I always have a first-class pass in Britain because there is IMO and IME a world of difference between the classes - and in 40 years of BritRail Passing thru Britain i have never ever not seen an empty seat in first class and usually many of them - i can put my luggage on a seat next to my typically - in standard class you may have to search for room in the overhead racks - so if this is a holiday i advise paying extra for first class. Strongly advise - 2nd class seats are also IME rather cramped, compared to Continental trains at least, because i think British train bogeys (cars) are a tad narrower than those on the Continent due to viaduct clearances being narrower - anyway if someone is tall or heavy then first class is even more better for them.
Really in the U.K. i find 2nd class trains about like Greyhound buses and first class (each long-distance train will have both) nicer than any i've seen on the Continent. To me this symbolizes the ballyhooed British class distinctions. Indeed i do feel like the Raj riding in first class.
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Old Mar 17th, 2010, 02:57 PM
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Travelling from Australia to UK in June/July and planning to use UK rail--thanks for all tips on this blog- excellent!.
I see nothing mentioned about rail toilets--what are they like? Both on train and on station. As a 'senior' couple it's quite important for us, if you see what I mean!
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Old Mar 17th, 2010, 04:21 PM
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Another question-- what are people's experiaences of having to change a (reduced rate-special) ticket to another day?
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 07:10 AM
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Boots - a quick reply to your last question - many of the reduced rate tickets simply cannot be changed - some of the more expensive reduced rate tickets may possibly be changed - again you are dealing with about 28 different rail franchises who set various policies - be sure to scour www.nationalrail.co.uk for the explicit fare conditions - if they can be changed i think there would have to be seats available in your fare category to do so - each level has a set number of seats at that fare. I do not have experience much with changing discounted fares because i always have a pass. You may want to make a separate post on Fodor's as there are some British folks who would know the answer but who are not reading this thread.

I will be back to answer or try to answer all the Qs of the folks above, as promised. For now i gotta hop on my train.
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 12:53 PM
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4. Do you need to book a seat in a train in advance or you just jump on to one?>

To add a bit to the response i gave above - yes i know of no train - day train at least that you cannot just jump on - (excepting Eurostar trains going to the Chunnel, which are not really part of the British rail system)

before plopping down in any ole empty seat be sure to peruse the little cards that may be sticking out of a slot on the top of the seat - the reservation marker indicating that that seat may be reserved and it will say between which stations the seat will be reserved - say down the line a bit. So if you just blindly sit down in it you may be roosted later by the passenger boarding with that exact seat reserved.

If there are no reservation stubs sticking out of the top of the seat then that seat is unreserved and up for first grabs.

And some reservation stubs may indicate a reservation between two stations already passed by - the person who reserved it has already got off the train and the seat is thus unreserved.

Sp peruse the reservation cards before sitting down. In second class i have often seen most of the seats in cars with reservation cards in them so in second class on long distance trains i do advise making a reservation even if you have a pass. In first class as said i have never seen not several empty unreserved seats.
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Old Mar 19th, 2010, 01:02 PM
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I see nothing mentioned about rail toilets--what are they like? Both on train and on station. As a 'senior' couple it's quite important for us, if you see what I mean!>

Well IMO Britain has always had the finest public toilets in Europe and also usually free, unlike on the Continent.

And trains are no exception - especially long-distance trains where WCs are larger and modern and most importantly, spic and span clean. This is quite unlike the Continent where WCs on trains are often negelcted and can be rathe foul place - especially on overnight trains - oh the horror at times in those WCs!

And unlike many French trains where the toilet is simply a conduit to a whole that drops urine and feces right to the tracks - British ones are self-contained - so there it does not seem you are simply defecating right onto the tracks.

Anyway clean - nice TP always there -put angst to rest about that. At least on long-distance trains - commuter trains often don't have WCs or they may have a few that are hard to get to.
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Old Mar 19th, 2010, 01:42 PM
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Thank you for that-- we are reassured!
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Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 10:05 AM
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milliebest
I was thinking of flying open jaw to London and then make our way up to Scotland by train and fly home to NY from there. On a one way trip ( three weeks ) which train route sites would suggest. My husband and I travel light, love art, like off the beaten path stuff, music, architecture and nature.>

Well you have two basic routes London to Scotland - the East Coast mainline via York, Newcastle, Durham to Edinburgh or the West Coast route via Crewe, Manchester, Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Hard to recommend one route over the other. First i will recap what i wrote in the above zillions of posts about the East Coast mainline

York is the first natural breaking of journey place - not only one of Britain's finest old cities - indeed still mainly walled and doing the wall walk is one must - but also the York Minster is one of the finest cathedrals anywhere.

And with York as a base you can easily day trip to places like Haworth - hometown of the Bronte sisters and smack up in the famous moor they often wrote about. It's a small but neat old stone-built village - you go via Leeds - home to the British Museum's highly touted Armories museum.

Or from York nearby is Harrogate, one of Britain's old spa towns, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales

Or to seaside Whitby - with its famous castle. Or to Fountains Abbey - lots of nice things depending on your interests.

Durham is another nice stop - serene cathedral - nice old town. And as said before the Borders Abbeys like Melrose, Jedburgh, etc. are also possible if you stay at Berwick-on-Tweed - Berwick being of especial interest to military historians- several Victorian-era fortresses overlook the sea.

OK -Next I'll review the West Coast mainline - suggesting Chester as your first stop en route to Scotland - and a side trip from there to North Wales.
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Old Mar 25th, 2010, 11:45 AM
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Next I'll review the West Coast mainline - suggesting Chester as your first stop en route to Scotland - and a side trip from there to North Wales.>

Ok -London to Bath - one of the very nicest towns in Britain - home to the recently rehabbed Roman Baths but to me those are only a footnote to the splendid Georgian architecture that permeates this former gathering place of the rich and famous - such as the dashing Beau Nash who built some of the most interesting edifices- like the Sham Castle - a sham of a castle.

then up to Shrewsbury to Chester - Shrewsbury is a neat old town as is Chester - both are two of the prettiest towns in England.

From Chester you can use it as a base to explore North Wales - an easy train ride to Conwy - fine old walled town and you can take a train up a sweet river valley to swell places like Betws y Coed

or you could from Chester easily day trip to Mount Snowdon, Caernaferon (sp?) Castle or Beaumarais Castle - two of the castles of your dreams as well.

From Chester it is a short shop to the fabled Lake District and then onto Scotland - i have described above possibilities from Lake District- like Hadrian's Wall,etc.
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 12:11 PM
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Update on BritRail Free Day Promotion - i talked about above but did not have all the details. But if you buy your pass before May 1, 2010 then yes you get an extra day free - applies to all BritRail passes except London Plus; Brit-Ireland pass and Scottish passes.
As passes must only be validated within 6 months of issuance this means you could validate the pass as late as Oct 30, 2010 and then use it for its validity period - two months on flexipasses.
And this promo has been popping up periodically in recent years - one reason not to buy a full-price BritRail Pass really far in advance as if the extra day deal subsequently appears it would not apply to passes already bought.
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Old Apr 8th, 2010, 08:50 AM
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Hi Palenque: I am considering the Caledonian sleeper from London to Inverness. We arrive LHR around 4 pm from California. We're flying business. Would it be too much stress, fatigue to try to catch that train the first night? We will be buying an 8 day (actually 9 day thanks to your tip) flexi pass. If you click on my name you'll see my thread "Britain without a car" to give you a better idea of our plans.

I welcome all opinions. Thank you.
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Old Apr 9th, 2010, 07:12 AM
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Well the train i believe leaves about 9:15pm (Paddington i believe - where the Heathrow Express comes in) so after getting to Paddington you will not have too much time to have to wait - probably could board hour earlier or so IME - so IMO if you are going to sleep early anyway and if you are reasonably sound sleepers as night trains inevitably have some noise from tracks, etc - it seems a perfect fit and you save a night's hotel costs. Note - i would not use the pass to get to Heathrow or only if you will not need all nine days but the Heathrow Express OTOH also costs about 25 pounds or so i believe so you may want to.
I have been really busy with other matters recently but will click on your name and see what you are up to!
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Old Apr 9th, 2010, 07:58 AM
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Wrong - the trouble with guessing is that you can end up giving out totally spurious advice. The Caledonian Sleeper goes from London Euston not Paddington, so you'd have to factor in a taxi across London between the 2 stations. http://www.scotrail.co.uk/caledoniansleeper/index.html

If it were me, I'd want a hot shower and a change of clothes after a long flight. Maybe you can access a business class lounge on arrival because, otherwise, the sleeper has only tiny washbasins and no showers - not a very appealling prospect IMO. Don't expect to sleep well either: the ride is noisy and bumpy. I did it once and the novelty value wears off somewhere around midnight at Crewe station.

Unfortunately you can't fly direct from LHR to INV, but you could consider transiting to LGW where there are direct flights to INV: at least you'd get to a hotel by the end of the day.
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Old Apr 9th, 2010, 08:13 AM
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Gordon R - i have taken the Caledonia Sleepers several times and yes from Euston - i had a brain fart and said Paddington - the reason i said i thought it still left from Paddington (which i should have said Euston) is that there always could be a change of stations -like to Kings Cross from where many Scottish trains leave from
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Old Apr 9th, 2010, 05:36 PM
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The more I look at this, and the more opinions I receive, the more I think I am nuts for even thinking about trying to do so much in one 48 hour period. It will much more wise to ease into our vacation. Thanks for the input!!!
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Old Apr 11th, 2010, 11:46 AM
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Hi All,

Thanks for all the tips in previous discussion, I have decided to buy BritRail first class pass for 8 days (9 days due to free day promo). I will be flying to London from India in last week of May.

However, while trying to buy the pass online, I find 2 options between "BritRail Consecutive Pass" and "BritRail Euro Consecutive Pass". The latter is cheaper by almost 100 euros. However, I am unable to find the difference between the 2 so far anywhere.

Does any body knows the difference and can explain?

Thanks,
Vipul
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Old Apr 11th, 2010, 11:48 AM
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I found the difference right after posting the above question. I had been searching everywhere, but this has a pop up detail that ocmes when point to it.

BritRail Euro is for Europians only, so I do not qualify.
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Old Apr 11th, 2010, 11:53 AM
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Though I do have few more question:

1. I understand that BritRail pass does not cover London. Should I go for London Plus pass or London Visitor Travel Card or something else?
2. Should I take the offered insurance for the BritRail pass.
3. I plan to visit Scotland, London & Wales. Do I need any other pass/ticket for local travel within Scotland/Wales?
4. Do these passes cover Bus travel as well?
5. Can I use these pass for traveling from Hethrow airport to London?

Thanks,
Vipul
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Old Apr 12th, 2010, 08:34 AM
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However, while trying to buy the pass online, I find 2 options between "BritRail Consecutive Pass" and "BritRail Euro Consecutive Pass". The latter is cheaper by almost 100 euros. However, I am unable to find the difference between the 2 so far anywhere.

Does any body knows the difference and can explain?>

The problem with ordering online and one reason i recommend talking to an agent who is knowledgeable and who could answer- like Byron at BETS (800-441-2387) who i order passes from for years and marvel at his expertise and helpfulness. But maybe you are from India and not the U.S. so have to rely only online.

And thanks for clarifying something i did not know - about the BrirRail Euro - they always called BritRail Passes sold in Europe BritRail Passes, just like in the States - i would be curious enough to check to see whether pricing is the same after concersion, etc. It is only residents of the U.K. who are not eligible to use BritRail Passes - though every BritRail Pass can invite a local UK resident to ride along free and thus have the same benefits as the people buying the pass.

Vipul - i will try to answer each question shortly.
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Old Apr 12th, 2010, 11:35 AM
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. I understand that BritRail pass does not cover London. Should I go for London Plus pass or London Visitor Travel Card or something else?

Vipul - how long will you be in London for?

Whilst the BritRail pass covers national rail lines that go thru London - the Gatwick Airport to several London stations or the Heathrow Express to Paddington it does not cover any of the Tube lines or, of course buses.

Thus the options you mention

The London Plus Pass would be good only if taking two or more longish day trips from London but covers nothing in London except for the national rail lines BritRail covers and if you have a BritRail Pass i'd use that for any long day trips, say to Bath or Stratford.

Forget about London Plus

As for TravelCards - one reason you may want to go to a rail station in London - there are several like Victoria, Kings Cross, Paddington and right in the heart of tourist London, Charring Cross - to buy your daily TravelCard is that with a paper TravelCard issued by rail stations (not Tube stations) you can get a 2 for 1 entry at many major sights, reaping huge savings.

National Rail Enquiries - 2FOR1 London Attractions
Discover all the exciting things London has to offer and enjoy big savings when you go to the capital by train! There are over 100 fantastic 2FOR1 offers at ...
http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times....ne-london.html -

Now the London Visitor Travel Card would not give any 2 for 1 and if the 2 for 1 does not interest you then i would just do the no-brainer thing and get an Oyster Card, which no matter what you ride gives you the absolute lowest cost (like 1.5 pounds or so for a single Tube ride vs 4 pounds or so if you just buy a single ticket without using the Oyster Card. And if you travel enough in one day (or week) using the Oyster Card then when you reach the TravelCard level it caps it at that price. This is why i say brainless decision - get an Oyster Card, which has been talked about on Fodor's ad nauseum - so search the box for Oyster Card for tons of posts.

So i would forget about the London Visitors TravelCard - basically the same as TravelCards you buy at Tube stations except there are no restrictions on time of travel, i believe - just pay the 5 pound deposit or so for the Oyster Card, which you then just wand over the Oyster shell looking device at the entrance to the Tube (or bus)and it debits the cost - you do have to put some cash on it of course or it will not work. when leaving you get the deposit back (5 quid i think but not sure currently) or keep it for your next London trip - or give it to someone else, etc.
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