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Britrail: Is it the best way to get around Britain?

Britrail: Is it the best way to get around Britain?

Sep 12th, 2000, 07:02 PM
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Britrail: Is it the best way to get around Britain?

My family and I are planning a trip to Great Britain for next summer (2001), and we've been thinking about using Britrail Passes to get around, thinking it will be faster and more economical (not to mention safer) than renting a car or taking some tourist bus. Since we're planning a two-week trip through England, Scotland and Wales, we need to get around quickly, but we'd rather not drive and we hate guided tours. Has anyone had any experiences, good or bad, with Britrail?
Sep 12th, 2000, 09:17 PM
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I am a believer in rail travel, but having said that I also believe that the Brit Rail passes do not offer the same value as the Eur Rail passes, in terms of cost, and comfort of trains, once you leave the main lines.
For a family of three or four (or more) I have a feeling that a medium size car would represent better value, but I take your point about not wanting to drive, as I'm the same usually.
Another angle to consider is this. Some of the prettier and nicer parts of the U.K. include the Cotswolds, North Wales, the Peak District, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands. None of these areas are very well served by rail, so you will certainly miss some of the best spots without a car.
If, however, your main interests are the the larger towns, such as London, Oxford, Bath, York, Edinburgh etc., then a rail pass may well suffice.
I think, on balance a car would best suit your needs - get a good large scale map - and stay off the motorways (freeways) as much as possible for an enjoyable tour.
Also, motoring is quite slow, mainly because there are lots of interesting stops, so don't plan any daily mileages much over 100 to 150 miles.
Sep 13th, 2000, 04:39 AM
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This is really a loaded question. For a solo traveler, willing to walk and traveling light, I think Britrail is THE way to go - especially since those few locales without rails usually have good local bus service and/or day-trip options. For a family, the answer is much more complicated.

I've always used a Britrail pass (plus local buses and day-tours) when traveling in Britain. For a single traveler it's more economical than a rental car, especially with a flexipass where I only pay for days I'm actually traveling. It also requires less planning than buying point-to-point tickets and allows me plenty of spontaneity. Besides, I drive a car to work every day at home, so "riding the rails" is a big part of the vacation experience for me. On the down side, I can't drive right up to the door of my B&B and unload twelve suitcases from the trunk. I also spend a lot of mental energy deciphering timetables!

If this is your first trip to Britain, I think you could easily satisfy yourself with a Britrail pass. As Tony mentioned, there are certain areas where trains are scarce or nonexistent, but there's so much to see in Britain that you wouldn't really be sacrificing anything by staying close to the railroad tracks.

I would suggest first that you compare cost of a rental car vs Britrail pass (be sure to include insurance and petrol costs). Second, decide whether the Cotswolds or Lake District are "must see's" for your family. Finally, take into account how much walking you're willing to do, since traveling by train means you'll either be walking or taxiing from the staion to your accomodations, as well as the sights.


PS: Don't rule out a combination of rail and rental car.
Sep 13th, 2000, 05:21 AM
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Is Britrail the best way to get around Britain? Certainly is at the moment....
Sep 13th, 2000, 11:18 AM
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I have a trip set for November in the Rep. of Ireland (Galway - Killarney - Waterford).

I had planned on renting a car and driving about, but am now wondering if this gas shortage is going to cause me troubles.

I really don't want to rely on the Bus/Train in Ireland. I want to be able to move about freely.

Any comments?
Sep 13th, 2000, 11:35 AM
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My mother and I traveled throughout England/Scotland & Wales via BRITRAIL 2 years ago and found it very simple.

We were able to take the "speed" train from London to Edinburgh the first day, and then on to Bath, back to London , day trip to Wales (Cardiff) and finished our trip in London.

Most of the Train stations have taxis, so that is not a problem.

I found a WONDERFUL book, that helped me plan my side trips using the brit rail, and by getting an 8 day pass, I was able to play it by ear on what day I wanted to go to Cardiff, and if I wanted to do any other day trips.

Be sure to get ( check your local library too.) for
they put out a new edition every year or two, with current timetables, and suggested itineraries.

Remember, once you get to a town, you can always to a local bus trip to nearby smaller towns.

Good luck
Sep 13th, 2000, 02:46 PM
Mike Miller
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Gary, depends on the size of your family. If there are four or more of you, I would say car rental is your best bet. Even thought the price of gas is high, the cars there have much better fuel economy than in the U.S. As mentioned in one of the above posts, you will have a problem getting to some of the smaller towns on Britrail. Do not be concerned about driving on the wrong side of the road. You can quickly adapt. Whenever I rent, I check the the prices on the web. A rough estimate of the mileage for your trip would be 2000 - 2500 miles. If you get a car that averages 40 mpg, you are looking at about 55 gallons of gas at $4.35 per gallon you're looking at about $275 for gas plus the cost of the rental. Hope this helps.
Sep 15th, 2000, 09:45 AM
David White
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Conventional wisdom has been that renting a car is more economical for a group of four than buying rail passes. It also allows you much more flexibility in terms of itenerary. At the moment, I would not want to be driving in the UK (the fuel protests sound chaotic). But, if you don't want to drive, and don't want a bus tour, then the train is the ONLY practical way to go.

First thing you should know is that there is no longer a "Britrail"--the rail system has been privatized. So-called Britrail Passes still exist though. You should compare the cost of a pass to the cost of purchasing individual rail tickets--depending on the number of rail trips, times and distances, the pass may or may not be worth it.

For info on the Pass, look at:


For info on train schedules try:


To actually book tickets that can be held for you at certain rail stations in the UK, try:


The last site allows overseas travelers to buy cheaper advanced purchase (APEX) rail tickets on UK trains.

Hope this is helpful.


David White


A Family Travel Guide
by David S. White

Available fall 2000 from
(a Barnes & Noble affiliate)

website: http://www.KidsToLondon.com
email: [email protected]
Sep 15th, 2000, 10:26 AM
Bill Irving
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I have used Britrail passes when in Britain by myself, & also when there with my wife, & also there with my family. I don't want to drive when I am there either, I do enough driving in the Chicago area on a daily basis & want a vacation with that. I have never had problems with the British trains, including sleepers. If taking trains, you first must know there will be areas that the train can't take you, but if you really want to go, a day trip via bus could do the trick. There are a number of books out, specifically for traveling by train, the 1 I use as my train travel guide is - Britain by Britrail -, gives you a number of places you can reach by train & some samples of schedules. Also, when traveling by train using the Eurail pass, we purchase 1st class passes, because of the distances, & the comfort differences. For the Britrail passes (whether regular or flex)I have always gotten the 2nd class passes; very little difference between 1st & 2nd class comfort, except maybe on sleepers(&you can upgrade for that if necessary) the cost value is better for 2nd class.
Sep 15th, 2000, 04:42 PM
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I spent two weeks traveling with a Britrail pass last summer and loved it. It was great not having to buy individual tickets - just go to the train station and hop a train. I got all around England, up to Edinburgh and over to a small seaside town in Wales, with no problems. Train travel would let you enjoy the scenery with your family, rather than try to read maps and remember to drive on the wrong side of the road.
Sep 18th, 2000, 10:24 AM
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I am going to be in England in April and am interested in a side trip from London to Edinborough(sp.) Does anyone recommend an overnight train and what should i estimate for cost both of overnight train travel or a regular connection. Thank you!
Sep 21st, 2000, 08:56 PM
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There are two overnight trains to Edinburgh, from London Euston, with a joutney time of 8-9 hours. At present, both involve one change at about 6.a.m. but this may change by next April.
Alternatively during the day there is an hourly service from London Kings Cross up to 7 p.m. with a journey time of just over 4 hours.
Sep 22nd, 2000, 01:48 AM
Nigel Doran
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You can get an Apex-style ticket from Scotrail for about 89 return, or about 60 single for a sleeper. Try www.scotrail.co.uk or .com for details.
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