Train travel in the U.K.

Mar 30th, 2013, 04:44 PM
  #1  
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Train travel in the U.K.

My 13-year old daughter and I are leaving this week for a 10-day trip to England & Wales. We will only be traveling by rail only over the course of 5 days: from Oxford to London, from London to Cardiff and then back to London. (I'm assuming we can get to Hampton Court from London via tube -- please advise if that is incorrect or you have better travel advice!) I have three questions:
1) Given how few train trips we plan to take, will it be cheaper to buy individual tickets rather than a Eurail (or other?) pass?
2) What is the difference between 1st class and standard class in the UK system? How much more expensive is 1st?
3) What is the best way to purchase rail tickets in London? Should I buy in advance on-line? I know some schools will be on spring break and am concerned about getting reservations.
Thanks for any advice you can offer!
moosebear is offline  
Mar 30th, 2013, 08:57 PM
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I believe you should do the "work" yourself.

Count the # of days you'll use the train. Count the cost of each of the trips you'll take, look at the Britrail options, and then decide which is cheaper.

You cannot buy a Britrail pass in the UK. If you don't buy it here, you will be paying point to point.

It's up to you, not us.
Rastaguytoday is offline  
Mar 30th, 2013, 09:20 PM
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>>I'm assuming we can get to Hampton Court from London via tube -- please advise if that is incorrect or you have better travel advice!<<

The tube doesn't go to HCP. You'll take a train from Waterloo station - but it is in zone 6 so can be covered by PAYG on your Oyster

Yes -it will be cheaper to buy individual tix - but it is best to pre-book the long distance like the London > Cardiff to get the best fares.

You aren't taking nearly enough trips to make a Britrail pass cost effective.

The best sites to get the info you want are www.nationalrail.co.uk and seat61.com
janisj is offline  
Mar 30th, 2013, 11:52 PM
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Don't worry about first class. It is expensive with no particular benefit to you; it is mainly used by business people.

Do make sure that you reserve seats when you pre-book, particularly for the London-Cardiff trip, to guarantee you can sit down. And it is usually cheaper to travel outside rush hour during the week, so after 10am. It is also a lot more comfortable not being on a rush hour commuter train.
CarrieAnn40 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 04:10 AM
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Don't worry about first class. It is expensive with no particular benefit to you; it is mainly used by business people.

It CAN be expensive especially in peak hours, but out of peak hours and at weekends it may not be significantly more expensive than 2nd Class - and if you get food & drink thrown in for free it becomes cheaper.

But you need to do the maths and check what is offered on a particular route on a particular day at a particular time.
alanRow is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 04:40 AM
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Oxford to London is easier done by coach (bus), of which there are several competing operators with very frequent departures, 'Oxford Tube' being one: http://www.oxfordtube.com/

You do want to reserve your London to Cardiff trip and return in advance. If you don't mind being locked to a particular train, you can buy cheaper Advance ticket. Use http://www.virgintrains.co.uk/ (known to work with non-UK card including US) and collect your tickets at Paddington station before departure from the fast ticket machine with your card used to purchase them.
Alec is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 04:41 AM
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Remember your daughter is eligible for a child fare.
Alec is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 08:55 AM
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1) Given how few train trips we plan to take, will it be cheaper to buy individual tickets rather than a Eurail (or other?) pass? >

depends on whether you wish to have complete flexibility to hop on any train anytime as the BritRail (not Eurail) would allow and whether you want first class or not - and there is a huge difference IME in Britain on long-distance trains between the two classes. Chepaest way would be to book non-refundable non-changeable I believe tickets but you lose all flexibility. Also conside that if you buy A BritRail England Pass (not the BritRail in general as you are only traveling in England) then the Family Pass that comes with the pass free allows anyone under 16 to travel free - you buy an adult pass your kid goes free - factor this into your pricing on individual trains (www.nationalrail.co.uk has all the schedules and fares.

Anyway for lots of great info on British trains check out these IMO fine sites - www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com - click on this site's commercial link to Rail Europe USA for railpass prices.
PalenQ is online now  
Mar 31st, 2013, 10:37 AM
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It may be too late to buy one of the passes that you can't buy IN the UK if it has to be mailed to you (I have used 2 passes, BritRail and German one and these were snail-mailed to me, so I ordered weeks/months ahead).

Probably wouldn't have been a good fit for your case anyway.

I second the info above about taking the coach to Oxford; it's about as fast, unless you hit a snag, cheaper I think, and drops you in the center of town (don't think the train station is too far away, but still every step saved helps.). We found two companies running frequent trips from central London to Oxford: The Oxford Tube (which has NOTHING to do with the Tube in London!) or the Oxford Espress (yes, with an s) if both are still running. We just went to a bus stop and caught whichever one came by first--I think it was the Espress. I haven't done current websearch to see if both still operate, but if you are interested, you can check them out on the web before you go. No reservations needed. (all the "info" in this paragraph is based on our experience in 2008)
texasbookworm is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2013, 10:52 AM
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It may be too late to buy one of the passes that you can't buy IN the UK if it has to be mailed to you (I have used 2 passes, BritRail and German one and these were snail-mailed to me, so I ordered weeks/months ahead).>

One place in the UK that I know of sells BritRail Passes or at least used to a few years back when I popped into the British Travel Authority offices near Trafalgar Square - I believe they added a surcharge over the price in your own country but not sure but they did and presumably do sell BritRail Passes to foreigners on site.
PalenQ is online now  
Apr 3rd, 2013, 05:40 AM
  #11  
 
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Absolutely no point in buying any pass for the few journeys planned. Do buy your rail tickets in advance, both the Oxford and Cardiff routes are run by First Great Western trains, www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk, if you have already arrived in the UK then go to Oxford Station and buy your tickets in advance, even the day before can provide big savings. Avoid travelling on Sundays if possible due to engineering works, they had major problems on the route to Cardiff last weekend for example and the staff at Oxford Station can give you the latest advice and book seats, free of charge, on the trains you decide to book.
alanbowen is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2013, 12:45 PM
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Absolutely no point in buying any pass for the few journeys planned> yes - the only expensive train trips are out to Cardiff and back and at www.nationalrail.co.uk you can score deep discounts if you want to peg yourself into a non-changeable non-refundable train - go right NOW to the site and see what is the cheapest fare you can find and nab it - fares are sold in limited numbers and the cheaper categories can sell out quick. Full fare tickets can always be bought once in London.
PalenQ is online now  
Apr 4th, 2013, 01:33 PM
  #13  
 
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buses can be much cheaper on an average than trains - check out National Express web site - may take a little longer but can be much cheaper, especially if you do not want to book weeks in advance.
PalenQ is online now  

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