Train travel in the UK is the easiest way of covering long distances and arriving at your chosen destination relatively refreshed. Train services cover all parts of the UK, including the far north of Scotland, and you can even travel on the trainline to UK from Europe and beyond. So, how easy it to book train travel in the UK and what are the different travel options?
The UK Rail Network
Train travel in the UK is spilt into different networks with separate train companies operating franchises in different parts of the UK. However, even though there are several different rail companies operating in the UK, you will still pay standard fares across the entire rail network and any-time tickets can usually be used on trains run by more than one operator.
Travel to/from Europe
The UK rail network connects seamlessly with the European rail network so it is very easy to start your journey in the UK and continue into Europe. The reverse is also true and passengers from Europe can just as easily cross the channel and take advantage of the trainline to UK. Tickets for UK trains can also be bought abroad for the same prices as UK customers pay—non-UK credit cards are valid for use on UK rail websites.
Ticket prices in the UK vary considerably. If money is no object, then you are always free to turn up at any station and buy a ticket for your destination. The ticket agent will ensure you buy the most economic ticket, but it will inevitably be more expensive than an advanced purchase ticket. Buying tickets in advance is always the cheaper option; so as soon as you start planning your journey on any trainline to UK destinations, look at the cost of tickets.
Heavily discounted fares are released between 12 and 9 weeks prior to the date of travel, but they tend to sell out very fast, so you need to be quick off the mark to enjoy a cheap ticket.
Travelling off-peak is cheaper than travelling during busy times. You will also find that it is often cheaper to book two single tickets on specific trains as opposed to buying an open return ticket. More convoluted routes are also cheaper; although bear in mind that it may take a lot longer to arrive.
First Class versus Standard Class Travel
There are two classes of rail travel in the UK: standard and first class. First class is more expensive, but you can enjoy more comfortable seating, free food, drink and Wi-Fi. In some cases, a first class single ticket is not much more than a standard class ticket, so always check ticket prices thoroughly before you buy.
There are lots of different railcards available. Using a railcard will save you money each time you book tickets and you only need to use it twice to make it pay. The most popular UK rail cards are:
• Family and Friends railcard
• Senior railcard
• 16-25 railcard
The terms and conditions for each railcard vary so make sure you are eligible before buying one as travelling on a discounted ticket when you are not entitled to the railcard could cost you dearly if you are caught out.
Train travel has a number of advantages: on the mainline routes, journey times are very fast, plus train travel is also a lot more relaxing than sitting in a car for several hours. But the convenience of train travel does depend on whether you can find cheap fares, so always make sure you buy your tickets well in advance.
Ana Aleksejeva often buys train tickets to UK. She always prefers to travel by the most economic means possible and as a writer, she likes the fact that she can get lots of work done on her journey, plus she still feels fresh as a daisy when she arrives at her destination.
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