The United Kingdom is notorious for its prices, and intercity transport is no exception. A three-hour train ride can easily run over one hundred pounds, with buses not being much better in many cases. In short, it’s the stuff that a budget traveler’s nightmares are made of. But fear ye not, getting around the UK needn’t require shelling out extortionate amounts of money. What you need is a plan, and to know where to look.
Trains can be an absolute nightmare in the UK, in terms of prices. You don’t want to book intercity travel on the same day you intend to make a journey - you’ll wind up weeping into your wallet. Some routes have set fares, like my hometown of Harrogate to Leeds. The price never changes. But if you’re traveling from, say, Harrogate to London - well, fares can range from ten pounds to ninety pounds with little rhyme or reason. Want something closer to ten pounds? Book. In. Advance. I’m talking three to four weeks in advance, not three or four days. Various websites exist, but the best is the good old National Rail website, in terms of ease of use and the biggest variety of fares.
Once again, prices favor the planner when it comes to getting a bus, although price fluctuations are less drastic than those with trains. National Express is the best bus company in terms of comfort and number of routes served. If you book a month in advance, you can save a fortune and get fares for less than ten pounds. The notorious Megabus is the other option. Sure comfort isn’t their priority, their bus stops can be at odd locations and their network isn’t as extensive as National Express’, but they regularly offer fares for less than five pounds, which means big savings.
When I found out I’d have to get from Edinburgh down to Oxford, the cheapest train fare I could find was over one hundred pounds and involved three changes. Even booking in advance sometimes doesn’t work when it comes to trains. My only option was to take a flight, and after checking a number of sites to compare prices, I found a fare from Edinburgh to Heathrow for only thirty pounds with a major airline. Needless to say, I booked it immediately. Competition between airlines ensures that domestic airfares are low, with a myriad of options exist including British Airways, EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic, Jet2.com, BMI and, of course, Ryanair.
Traveling around the UK doesn’t have to result in blowing your budget and, if you’re smart about your travels and have your route planned out a few weeks ahead, you can nab yourself some great fares and save money for more enjoyable pursuits.
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Tom has always had the travel bug and, after quitting his call centre job in the UK, he packed up and moved to South Korea to teach English for almost four years. Since moving on from South Korea, he's been travelling the world and loves exploring city streets, trying delicious new food, meeting great people and taking way too many selfies with his phone, although he'll disagree with you on that last point. Read about Tom's adventures on his blog, Waegook Tom, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.
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