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Heathrow-Gloucester on National Express Bus: Advance Purchase Necessary?

For a mid-May Wales visit, I'm looking at a National Express bus from Heathrow to Gloucester to pick up the car rental. Then, reversing that at the end of the visit: Return car in Gloucester, bus to Heathrow, hotel overnight before a late morning flight.

Both bus trips will be on a Thursday morning.

I'll buy advance tickets, but first:

  1. Are these buses crowded? Do I need to buy tickets in advance to be sure of a seat?

  2. a) Are advance purchase tickets tied to a specific departure time? b) If they are, and my timing is off, can I take the next bus at no additional cost or c) would I need to buy a new ticket?

  3. Are tickets purchased on the day of travel significantly more expensive?

Lots of padding in my schedule, so the timing issue isn't critical, but you never know.

Posted by
5386 posts

1 - Varies. Don't forget the many of the coaches go to Hereford AND that they start from London Victoria and go to Cirencester, Cheltenham etc.
2 - Yes. If you miss your booked coach your ticket is valueless unless you paid the £5 flex fee when you booked, when you will be accommodated on the next service. They may take pity on you but they don't have an obligation under their terms
3 - Yes can be. In advance they can be as little as £5 - although from the advert that may be right back from London rather than LHR.

Posted by
16894 posts

Their web site is pretty easy to navigate, although you may have to click on some little "i" buttons for more info.

  1. I really doubt it.

2.a. Yes

2.b/c. No, if you choose a fare that says "Amendable Not Refundable," then these are the rules:
This ticket is not refundable but the journey date and time can be changed prior to your current departure date and time. Amendments must be made prior to the journey (whether outbound or return) by visiting or by calling 03717 818181. An amendment fee will apply so please have your credit/debit card details to hand (you may also pay cash in a ticket office). Please note that an excess fare will also be charged where a higher fare category applies.

3) No, not on this route. I see 30 pounds vs 34 pounds one way.

Posted by
2494 posts

Also consider hiring the car from Oxford as that has frequent direct coach services from Heathrow.

Alternatively, you could take the Railer coach link to Reading train station. Trains (roughly every 20 minutes) leave Reading station for Oxford with a walk on fare of £9.40 (after 9.15am weekdays). Trains also leave Reading for Gloucester. The journey time to Gloucester from Reading is 1 hour 30 minutes - which is the same time as it would take to reach Cardiff. For these longer journeys, pre-booking specific trains reduces the fare. (A walk on fare may be cheaper by split ticketing with split at Swindon).

Also consider train from Reading to Bristol Parkway (about 1 hour) and then picking up the hire car. (Bristol Parkway is about a 15 minute drive from the Severn Bridges into SE Wales).

Posted by
5386 posts

Another thought is for heading to mid Wales, take the coach all the way to Hereford and pick the car up there.