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Train passes

Hello,

I am purchasing two Britrail passes for May trip and now don't understand if I need to pay additional fares between cities within England and then again between cities within Wales. I have navigated www.raileurope.com and don't understand why I have to divulge which pass I will be using. I understand that I need to "purchase" reservations for each destination. Since I will not be renting a car, my transportation options will be train, taxi, shuttle, blah, blah, blah.

Additionally, do you know of any shuttle services in the larger cities (London, York, Oxford, Cardiff, Conwy) that will take us from rail station to our hotels, b and b's?

Thank you to all those well versed in being a gracious guest in foreign lands!

TK

Posted by
16883 posts

You do not need to purchase reservations for each destination, although Rail Europe might be happy to sell them to you. You would have to tell them which pass you have, since some passes cover the whole island and others do not. (If you have chosen a cheaper BritRail England pass, for instance, then you do have to pay for any portion of your trip within Wales.) However, seat reservations are not required at all for daytime trains, but are free to get at train stations in Britain up to 24 hours ahead, usually on faster or longer-distance trains. See also https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/britain-rail-passes.

Within the cities, your transport options at each train station will be regular taxis (black cabs), city buses, and in London, the Underground/Tube, or walking.

Posted by
1889 posts

If you go on Google Earth/ Maps, you should be able to type in for the intended hotels & actually zoom down to see how far they are from the rail stations. You might like to book hotels that are within walking distance - as long as they have good reviews.

As has been said, Britrail passes can be expensive. I would go to ww.nationalrail.co.uk & check out the Advance purchase fares for specific trains on journeys that you wish to make. The cheapest fares appear about 11 or 12 weeks ahead of present date. You usually make the booking with the company on whose trains you will be travelling. (Click 'details' & it will tell you. Some companies sell tickets for all routes). If you just show up at the station on the day & pay the money, it can be much more expensive. Even booking the day before gets a reduction - but the allocation of cheap seats will have gone. Try and avoid M>F at commuting times -when cheaper fares usually kick in at about 9.30am. Fridays tend to be expensive due to high demand. Try and avoid Sundays as they are more prone to engineering work.

PS. When going to Conwy, Chester is worth a look.http://www.visitchester.com
Note that your ticket for a specific train will not allow a break of journey. In that case split the ticket. On some short journeys, the pay on the day fare is the same as any advance fare.

Posted by
90 posts

Thanks to all. I apologize for categorizing Conwy in the big city group…your responses prompt other questions: Taxis require cash payment or card? If the itinerary is open ended (as to specific travel dates between cities) once in England/Wales, would you recommend a flexipass option? Taking the Tube requires up and down stairs or escalators?

TK

Posted by
2125 posts

taxis always take cash and many take cards

I would still recommend looking at Advance tickets rather than a pass

to get underground on the tube there will be stairs or escalators

Posted by
90 posts

Ms. Emma,

I don't have accommodations finalized yet. That's another variable. Thankfully, I have time to change my mind again and again and again…Ha Ha Ha Most likely, will be traveling criss cross England with final destination Birmingham as it's an easy journey to Cardiff from there. If not too unreasonable, would prefer to live out of my (our) suitcases and book in for two or three nights stay where we are visiting. At this juncture, it looks like London (near Heathrow) 2 nights, then York, Oxford, Middlesbrough, Salisbury (in no particular order) and Birmingham. The Welsh experience will begin in Cardiff and then directly to Conwy. Looking to just breathe and put our feet up from all the museums and special venues in the London, Chelsea area. Maybe a scenic rail adventure in an old steam engine. Last evening will be back in London and home via Heathrow. Thank you for your expertise…TK

Posted by
90 posts

To "Ramblin' On"

Thank you. Stairs will be my adversary, so if there is a way to know which Tube entrances are escalator accessible, that would be ideal. And…I understand that the English consider first floor accommodations one floor above ground. As RS states: "Travel light"!

Posted by
1889 posts

I take it that Middlesbrough is for ancestry reasons?

If going by train from Oxford to Cardiff, it should be cheaper if you purchase tickets > Oxford to Swindon & SWI > CDF. (You change once at Didcot but stay on the same train at Swindon). If have have not been to Bath, I would include that as well.

NW Wales has plenty of steam railways.http://www.festrail.co.uk
http://www.snowdonrailway.co.uk (It is less likely that you will get a seat unless you phone them up say the day before to pre book - but check the weather forecast).
www.visitwales.co.uk (RS has as separate forum for Wales - check out for past questions about Cardiff etc.).

Posted by
90 posts

James,

Middlesborough is not a destination per se. Just happens to be where a friend lives.

Emma,

Thanks for the link.

Ramblin' On,

Precisely what I need to research; thanks.

TK

Posted by
90 posts

Ms. Emma,

Dates will be middle two weeks. As far as criss crossing, maybe taking risks there. I do realize that a quick geography lesson is in order. As I am planning for two people, I'm sure that priorities will need to find a compromise. I am planning deliberate down time to ease the stress of trying to see too much.

I'm sure I'll be back on line in a couple of days. TTFN

TK

Posted by
23 posts

TK-
You note stairs are an issue. Be advised there are often several stairs to platforms or between platforms. This is especially true at smaller stations. Many other stations have lifts to platforms often at the end of the platform. Also there are no porters to help you with your luggage. Depending on your mobility, please be advised there maybe a few steep steps to board the rail car along with a gap between the platform and rail car . I have found this especially true with Great Western and East Coast services. Pack light, if you can do a Rick steves backpack vs a roller bag you will be much happier. There's not much luggage space in the rail cars either. Packing light and making sure you can lift your luggage to the over your head to put on luggage rack is important. I learned the hard way several years ago. I travel in the UK at least twice per year and travel exclusively by train.

I agree with others, plan carefully and don't cross cross if at all possible...I cross crossed a few times because I was following a band on tour for 2 weeks...avoid if you have the flexibility.

Posted by
27714 posts

The long distance trains run by Virgin and Great Western do have those luggage spaces.

A lot of the rail companies have little if any space as they are commuter trains - London Midland, Southern, Southwest, Southeastern, C2C, the Great Western commuter trains, most trains in the north ...

Posted by
1889 posts

Cardiff to Conwy is around a 4 hour trip with direct trains every other hour.