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ScotRail Questions

I've tried unsuccessfully to get the answers to my questions from ScotRail and surfing the web. I am hoping the kind and knowledgable Rick Steves Travel Forum users will be able to help me. I'm traveling to Scotland for the first time in April. I am a very inexperienced traveller so please understand these might be very silly questions. I just bought rail tickets for a day trip from Edinburgh to St. Andrews.
First question, when you purchase tickets on the ScotRail website they ask: Via or Avoid? What is this?
Second Question, my advance ticket confirmation states that I am free to sit in any vacant unreserved seat. How do I know if a seat is reserved? Do I just go onto the train and sit down until someone tells me that's their reserved seat and then keep shuffling around until I find one that no one else claims?
Third Question, I'm not too concerned about having an actual reserved seat to St. Andrews since it's not a very long ride but I will be buying train tickets for a trip from Edinburgh to Oban which is a much longer ride. I'm traveling with my 2 sisters and we would like to sit together. I'm not sure how or where you choose reserved seats together. Is this an extra charge?

Posted by
6538 posts

Sandonut, you'll have a great time.\

You do know the train only goes as far as Leuchars, and you must take bus or cab from that rail station to St Andrews? That is, there is no rail station in St Andrews. Its a short ride so of no consequence. Its a bit unclear on the website.

The seats that are reserved on trains (usually for longer distance trips) are usually marked as reserved. Otherwise, yes just sit where you want. Not likely that there will be reserved seats on such a short, regional trip.

Via or Avoid, means that you can choose a route that goes via a certain town, or can avoid a certain town. It makes more sense on longer journeys where you have to change trains.

When you get to the point of booking in the process, there will be a place you can ask for reservations.

Posted by
837 posts

They put cards in the top of reserved seats.
Unless traveling in peak hours you should get 3 seats together without reserving .

Posted by
17 posts

Sorry, I will try and edit my post to correct my statement that I bought a train ticket to St. Andrews. My train ticket goes to Leuchars. Thank you for noticing my error!

Posted by
17 posts

I want to travel by train from Waverly to Oban (through Glasgow) on Sunday, April 23 at 8:30AM. I'm guessing this trip would not be considered to be peak hours? I'm assuming peak hours are Monday through Friday commuter hours just as we have in USA (early morning/late afternoon to early evening).

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you Stan. I can't tell you how much time I spent trying to find out what Via or Avoid meant. The only reference to this that I found on Google was avoiding toll roads in Australia! I tried the search box on ScotRail and got nowhere. I emailed ScotRail my question and they said that they would attempt to reply to my email within 10 working days. I felt that if I waited that long I'd miss out on the incredible deal I got with advance ticket purchase to Leuchars.
I am not seeing any deals for advance ticket purchase on the Edinburgh to Oban trip. Do they only offer these deals on certain routes?

Posted by
837 posts

Have a check on nationalrail for the Highland Rail rover tickets they might offer a good option

Posted by
3661 posts

I just looked on National Rail and tickets are not yet available for your 23 April trip from Edinburgh to Oban. However, they are for 16 April, so the 23rd will be available soon. If you're sure of your travel date and time, jump on the advance ticket price as soon as it is available.

I tested for the 16th, and the advance price is super -- £14.80 per person. Click the "Via" box and put in Glasgow. Click on "Fare options" to put in the number of riders and other details. The whole trip takes about 4.5 hours. When you click on "Buy now" it indicates that seat reservations are mandatory. I didn't go any further than that.

Based on my experience last May-June, the best way to get seats together is to reserve table seats. There are 4 facing each other with the table in the middle. There are usually at least 4 tables in each coach. Be aware that someone else could reserve the 4th seat and that there is very little room for feet and legs in this seating arrangement.

You could also reserve 2 seats on one side of the aisle and one aisle seat on the other side, all facing the same direction like on an airplane. Again, someone else could reserve the 4th seat.

You could get lucky and have no 4th in either arrangement.

There is no extra charge for reserving seats. You do that when you pay. Be sure to notify your CC provider that you will be making charges online in the UK, so that the transaction will not be rejected.

Posted by
6538 posts

sandonut
I just happen to be preparing to book a ticket for a trip in England for April 23. The steeply discounted fares are available no sooner than 90 days out, so cheaper fares are not showing up for that date until sometime tonight.

PS wasn't correcting you on Leuchars vs St Andrews, just wanted to make sure you weren't surprised when you got there.

Posted by
17 posts

I had no idea that I was attempting to purchase the tickets too early. April 23 shows up on ScotRail at 42.10GBP. Thanks to you both (Lo and Stan) for letting me know that I just need to wait a bit. I went back to ScotRail web site and looked at April 16 as suggested and I do see the advance fare of 14.80GBP. Wow - that is such a great savings. I understand that I am committed to a specific train and time but I will sacrifice the flexibility for the amazing fare savings. So, I will wait and watch.
As I try to nail down our trip itinerary I continue to come up with more questions. It is such a relief for me to have this forum to seek advice from such experienced travelers. Thank you so much!
p.s. Stan - I did read that we would have to take a bus or taxi from Leuchars to St. Andrews and that I could buy rail and bus ticket combo I did not see that option when I bought the rail tickets. Since there are 3 of us I'm leaning towards taking a taxi into the town. I don't want to wait in a line to buy bus tickets. In either case, I'm hoping that the last 2 weeks of April won't be too crowded at the tourist sights in Scotland.