We intend to use a Spirit of Scotland rail pass to get around by bus, train, and ferry. My question is whether there is any advantage to purchasing that rail pass before we leave our home country (USA) or is it just as feasible to wait until we arrive in Scotland to purchase the rail pass and book any reservations that might be needed at that time. Our concerns are around having our information available on our mobile phones as we're not sure how our data and network coverage will play out once we arrive in Scotland. And we have no idea about how full the bus/train/ferry might be and whether we should jump on reservations ASAP or if a few days lead time is adequate. Any thoughts, tips, experience, advice?
What is your itinerary?
Is there a reason the itinerary would make a difference as to whether we should purchase stateside or wait until we arrive? We will be traveling in the Highlands in September and mostly, but not entirely, on weekdays.
It sounds like you've already mentioned the advantage to purchasing ahead of time, i.e. you can be sure to have your purchasing information on hand. Then you can print out your receipt, confirmation, and the reservations that you book. If your mobile phone fails to pull up the right doc at the crucial moment when you're boarding (this did happen to us when boarding a plane in Ireland), you'll have the hard copy to show to the conductor.
We bought ours online in the US, easy, came quickly , I think in 2 days. Peace of mind
If you are wondering about the M (Digital) Spirit of Scotland version? travelling around you won't need data or a network, this is a PDF file so once downloaded it sits 'dumb' on your phone, the main thing is your phone is kept charged up enough in case you need to produce it.
On the move, in many locations you should find that free local wifi can be located and used.
Personally I prefer to have a physical card or tickets, usually credit card size, they usually give you a purpose made wallet to keep the tickets and Rail passes in.
Thank you Dennis.Loline. I was wondering about the M (Digital) Spirit of Scotland pass as I wasn't aware that I could get a paper version until I was in Scotland. (And thank you kfyoung62 for that bit of info!) As a PDF that is much less worrisome for me because, like you said, you can download it and it doesn't require a network connection. I appreciate the peace of mind that you all have provided!
As a follow-up, we waited until minutes before we were boarding our first train to purchase our Spirit of Scotland rail passes. There was no advantage to buying them stateside and even no advantage to buying them a day or two early in Scotland. I agree that the credit card-sized tickets and wallet were very handy and we would not have had those with the mobile pass. There was only one leg of our journey (a CityLink bus trip) that reservations were even mentioned but they were not required and we had no problems boarding any train, ferry, or bus. These rail passes were brilliant for cost effectiveness and convenience and I'd highly recommend them to anyone wanting to get around Scotland by public transport.