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Britrail or not?

My wife and I will be staying the month of September in Llanishen, a suburb of Cardiff, Wales. The home where we will be staying is a 10-minute walk from the train station. We are both over 60, physically fit, and plan to travel by public transportation. We want to spend some time seeing the sights in Cardiff itself and also to use it as a base to explore other places mostly in southern England.
I have tried to decipher all the options. It seems to make the most sense is to get a couple of senior, 2nd class Britrail passes for 30 days covering the entire UK at a cost of $919 each. .

Another option, the Southwest pass, would cost $645 each for 30 days. However, as I understand it, would not cover the route from Llanishen to central Cardiff which we would need just about every day we are there. A round trip ticket from Llanishen to Central Cardiff would be 5 pounds. For two of us over 30 days that would total to 300 pounds or more than $500. That would more than cover the difference in price between the Britrail and Southwest passes.
I cant seem to find if there are any monthly bus or train passes for just the Cardiff area. Do communities in the UK do that?

Would welcome any other suggestions.
Mahalo.

Posted by
16769 posts

The one-month consecutive BritRail Pass certainly gives you full coverage and flexibility. However, if 15 days of train travel would be adequate to spread throughout your stay, then that flexipass costs $795 per person.

Have you checked some connection times to your destinations, and decided that they are comfortable? www.nationalrail.co.uk shows ticket prices, or DB schedules are also quite complete.

Posted by
674 posts

Arriva Wales do weekly or monthly passes.
The weekly to Llanishen-Cardiff ,is £12.30.
You might also want to think about getting a TwoTogether ticket once here,that gives 1/3rd of fares.
Even booking a few days ahead might well be cheaper than the Britrail.
Booking well in advance for longer trips should be much cheaper than the britrail.
I looked at another question on here,with 6 journeys from London,York to Wales and even walk on fares were cheaper..
At the top of the nationalrail site is "offers", open, and theres many area passes in the UK.
The nationalrail site also has the season ticket calculator,for weekly/monthly passes for repeat journeys, they reckon more than 3 days in 7 on same route makes a cost saving.

Posted by
1834 posts

Trains run about every 15 minutes between Llanishen station & Cardiff Queen Street & Central (for connections to the main line). It depends how far the house is from Llanishen station as to whether you will use the train or Cardiff Bus to reach the city centre.

You do not need to use the DB (German Railways) site mentioned by Laura to find the times / fares in Britain. We would only need to use that site for finding schedules in Europe where not all countries make it clear in English.

It sometimes works out cheaper to buy split tickets for some routes. If you are going to the south-west of England from Cardiff, the place to split is Taunton (TAU). Should you be going to Birmingham or beyond, Cheltenham is the place to split. For London or Oxford, Swindon (SWI) usually provides the best split point with sometimes a 3 way split with Didcot (DID) being the other split point on this route. Your train must stop at the split point - you stay on the same train throughout. Click 'Details' on the www.nationalrail.co.uk to find out the stopping points & train company involved.

Bath is an hour from Cardiff Central by train and on this route, you can simply pay on the day - though some trains at commuting times (Mon > Fri) will be more expensive. Salisbury (shuttle buses to Stonehenge), is also worth a visit & is 1 hour beyond Bath. This is a relatively cheap route though advance book - even the day before, can work out cheaper in some cases.
http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/explore/salisbury-and-surroundings
Cheltenham - 1 hour 10 minutes from Cardiff - again, a relatively cheap route for a day return with no need to advance pay in most cases. You could then, catch a local bus (Pulhams 801) to Bourton-in-the-Water in the Cotswolds. Then, take the footpath to Lower Slaughter.

London can be an expensive route if you do not advance book. Trains normally take 2 hours to get from Cardiff to London. You should check that this is the case as much engineering work is taking place on this route to electrify the line. Hence, diversions are taking place at certain times. Saturdays will provide the cheapest tickets at the most convenient times.

Going west from Cardiff, I would suggest Swansea - not much to see in Swansea but take a bus to Rhosilli on the Gower peninsula would be my advice. You could use the train to Swansea or a Greyhound bus.
Further west, Tenby is well worth visit and can be reached by train but the final bit is slow going.

The most scenic line from Cardiff runs along the England / Wales border. On this route, Chester (3 hours) might be considered despite the long journey. Also on this route, Shrewsbury, Ludlow & Hereford are all worth a trip. You might like to consider a trip on the Heart of Wales Line. That would mean going to Swansea / Llanelli and transferring to the SLOW HoW which will take you to Craven Arms - just N of Ludlow on the aforementioned route. A Heart of Wales Day Rover is the ticket you need for this trip - which can be done in either direction. Use Google Earth to find these places.
Caerphilly, with its massive castle, is a 10 minute ride from Llanishen. On return, get off at first stop after tunnel (Llanishen) & take a walk in Cefn-Onn-Park.
So, you need to use the national rail website to figure out the fares & schedules. Do it for Today / Tomorrow and say, 10 weeks out, to see how the fare options pan out. My gut feeling is that the Britrail pass will not be worth it in your case. www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk operate most of the trains within Wales & along the border line. Usually, from about 13th September through to mid December, they have allowed over 55's to use trains for £23 return trips - pay on the day. No guarantees it will happen this year but it would certainly be a good deal for Chester / Shrewsbury and Ludlow. You might? also be able to get a senior railcard for £30 each giving about a third off the fares.
www.moneysavingexpert.com/split-cheap-train-tickets/

Posted by
1834 posts

I exceeded the word limit - most annoying - so continue here.
COTSWOLDS: The Pulhams 801 leaves from Cheltenham town - not the rail station. This means use of a local bus or a 1 mile walk.

www.transportdirect.info
See my previous reply here >https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/england/day-trip-to-cardiff-bay
http://www.seat61.com/UK-train-travel.htm#.U2r8WcY-aiY

http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk
www.visitbath.co.uk
www.visittenby.co.uk
www.visitchester.com
www.visitshrewsbury.com
www.ludlow.org.uk (A good place to stop if you have done the Heart of Wales Line. Do not stop on the HOW line as the trains are every 4 hours).

I would make this one of the first places to visit as the flowers will be dying off. First Bus X2 from Cardiff Bus Station to St.Nicholas (first village W of Cardiff), then a 1 mile walk:- www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dyffryn-gardens/
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/tredegar-house/

You can also go down a coal mine for free:> http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/bigpit/
However, for convenience (to Big Pit etc.), I would take the tours offered by www.seewales.com as this will cover more ground than you can cover by public transport. One of their tours goes to Tintern in the lower Wye Valley. If you want to do this on your own - train to Chepstow (see Castle), then bus69 to Tintern (Abbey ruins). You could then take the bus further up the Wye Valley to Monmouth before making the return trip. I would definitely use See Wales for their trip to the Brecon Beacons. They would also be a better option for doing the Gower Peninsula than trying to use public transport.

Put this one on the back burner. (The walk to the beach from the station is about 1.5 miles). Local train to Llantwit Major. https://www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/en/enjoying/visit_the_vale/llantwit_major_and_coast/llantwit_major/llantwit_major.aspx