This week has guest blogger Andy from walksaroundbritain.co.uk giving us the lowdown as to how you can get out to the hills by train – cheaper.
Going walking by train is a great idea, especially as so many great walks can be found straight from railway stations. It’s good for the environment and is often faster than travelling by car. Arriving by train means you can take on a linear hike, and start and end at a different point – something very difficult if you’ve left your car 6 miles away! With even Government Ministers admitting train travel in Britain is expensive though, it’s more important than ever to ensure you get the cheapest train tickets possible. So here I’ve got some great ways to bag a bargain.
Book In Advance – The easiest way to get the cheapest deals is to avoid buying your train tickets on the day you travel. Rail companies dislike the so-called “Walk On” tickets, and although they have to provide them, they are much more expensive than buying your ticket in advance. If you can plan your trip before the day, you’ll get better discounts – even if you book up to 6pm the day before.
Get a Railcard – If you’re travelling often, see if you qualify for a Young Persons, Family and Friends or Senior Railcard – you’ll pay for a years’ card but then save a third on off-peak travel, so you’ll soon recoup that investment. There are other regional railcards too, the most popular being the Network Railcard in the South East – it costs £28 for the year and offers a third discount on off-peak travel for you and up to 3 others, and up to a 60% saving on the fares of up to 4 children travelling too. A brand new one being trialled in the West Midlands is the Two Together Railcard – where two people named on the card can travel off-peak and save a third. The card is again £28 for the year, and currently one of those named persons has to live in the West Midlands area.
Buy Singles – Once-upon a time, a return was cheaper than two singles. Now, with most long-distance train operators, it is actually cheaper to buy two singles. Check your prices online and don’t assume a return will always be the best bet.
Split your Tickets – Try splitting your journey up into shorter ones at a station in the middle to see if it saves you money – this is easier if you have to change during your journey. For example, an Off-Peak return from Doncaster (the home of Walks Around Britain) to Llandrindod is £71.80, changing at Stockport and Shrewsbury. Buy 3 separate returns for Doncaster to Stockport, Stockport to Shrewsbury and Shrewsbury to Llandrindod, and it costs £44.50. You can even try this if you don’t have to change trains – it’s ok so long as the train stops at the split station – although you might have to move seats as you’re not guaranteed to get the same seat for both tickets.
Avoid the Peaks – Unlike walking, where peaks are great, on the trains they are bad news! Travelling during peak times is very expensive and should be avoided. However, if you’re having a day trip walking you need to travel out in peak time, so here you should definitely split your tickets. Again, travelling from Doncaster at 7.55am for a walk in Telford costs an eye-watering £104 – but by splitting tickets and getting day returns between Doncaster & Derby, Derby & Birmingham and Birmingham & Telford cuts the cost down to £55.40.
Try the competition – On many long-distance routes, there are several train operators competing – and this is good for cheaper tickets. On the East Coast Mainline, for example for journeys between Doncaster and London Kings Cross, we could travel on either East Coast, Grand Central or First Hull Trains. On other routes, like Birmingham to London, there are rival operators travelling over different lines – Virgin Trains run fast from Brum New Street to London Euston, while Chiltern travel semi-fast between Snow Hill and London Marylebone. There can also be other operators with slower services too – London Midland operate stopping services between Brum and London which only cost £6.00 but take more than 2 hours. If you buy two singles, you could travel there and back with different operators to take advantage of the cheapest fare.
Be the Wild Rover – If you’re on a holiday in a region and want to get out and explore, try a Rover or a Ranger ticket. They offer unlimited travel in a certain region for a set length of time and provide great value for money. For example, the North Country Rover offers travel on any 4 days in an 8 day period and costs £76 – just making two day trips from York to Carlisle and another to Settle costs £72.80 making the other 2 days travel only £3.20… If you’re feeling really adventurous, try the All-Line Rail Rover. This is a gem of a ticket offering 7 or 14 days rail travel across Britain – for £430 for 7 days or £650 for 14 days. It sounds a lot, but when you consider you only have to make trips costing £62 a day to break even, it’s actually a good buy. Couple that with a lightweight tent and backpack, and you’re ready for a trip around Britain’s countryside by rail!
Form a group – Just travelling in groups as small as 3 or 4 can get you discounts. For example, the Small Group Day ticket from some operators offers groups of between 3 and 9 people 25% discount on a day ticket. But remember, to get any group discount you’ve got to travel together for the whole journey – no breaking off early or the whole ticket won’t be valid.
Use their own website – Often, particular train operators discount their own tickets if they are bought on their own website – so it’s worth buying different tickets on different websites for the biggest savings. East Coast, for example, offer up to a 10% discount on their own tickets when bought on their website – so book with them direct for any part of your journey involving their trains.
You can catch up with Andy on you tube where he has a fab list of walking videos and inspiration for your next trip out and about. For more information on cheap train tickets Martin’s Money has got a fab guide to saving some dosh on the tracks as well.
If you have any top tips for saving dosh on the trains, do let us know in the comments below.