Ultimate Guide: How to Travel Cheap Around The U.K.

As a resident, I’m always looking to travel cheap around the U.K. The reason being, is that I have family and friends scattered all over the country. I also don’t hold a driving license so it can be quite expensive when needing to travel for special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, christenings and many other important events.

When I travel, this leaves me with a few methods to consider that is via train, bus, flight or car share.

I’m sure we can all agree that the U.K is not the cheapest place to live or to travel around.

Strange Travel Incidents To U.K Cities

There has been a handful of times where I’ve found cheap flights to European destinations. Which is even cheaper than commuting from one part of the U.K to the other.

According to the Telegraph, a student travelled from Newcastle to London via Spain as it was cheaper than getting the train. He even spent time on a Menorcan beach with £40 to spare! Even I scored cheap return flights to Warsaw one time for a mere £24.

Tourists, you’ll probably find this baffling that it’s cheaper to travel outside of the U.K and back than it is direct.

The most expensive part of travelling in the U.K is the cost of transport. If you can organise and budget your travel expenses. You can sort out your accommodation and activities accordingly. However, if you’re in London your accommodation will be much pricier (as you’ll be in the capital).

With that said, here are the best tips I can provide you as a British citizen on being able to travel cheap around the U.K:

Trains

train travel cheap around the U.K
Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Booking your ticket

Now, this is one of the most expensive methods of transport in the U.K. However, don’t be intimidated just be prepared. When I say prepared I advise to book your train tickets in advance! Whilst travelling around the U.K it’s best you refer to the website or even the national rail app as it will show live train timetables throughout the U.K.  

According to national rail, you can book a train ticket up to 12 weeks in advance of your departure! However, don’t book too far as train companies have a habit of charging more too early. Seat61 note that it’s due to their advanced travel and off-peak fares. Avoid peak times such as rush hours and weekends as that’s when tickets are the most expensive.

It’s recommended to perhaps book 8 weeks prior as this is when the deals will most likely be the best. When booking, if you can reserve a seat! Sometimes trains break down or malfunction which causes people to jump on the next train. Be warned sometimes these trains can be overpopulated making the competition for a seat scarce.

You can even try online the night before as there are deals if seats do not get filled up.

Handy Tip– In order to get the best deals certain websites allow you to opt-in for email or text reminders when tickets go on sale!

Splitting Your Ticket

Sometimes if you break your journey up by buying separate tickets it may work out cheaper than purchasing a single ticket. Luckily, there are websites for this such as Splitticket and splitmyfare.

Train Ticket Websites

Train Ticket
Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Whilst there is a multitude of websites the top ones I’d recommend you to book train tickets would be either Red Spotted Hanky or TheTrainline. These are great price comparison websites however there is a slight disclaimer there is a booking fee.

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If you live within the U.K or are visiting the best way to travel at a discounted rate is with a rail pass. Depending on which category is applicable to you, different passes are suited accordingly. I’ll start with you, tourists.

Tourists Rail Passes

Lucky for you, there are certain options available which are sometimes cheaper than travel for residents. Visit Britain provides special passes for tourists. You must, however, purchase them online in advance before you arrive! The options are:

Unlimited train passes

Scotland and some ferries. – prices ranging from £119.00 +

The whole of the U.K- £146.00+

Southwest of England- £104.00+

North of England- £101+

Residents Rail Pass

If you’re a British citizen national rail offers an amazing service alongside train travel otherwise known as a railcard. Railcards offer you discounted fairs on your journeys and with them, you can save at least a third off your journey. You must apply and pay online via national rail, providing proof of your passport or driving license. Whom in return will post your card out to your U.K address.

Then, when you purchase a ticket online simply select the railcard option and it will show you reduced prices. It won’t ask you to fill in details yet remember to bring the card with you when travelling or booking at a ticket office! As the guards will ask for it to check you against your rail card I.D!

The following types of railcard available are as follows:

Twotogether Railcard

16-25 Railcard

26-30 Railcard

Family & Friends Railcard

Network Railcard

Disabled Persons Railcard

These railcards are normally on average around £30.00 per year. Which saves you a ⅓ rd off travel. However, for more information, terms and conditions and applicable fares, visit National Rail.

Train Ticket Websites

Whilst there is a multitude of websites the best ones I’d recommend you to book train tickets would be either Red Spotted Hanky or TheTrainline. These are great price comparison websites however slight disclaimer there is a booking fee.

Bus

double decker bus
Photo by PNG Design on Unsplash

Normally in the U.K, there are two main national bus companies. Depending on the route, time and day some can be cheaper than the other. They are Megabus and National Express. These services are significantly cheaper than using the train or by flight.

Megabus A budget bus service! This is especially popular with British students due to their cheap fares. The seats are velvet-like material and they often advertise deals sometimes for as little as £5. The prices don’t vary that much in significance either if it’s a late or last minute booking. However, do research in advance if there’s any festivals or important events at the time you would like to book. As some buses may be booked up quickly!


Megabus also offer you further discounts as they’ve partnered with certain services. For example, if you book with them you will get 5% off a hotels.com booking. As well as other cheap discounts, check their website for more.

National ExpressThis company travels to 100 towns and cities within the U.K. They do city deals, airport deals and U.K holiday packages. From my experience this bus service is a little bit upmarket than the Megabus, there are fewer seats and the seats are leather.

They also offer a coachcard for a British citizen. Similar to a rail pass, a card that offers a 1/3rd off their bus routes. There are three different types available disabled pass, senior coach card and young person coach card. Check their website for application and eligibility details.

Regarding bus services, there are comparison websites which can detect the cheapest fare for travelling! Such as comparabus and checkmybus. Personally, I’ve not used before however, I could imagine they come in handy when wanting to compare journeys!

Flights

Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash

This will most likely be your quickest yet most expensive option. Not recommended for all travel as certain routes only go to certain cities. Most of the flights will be British Airways. If you do want to fly, I’d recommend using a price comparison website like Skyscanner.

Car

If you drive, there are plenty of options for car rentals. One is Hertz advertising to travel cheap around the U.K for as little as £13.00 per day. Similarly, there is autocareurope advertising car rental from the U.K’s main airports and train stations.

Those are only a couple amongst many which you can find from your chosen search engine.

I’d recommend using a comparison website such as Moneysupermarket which will analyse everything for you producing it effectively in a table format.

Carsharing

This is a cost-effective and eco-friendly option. Often, drivers who are going in a particular direction are wanting to split their petrol money. They do this by advertising and charging a fee. It’s not always available though or your chosen routes. A common website used is blablacar which offers car sharing services to U.K destinations. Another way to travel cheap around the U.K.

Overall, it can be quite an expensive place to travel too. However, with these hints and tips, it can help you reduce costs to travel cheap around the U.K. Whether you’re a tourist or a resident.

If you have any questions please comment below. I will be more than happy to answer them to my best ability about travel in the U.K.

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