r, now you’re on the ground, how to you get to where you want to go?
I bought my pass through Visit Britain, but here is the info from the BritRail Pass site: http://www.britrail.net/passes Note the consecutive days are much cheaper than the flexible days. (I bought an Oyster Card the same day – a real must have! Cheaper and so easy to use.)
I will be honest, I looked into car rentals enough to realize that it was too expensive for me – the rental, the petrol, and the stress of driving around on a different side of the road and making my way through narrow roads and roundabouts and trying to find parking when I saw something I wanted to see…I decided fairly early it was not for me. The parking thing is not a joke…I overheard a couple of travelers commenting that they wanted to stop places but could not because of parking.
STILL, if your party has more than two people, you may want to seriously consider driving because the more people in the car the cheaper that option becomes.
So if you go that option, find out what you can pay for ahead of time.
But, let me tell you about the Britrail Pass. I LOVE the Britrail pass. You can only buy it in the states, because it is such a bargain. I went with the 8 days consecutive, and mum got hers cheaper because she’s of the right age. ;P
The Britrail pass seems pretty expensive on the face of it, 335.00 for 8 days for me, 285.00 for mum. BUT, I used the National Rail app to figure out how much I spent on going from place to place, and I realized that the pass saved me around 300.00…that’s pretty sweet!
But the savings aren’t the only reason I fangirl this thing so hard.
The first time you use the pass you take your voucher to the ticket office and you present it to them and they give you your pass. Then you literally hop on whatever train you want for however many days you picked.
You supposedly can reserve seats, but I never made it work, so make sure you find the unreserved car. (Or read the digital read outs above the seats – people seem to reserve seats a lot and not come on to claim them, and people are used to others just sitting in their seats, so people will come in and ask you to move. No one seems particularly upset, so I think it happens a lot. A passenger I met from Australia called it the British way of life.) I think that you cannot reserve a seat on the day you are using it, and mum and I were not really able to say YES, that train, that time, tomorrow. I wanted as much freedom as possible. Out of 8 days I only had to stand once. About three times mum and I did not sit together. I thought that was pretty good, though it does get stressful, wondering if the person coming on is about to kick you out of your seat!
I loved the pass because I never had to buy tickets, and there are always people to ask where you need to be. And I asked. A lot. Because you might be going to, Say, Whitby, but while the readouts are pretty good they are not always self-evident. I am a certainty junky. So I asked. All the time. And I was very sweet and polite and thanked people for their help and they never seemed to mind.
So, you jump on the train, and present your pass when the conductor comes around. They look at the dates to make sure you are using a good pass, thank you, and move on. It’s fantastic. And no roundabouts, car rentals, expensive petrol, getting lost, etc, to worry about.
Several times we made trains with only a moment to spare, so if we’d had to stop to buy tickets we would have missed out, though to be honest I ended up buying tickets after the pass has expired and it was not bad.
You should take time every evening to plot your course for the next day, though, to make sure that you know when the trains leave and if there is a last-train-you-damn-well-better-catch. I used the National Rail App on my iPad. It works really well, and gives you an idea of when to go, much better than Google Maps, which is what I used before I was actually in the UK. Google maps is OK, but I found that the accuracy was – not off? I am sure? But the info from the National Rail App was tons better.
Once we did take a bus to where we wanted to go, because the trains were not very convenient to take us to Glencoe and Loch Lomond. So sometimes you will want to take a bus and save yourself some time.
I also took cabs a couple of times to get to the hotel from the rail station.
I had no problem finding cabs at the station, but in London they keep emphasizing that you need to make sure you call for a taxi because apparently people have been getting into fake cabs and being hurt. Be careful out there.