Trains to London
In an ideal world getting to London by train should be easy – and much less stressful and cheaper than driving. But that’s not always the case, so we’ve put together some helpful hints on getting to Theatreland by train.
It’s always the way – planning ends up being key, and this is doubly true with train tickets. If possible book 12 weeks early, which is when new train timetables are first published. Use TheTrainline’s ticket alert email to find out when advance fares go on sale.
Even if you haven’t planned ahead then it’s still worth finding out about advance fares – they can still apply up to an hour or two before your journey.
National Rail Railcards are also a nifty way of saving on rail – especially if you are over 60 (Senior Railcard) or a student or young person (16-25 Railcard). The Network Railcard is also excellent value: £20 a year gets you savings of up to a third for off-peak travel across the Network Rail region – which covers London, the home counties and the South East. It is also handy for tourists who plan to do lots of day trips from London as it is valid for up to 4 people to travel together. The Family & Friends Railcard can be used if there is a minimum of one adult and one under-16 travelling together – and a maximum four adults and four children – and saves a third off adult fares and up to 60% off kids fares.
Finding cheap fares
There are promotional train fares out there – they just need hunting down. Here’s a few places to start:
NationalExpress: Unlike other sites if you book your train travel through Nationalexpress you don’t have to pay any fees
Megatrain fares (who also run buses too)
If you are coming to London by train from continental Europe, then it’s worth taking a look at Rail Europe for information on passes and ticket fares.
Booking fees are levied on many of the train booking sites so it’s always worth checking prices on the rail franchise’s own site too.
Some of the best deals are only available on one-way fares so check first before you get a return fare as two singles might work out cheaper.
You can pre-buy Carnets of tickets if you are planning to travel around a lot on the same route. See NationalExpres
Also travel in the cheapest times if you can. Avoid Peak hours (which tend to be before 10am Monday to Friday).
Finally it is worth mentioning Seat61 - which has to be one of the world’s most useful and comprehensive sites for organising your train travel.
Travel within London
Within greater London you can use a Transport for London Visitor Oyster Card to make your journeys. Simply top the smartcard up and you can swipe in and out at London railway stations, plus on underground trains and buses. Buy a Visitor Oyster Card before you travel by visiting the TFL Shop.
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2 October 2009