To London and Edinburgh, and back!
April 1, 2009 8:15 AM   Subscribe

London to Edinburgh and back! Why is it so damn expensive?

My wife and I want to go to Edinburgh next week. We were thinking of going in the middle of the week -- Tuesday to Thursday. Sadly I realize now that we should have bought train tickets for this trip months ago. Is there some trick to getting cheap fares back and forth? Tickets are about 100 pounds or so each now. We could fly for less, though even that seems excessive.

Buses are a long trip, and would be about 40 pounds each by the looks of things. A bus to Edinburgh doesn't sound like much fun.

Any ideas? Please Hope Me.
posted by chunking express to Travel & Transportation around London, England (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes, it is damn expensive to get the train (which is ridiculous, but there you go, that's rail privatisation for you). The ideal ticket-buying period is about four to six weeks in advance.

That said: check out the National Express East Coast website, it's got a great bit of AJAXy technology to help you find cheap tickets. I just found a return ticket for £42. Top tip, buy your tickets as individuals instead of as a couple, as it'll add about 30% to the price for some reason (tax for wanting to sit together, who knows?).

You can usually just sit together anyway on mid-week services.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:24 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are you buying tickets for specific times, or just open/saver returns? The latter will be more expensive.

Buying singles rather than returns, for specific times, can be a lot cheaper. I've done Inverness-London for about £28 this way. On it will say, on the same page of the prices you're looking at, 'two singles may be cheaper'. Click that and it will show options.

Time of day makes a giant difference when doing that, by the way.

Breaking up the journey by booking tickets on the same service (i.e. London-Newcastle, Newcaslte-Edinburgh but for the same train basically) can also be cheaper, depending on where you choose to split the ticket.

For many journeys flying is simply cheaper. A pity but it's true.
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:25 AM on April 1, 2009

Is flying out of the question? look at You can normally fly easyjet for about £30 each way.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 8:26 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

trainline, of course.
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:26 AM on April 1, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah, I priced out flights as well. It's not out of the question, just seems a bit more inconvenient. If there is some scam to get cheap train tickets that'd be option #1. Thanks for the tips so far. I'll see if we can grab singles as suggested above to start.
posted by chunking express at 8:28 AM on April 1, 2009

Bollocks, disregard my last, looks like the cheapest you'll get for a return is £82.

As for the bus, it's about ten hours, and it's not especially comfortable. A flight might be your best option. I'd recommend flying with BMI from Heathrow, if only because it works out roughly the same as getting the train out to Luton or Gatwick. Also, at the other end, get the Airport Express bus into town, it's only about £5 for an open return (about a quarter of the price of a taxi).

If you're at all flexible in your dates I'd suggest booking train tickets for three or four weeks from now, getting the train is a much nicer experience and will put you square in the middle of Edinburgh straight away, crucial for such a short trip.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:30 AM on April 1, 2009

Wouldn't recommend the bus unless you're skint. As methylsalicylate mentions, it can be cheaper to split tickets. Services leaving London at peak times are expensive, but stop being so once you get further North. Moneysavingexpert has a guide on train tickets that goes into detail.
posted by Jakey at 8:51 AM on April 1, 2009

Oh, and for everything you ever want to know about finding cheap tickets, in and out of the UK, The Man in Seat 61 has you covered.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:55 AM on April 1, 2009

If you have hours to kill doing nothing but searching on, you might want to look for some random cheap return that's still available as far as Newcastle or Durham or somewhere, then pick up a bus, thereby reducing the bus-travel pain.

Also don't forget that if you can get better prices from London to Glasgow, Glasgow to Edinburgh really isn't a big deal by bus at all. A perfectly pleasant ride on Britain's most ridiculous motorway, the M8.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:53 AM on April 1, 2009

You're also picking a week during the holiday period ie Easter. Schools are off, workers get two days off... so it's peak-time travel wise.
posted by almostwitty at 2:39 PM on April 1, 2009

Response by poster: We took an (expensive) train up. Edinburgh is awesome, BTW. The moral of the story is, "buy your train tickets 4-6 weeks early."
posted by chunking express at 11:04 AM on April 14, 2009

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