IF YOU are planning a trip back to the UK and plan to use the train, a pass from www.britrail.com could save you money and give extra convenience.
These passes, only for people from outside the UK, are better value the more you plan to travel around during your trip, but may give you a saving even on one long return journey.
BritRail is the international arm of Britain’s Association of Train Operating Companies and aims to attract people from outside the country to visit the UK by train. At present their main passes are especially good value as they attract a 20%-off low-season rate, including both the “consecutive” and “flexi” versions of the BritRail Euro Pass and the BritRail Euro England pass (the “euro” passes are the versions for European residents).
The passes allow for unlimited rail travel within Britain or England, either for a period of consecutive days (two, four, eight, 15, 22, one month) or for a certain number of days (two, three, four, eight or 15) within a month from the first day of use.
You can travel at any time of day and get on and off as you choose.
There is a range of other passes for specific areas, including Scotland and London, though these are more limited in the options available and do not have a low season discount.
The site also allows you to buy special tickets for a single journey, which can be used once on any day and at any time and allow you to get off the train as many times as you like between start and finish. These are called point-to-point tickets, and may be worth looking into depending on your plans, though the great flexibility means they are not especially cheap.
If you know on what days you want to travel you might be better off using www.thetrainline.com - an alternative service for buying ordinary British train tickets.
However, be aware thetrainline cannot send your tickets outside the UK (as BritRail does) nor can you print them online. However most larger British stations have machines where you can print your pre-paid tickets when you arrive.
The BritRail passes come in standard or first class versions but if you get the standard version you can opt for first class on a particular train by paying a supplement. (Does not apply to reduced-rate youth cards.) You can also opt to pay for insurance for lost or stolen passes.
Buy the tickets before arriving in the UK - they will be posted to you.
Discounts are available for small groups travelling together (up to 50% off the third to ninth passes, called a “party discount”), families with children, for young people up to age 25 and for those aged 60 or more.
There is a “guest” version of passes for those who plan to travel in the UK with a UK-resident, allowing for passes for both of you with 25% off each one.
Passes are issued open-dated and must be validated within six months of issue and before the first use. To do this you take the pass, with your passport, to the station where you will take your first train. The first and last dates of validity are entered on it and you sign it. In the case of a “flexi” version you also have to enter your date of travel on the pass each day you use it before boarding a train.
The low season rate is for tickets bought until February 15 for travel until February 28.
Passes entitle you to a reduced Eurostar rate, but this is not free and does not count as one used travel day.
Contact with BritRail is via their site alone for those in Europe although there is a phone line for those in the USA and Canada.