Since its Victorian era heyday, rail travel has been a major means of transport for us Brits and a popular way for overseas visitors to explore Britain. With a far-reaching network, quality service providers and frequent connections coupled with the range of flexible passes and superb value offered by the Britrail scheme, Britain, and England in particular, is an excellent destination to explore by rail. So if you don’t fancy joining a large coach group and want to ditch the rental vehicle, why not hop aboard a train to traverse Britain. Here’s our top-ten tips and practical advice for your independent rail tour:
- Pack light
This may seem obvious but pack as light as possible – there is no porterage service or luggage assistance at the train stations so you’ll need to be able to manage your own bags. For this reason, we recommend you travel with minimal luggage, ideally no more than a mid-size bag or suitcase with wheels and one item of hand luggage such as a small rucksack. Most stations will have elevator access to the platforms but it is easier if you’re able to carry your case up or down a short flight of stairs, at the very least you would need to be capable of lifting your bags up two or three steps to board the train.
- Avoid the rush hour
You’re on holiday so have a lie in or enjoy a leisurely breakfast! It may be tempting to get your journey underway early but by waiting until after 9am to board the train you’ll avoid the local commuters which means less crowded platforms and quieter carriages meaning more space and a more enjoyable journey!
- Download an app
All adeo Travel rail tours include full printed service and departure information in your travel pack, but if you’re travelling with a smart-phone or tablet, we recommend that you download a rail app too. Most are easy to use and offer up-to-the-minute schedule information so that you can check your journeys and keep on top of any local service changes or potential delays. Ask your adeo Travel advisor for the best rail apps to download.
- Give yourself time
Britrail passes off amazing flexibility allowing you to choose any departure time for your journey without pre-booking times and seats, however if you’re aiming for a particular service ensure you give yourself plenty of time to catch it. If you plan to get to the station on foot, check how long the walk will take you before you set off. Or if you plan to take a cab, you can ask your concierge or hotel receptionist to pre-book one for your planned departure the night before. Bear in mind that it can take time within the station to pass through ticket barriers and reach the correct platform, especially in larger stations.
- Stay central
It may be tempting to book low-cost hotels away from the town-centre or guest house accommodation located in the residential suburbs, however we would generally recommend centrally located hotels and all adeo Travel rail tours include central accommodation as standard. Even if you choose to take a taxi to/from the station when you are transferring your luggage, you still want to be in a downtown location to ensure you can easily explore the destination on foot; extra time and money spent in cabs could be better spent on enjoying your trip!
- Ask for help
Generally, the staff on the railways are extremely knowledgeable and very friendly; if you need help to figure out a timetable, check a platform or clarify a connection, simply ask someone – there are ample staff and ticket conductors, platform staff and barrier attendants will all be more than willing to help.
- Do day tours in rural areas
Many British cities are compact and easily explored on foot; rural areas on the other hand can be difficult to explore by rail as many smaller towns and villages no longer have operational railway stations. Our recommended solution is to combine your rail tour with pre-booked day-tours in selected destinations. Small-group operators offer excellent insight in to countryside regions such as the Lake District, Yorkshire and South Wales but don’t forget to pre-book as they prove popular in the Summer months! If you want recommendations on such tours, simply ask your adeo Travel expert.
- Check seat reservations
Many train carriages will have reserved seating denoted by a ticket or digital panel – it may seem that many seats are reserved but always check the tickets; seat reservations are often only in place between selected destinations on the route – if you check the tickets you’ll find that the traveller may not be boarding the train until later on the journey or indeed may already have alighted at a previous stop. If a seat is left free, just use it. If the owner of the seat reservation comes along, they’ll just politely ask you to move.
- Use your passes to their full potential
One of the real benefits of the Britrail scheme is the value the passes offer. They are specifically designed and valid only for overseas visitors. They provide completely unlimited travel on each day of use, so don’t just set aside your ticket once you’ve arrived in your overnight destination – drop off your luggage at the hotel and get back on the rails to explore the surrounding towns and villages accessible by train.
- Enjoy the views
It can be tempting to bury your head in the newspaper or become glued to your phone as you travel between destinations, but don’t forget to look up occasionally; Britain is home to some of the world’s most beautiful rail journeys, and you can enjoy stunning vistas of coast and countryside on your travels by rail. The beauty of a rail tour is that you can sit back and lose yourself in England’s landscapes. Just ask your adeo Travel advisor if you want to include any particularly picturesque or famous routes.
We hope our tips have been helpful – when booking a rail tours with adeo Travel you’ll benefit from our local expertise every step of the way. We are official Britrail agents and we regularly ride the rails of Britain in our daily lives. For a full selection of our rail tours please click here. Alternatively, for a fully customized rail tours simply enquire here.