Contact Us   Site Map
Airline Mismanagement

A great way to see more of England without leaving your London hotel each night is to take day tours by train.

Fast, regular and comfortable trains quickly take you to many interesting towns and cities around England.

 
 
Travel Planning and Assistance
Road Warrior resources
How to Book and Buy Travel
Scary, Silly and Stupid Security Stories
Airline Reviews
Airline (Mis)!Management
Miscellaneous Features
Reference Materials
About the Travel Insider
Search
Looking for something else? Search over two million words of free information on our site.
Custom Search
 
Free Newsletter

In addition to our feature articles, we offer you a free weekly newsletter with a mix of news and opinions on travel related topics.

 

 View Sample
Privacy Policy

 
Help this Site
Thank you for your interest in helping this site to continue to develop. Some of the information we give you here can save you thousands of dollars the next time you're arranging travel, or will substantially help the quality of your travel experiences in other, non-cash ways. Click for more information
 
Reader's Replies

If you'd like to add your own commentary, send me a note.

 

Day Tours by Train from London

See much of England while based in London
 

England is small and much of the country is no more than a few hours comfortable and scenic train ride from London.

This makes day touring by train from London a practical way to sightsee around more of England.

 

 

Save yourself the bother of having to check in and out of different hotels.  Extend your stay in London, and take day tours to other places by train.

There are many wonderful places to visit within a few hours train ride of London, most of which can easily be experienced in a single day tour.

Either use a Britrail pass, or for sometimes better value, simply buy discounted regular tickets.

 

Pricing last updated in July 2012

Why Day Touring rather than staying overnight in other places

If you can spare yourself the hassle of changing hotels every night or two (to say nothing of the hassle of having to find and reserve more hotels, too), complete with the hassle of packing and unpacking your suitcases, travel time, checking in and out, etc, you will have much more quality time on vacation and much less wasted time simply getting from place to place and settling in.

Many of the places you might want to visit are close to London (ie no more than a couple of hours away) and you're not likely to want to spend more than a day in such places anyway.  So settling into a London hotel then making a series of day trips away from the city makes tremendous sense.

You can also benefit from the unstructured and flexible nature of such traveling, too.  If you sleep in, you don't have to go anywhere or be anywhere at any certain time.  If the weather is bad at your planned destination, simply go somewhere else.  If you discover a new place you want to visit, you can do that too.

For all these reasons, day touring from a central London base is a great way to see much of England.

Why Travel by Train (rather than bus or car)

Trains in Britain - and especially to/from London are marvelously convenient.  London is the heart of the rail network and the majority of destinations can be reached from London without needing to change trains.

Trains travel much faster than buses, and even faster than private cars - you'll notice when a train is traveling alongside a freeway, it is usually moving much faster than the cars.

Trains are comfortable and safe, and traveling by train is much simpler and more stress free than driving yourself.  They operate very regularly during the day.

Train stations are often close to the center of the towns and cities you visit, making it possible to simply walk from the station to and around the town before returning back to the station and back to London.

A Typical Day Tour Schedule

Typically you'd take a train from London to your choice of destination some time early/mid morning, and reach your destination late morning, in time to settle in to the city, have lunch, and followed by an afternoon of more sightseeing around the area.

You'd then either stay for dinner and take an evening train back to London, or perhaps leave late afternoon and be back in London in time for dinner and maybe a theater engagement that evening in London.

Touring at your Destination

Most of the time you could simply walk around to see most of what you want to see.  However, it is usually a good idea to augment your own self-guided sightseeing by taking a short city tour with one of the local touring companies.

The largest operator, giving consistently good quality tours around towns and cities, is Guide Friday.

We generally tend to go first to the local Tourist Information Center to find out what other local touring opportunities might be present, to ask one of the helpful staff what they recommend we should do and see during our day, and to pick up a city map if we don't already have one.  Armed with that extra knowledge and resource, we can then plan the rest of our day.

What it Costs

How much does a train ticket cost?  That's a bit like asking how much an airline ticket costs, because these days the rail companies have many different types of tickets, with various types of restrictions associated with them, similar to how airfares are priced.

Discounted tickets can cost less than one third of a full priced ticket, making all the difference between an affordable excursion and an expensive train ride.

In general, and ignoring full fare tickets, you'll find that some or all of the following types of discounted fares may be available on the journeys you're considering :

Cheap Day Return

 

Requires same day return and good for trains leaving London after 9.30am weekdays; no restrictions on weekend use

Standard Day Return

 

Requires same day return and good for all trains

Apex

 

Must be booked seven days in advance, no changes allowed, limited availability

Super Advance Return

 

Must be booked prior to 6pm the day before travel, limited availability

Super Saver

 

Available Sunday - Thursday (ie not Fridays) and also excludes Saturdays in July and August and Bank Holidays

Saver

 

Reasonably unrestricted, available anytime, and can have 'open jaw' return (eg London to Bath, then Oxford back to London)

Other Special Fares

 

Individual train companies sometimes have other special fares, sometimes specifically designed for a particular route, and only valid on that train company

 

Local Ticket or Britrail Pass?

Britrail passes vary in terms of their per day cost depending on the pass product you choose, and of course the class of service.

Generally first class passes are 50% more expensive than coach class passes.  We quote coach class passes in this article, but in almost all cases, you can also get a first class pass for 50% more than the coach class fare.

The least expensive passes are (2012 pricing) :

  • London Plus $37.86/day (7 days) - $69.50 (2 days)

  • Flexipass England $36.60/day (15 days) - $66.33 (3 days)

  • Flexipass $45.93/day (15 days) - $83.00 (3 days)

The equivalent price in pounds depends on the current exchange rate, of course.  At present (July 2012), a pound costs about $1.60, so this would make the following pound equivalents

  • London Plus 23.66 - 43.45

  • Flexipass England 22.90 - 41.50

  • Flexipass 28.70 - 51.90

In theory, most day roundtrips by train from London can be done for less than 25 (2012 pricing), so it might seem that it is often to your advantage just to buy tickets while you're in London.

But, appearances can be deceiving.  The lowest fares for direct purchase may not always be available, and may have restrictions on the times of day and days of week you can travel as well as advance purchase requirements, whereas Britrail passes can be used on any train at any time.

You're also saving valuable time by not needing to buy tickets if you already have Britrail passes, and perhaps you'll also use your Britrail pass for venturing further afield as well.

In general, it is fair to say that most Britrail passes are not appreciably more expensive than the lowest fares on the trains, and sometimes are considerably cheaper, while also being much less hassle and easier to travel with.  And so we generally recommend using a Britrail pass for your day tours by train out of London.

There is of course an exception to this.  If you're doing an inexpensive day tour (for example to Windsor) and if you think you can use your Britrail passes days for better traveling on other days, then of course it is better to buy a ticket instead of needing to buy a longer duration pass.

On the other hand, if you know you'll end up with an unused day or two on your Britrail pass, then it makes sense to use that for your day tours no matter what the cost issues may be.

First Class Travel

If you want to treat yourself to first class rather than standard coach class train service, then the cost analysis moves decisively in favor of a Britrail pass instead of buying local tickets in Britain.  First Class Britrail passes cost only 50% more than standard passes, but locally purchased First Class tickets cost very much more than 50% over discounted coach class fares.

Where to Go

Many of England's prime tourist stops are less than two hours away from London by train.

Here's information about a partial list of reasonably popular tourist destinations, including such towns and cities as :

Destination

Traveling Time

Depart from

Cost (2012)

Train Frequency

Bath

1 hr 30 mins

Paddington

25.00

2 trains/hour

Birmingham

1 hr 30 mins

Euston
(also Marylebone)

24.00

3 trains/hour

Brighton

1hr

Victoria

10.00

3 trains/hour

Bristol

1 hr 30 mins

Paddington

25.00

4 trains/hour

Cambridge

50 mins

King's Cross

19.00

5 trains/hour

Canterbury

1 hr 30 mins

Victoria

26.90

5 trains/hour

Cardiff

2 hrs

Paddington

31.00

2 trains/hour

Cotswolds
(Moreton-in-Marsh)

1 hr 30 mins

Paddington

30.50

hourly

Dover

1 hr 40 mins

Charing Cross or Victoria

31.20

4 trains/hour

Ely

1 hr 10 mins

Kings Cross

27.00

3 trains/hour

Hastings

1 hr 45 mins

Charing Cross

17.50

3 trains/hour

Kings Lynn

1 hr 35 mins

Kings Cross

32.30

hourly

Manchester

2 hrs 15 mins

Euston

36

2 trains/hour

Norwich

1 hr 55 mins

Liverpool St

23

2 trains/hour

Nottingham

1 hr 45 mins

St Pancras

30.00

4 trains/hour

Oxford

1 hr

Paddington

16.00

5 trains/hour

Portsmouth

1 hr 45 mins

Waterloo

15.00

4 trains/hour

Rye

1 hr 50 mins

Charing Cross

34.80

3 trains/hour

Salisbury

1 hr 25 mins

Waterloo

34.80

2 trains/hour

Southampton

1 hr 15 mins

Waterloo

25.50

4 trains/hour

Stratford

2 hrs 10 mins

Euston or Marylebone

15.00

hourly

Warwick

1 hr 35 mins

Marylebone

15

3 trains/hour

Winchester

1 hr

Waterloo

31.20

4 trains/hour

Windsor

40 mins

Waterloo or Paddington

9.50

3 trains/hour

York

2 hrs

King's Cross

45.20

2 trains/hour

Notes to above Table

  • Because some trains have more stops than others, or take slightly different routes, journey times vary and the times shown in the table are averages, somewhere between the shortest time and the longest time.

  • There is sometimes more than one way to travel between London and your destination, perhaps involving different stations in London and possibly even at the destination, or different routings between the two places.

  • Prices are the lowest price for a roundtrip journey.  Restrictions usually apply to lowest price tickets.

  • CDR refers to Cheap Day Return, SAR to Super Advance Return fare types.

  • Train frequencies are the common maximum.  They are often less on Sundays.  Train frequencies also usually reduce later in the evening.

For Further Information

The most helpful 'main' website covering the entire British Railway network is the National Rail website.

Here also is a page from their site that links to the different individual train operating companies.

Summary

Visiting towns and cities out of London on day trips, and using the rail network to get to and from such places, is a convenient way to sightsee in England and to include some 'out of London' experiences into your British vacation.

If you are going to be doing multiple day tours by train, it may be better to use Britrail passes to pay for your day touring.

 

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.

 

Originally published 8 Sep 2006, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 
Related Articles
How to Find the Best London Underground Ticket Pricing
How to Best Travel on the London Underground
London's Five Airports - which is best for you?
How to Choose the Best Britrail Pass
Britrail Pass options and issues
London Pass for discounted sightseeing in London
Great British Heritage Pass for discounted sightseeing in Britain
How to Travel Around Britain by Train
Day Tours from London by Train
Driving on the Left Hand Side
Other Articles about the UK
Guide to Salisbury
Cruising the English Canals
Traveling to Scotland's Islands
 

Your Feedback

How Would You Rate this Article

Poor
Average
Good

Was the Article Length and Coverage

Too short/simplistic
About right 
Too long/complex

Would You Like More Articles on this Subject

No
Maybe
Yes