For people who are visiting London and plan to do some day trips (which, if you’ve read my article about great cities for day trips, you’ll know I don’t recommend this unless you’re staying for a week or more), you might have seen some info around the BritRail London Plus Pass. In this article, I’ll be telling you how to figure out if the BritRail London Plus Pass is worth it for your situation, and even, at all.
Full disclosure — because I’m a UK resident, I’m not allowed to use the pass myself, but with my knowledge of London and trains in the UK, I’ve been able to do a pretty good analysis of it.
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What is the BritRail London Plus Pass?
It’s a rail pass that gives you unlimited train travel to certain areas beyond London, for a certain amount of days in a one month period. There are passes for 3, 4, and 8 travel days.
Its main focus is giving you cheaper and more flexible train travel for day trips when visiting London.
How does the BritRail London Plus Pass work?
You buy the pass online, before your trip, and it’s delivered to you at home.
You then activate it at a London train station once you’re ready to use it, and it allows you to hop on any train within the BritRail London Plus Pass designated regions. You can do this on unlimited trains for the amount of days that you purchase the pass for, within one month.
Who can get the BritRail London Plus Pass?
Non-UK residents and people who have lived in the UK for less than six months. So if you’re studying in London for less than six months, you can get it, but you’d need to buy it before you get to the UK.
What are the benefits of getting the BritRail London Plus Pass (that actually ARE good?)
The key thing here is flexibility. You can get on any train without having to buy a ticket ahead of time or worry about super expensive peak train fares, or if your plans change and you need to travel on a different day, you can without any problems.
Another key pro that truly is a benefit is that each adult pass purchased automatically includes a free child ticket, which can be used by kids up to 15 years old. That can give you some pretty decent savings if you’ve got kids with you between 5 and 15 years old. Kids five years and under always travel free on trains when with an adult (lol if they weren’t!)
Finally, you get a month to use your pass and the travel days don’t need to be used consecutively.
Benefits of the pass (that aren’t actually helpful)
As mentioned, it’s advertised as being a cost saver. From my research, it actually won’t be for most people, especially if getting the three or four day pass. I break that down later in this article and tell you how to figure out if it’s worth it for you to get…
You can use the BritRail London Plus Pass on trains to and from the airport, but because they are usually inexpensive, unless you plan to take a day trip on the day you arrive to or leave London, which is usually a terrible idea, then you don’t want to waste one of your pass days on airport trains.
Actual cons of the pass
As already mentioned a couple of times, the BritRail London Plus Pass might not actually save you any money depending on your situation and trip plans.
You also need to plan ahead because the BritRail London Plus Pass can only be ordered ahead of time and delivered to you outside of the UK. If you are reading this and your trip is next week or you’re already in London, you’re out of luck.
Also, many of the cities included in the pass have journeys that are, in my opinion, too far to do a day trip to.
Finally, the BritRail London Plus Pass is non-transferable and non-refundable. So if you get to London and decide you’re having too much fun in the city to do any day trips (I wouldn’t be surprised!) then you can’t get your money back.
How do you figure out if the BritRail London Plus Pass is worth it for you?
There are a few things to consider.
If you want complete flexibility in your day trip plans, down to the day and the place to visit (as long as it’s in the pass’s network) and you’re not too worried about cost, then you should get the BritRail London Plus Pass. Some travelers want to just show up at the station and hop on the next train, and your best bet for that is this pass (plus tickets might be so expensive at that point that you should save a ton of cash.) If paying extra for convenience and flexibility is appealing, this pass is worth it for you.
If you’re considering the BritRail London Plus Pass in order to save money, then you’ll need to do some planning, research and calculations to see if it will in fact do that for you.
How to see if the BritRail London Plus Pass will save you money
The main thing is that you will want to know what cities you want to take the train to that are within the pass’s network.
If you have specific days that you will have to travel on, then great, but having some flexibility between going on weekdays or weekends means you potentially can save a lot of money on cash tickets.
I’m going to walk you through how I did some research to see if the BritRail London Plus Pass (3 days) is worth it for people who want to visit the three most popular cities included in the pass: Oxford, Cambridge, and Bath.
Obviously, in your own research, you’ll have a specific time frame you’ll look at, but for this experiment, I tested adult ticket prices two weeks out, and also two months out, to see if there was a difference in whether the pass would ultimately be worth it. Remember that you need to buy the pass in advance and get it sent to you at home so two weeks out is likely to be the latest you would still be considering the BritRail London Plus Pass.
Let’s first take a look on Trainline at ticket prices for two weeks out. I chose round trip tickets, looking at tickets that are a good balance of price and decent timings (so, like, not a 6am departure from London, youch.)
Train ticket costs two weeks out:
Bath was the interesting because it was the most expensive, with one-way tickets even getting up to £110. But with a little flexibility on timings, I got it down to £80.60 round trip on a weekday. If you plan to visit Bath on a weekend, ticket prices tend to be much lower as it’s “super off-peak” time.
For the other cities, you could get prices pretty darn cheap, if you just have some flexibility on timings of the train and the London station you travel out of.
From the example above, if you plan to get the three-day pass of the BritRail London Plus Pass, it won’t really save you any money, or maybe just a small amount.
How about Salisbury?
I also priced out another popular city for London day trips, Salisbury, the station you’ll go to to see Stonehenge.
Because the Stonehenge transfer bus leaves on the hour, the trains that arrive to Salisbury only fifteen minutes before the bus departs are more popular, and therefore cost £41.50 with only two weeks to go, while the one that would get you to Salisbury 40 minutes early is £14.40.
If you don’t mind wandering a bit before the bus arrives, you’ll see that there are cheap tickets for Salisbury too, with round trip totals being around £26.20 total for both weekday and weekend travel.
So, in this case, the three or four day pass (when including Salisbury) is only a cost saver when taking the train to Bath on a weekday.
Train ticket costs two months out:
Let’s try this again but booking more ahead, which can get you cheaper tickets.
Ok, so even with traveling on a weekday for Bath, and a weekend for Cambridge, the 3-day BritRail London Plus Pass costs more than individual tickets.
And if we add in Salisbury to test the 4-day pass, it REALLY isn’t a cost saver because tickets are popping up on Trainline for £18 return.
What about the 8-day pass?
I’ve not calculated costs for the 8-day BritRail London Plus Pass because, honestly, it’s a lot of day trips to take in one month, and I’m not sure how many of you will be in London long enough to want to take EIGHT day trips, especially considering that much of the network has routes that are 2+ hours one way. Four hours on a train in one day is not fun, especially when you’re not guaranteed a seat.
However if you have a situation where maybe you’ll go to Bath on a weekday twice, or even do some overnight trips where the individual tickets are showing up £25+ each, it could work for you. Just do the same calculations I did above using Trainline to see if there are cost savings.
Who should get the BritRail London Plus Pass?
The BritRail London Plus Pass is worth it for London visitors who:
- Are in London for a while, say, 2+ weeks
- Want flexibility. They want to be able to hop on a train at a moment’s notice to go on a day trip and are willing to pay for that convenience. Or, the ability to change plans at a moment’s notice without losing money. OR…
- Have calculated the individual ticket costs of the trips they want to take using Trainline, and the BritRail London Plus Pass is cheaper. Or…
- Are planning to take specific trains that are very expensive and during peak times (like Bath). And/or…
- Are families who can take advantage of the free child tickets. You’ll want to do some calculations yourself to see if the savings do in fact work out in your favour.
- Plan to day-trip it a LOT and the 8-day pass ends up being a cost savings
Who the BritRail London Plus Pass is not worth it for:
- Anyone on a strict budget, as the cost savings probably won’t happen, plus, save your cash and just explore more of London, you’ll never run out of things to do.
- Anyone who doesn’t mind booking individual train tickets and can be flexible on timings in order to save some money
- Anyone who’s not sure if they even want to do day trips, because the BritRail London Plus Pass needs to be ordered before your trip and is non-refundable.
With the above information, if you’ve figured out that the BritRail London Plus Pass is a good fit for your trip, you can buy it here.
More tips for your London trip:
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