If you don’t have a car, travel can be inconvenient and costly. Train fares seem to rise and rise every year and the British weather isn’t exactly hospitable to cycling long distances. However, whether you’re trying to travel for work or social reasons there are still ways to do this without paying a fortune. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, and good old-fashioned research, it’s not that hard to find ways to travel around the UK cheaply.
Always a good place to start, discount cards will regularly give you a percentage off travel fares. For example, a Network Rail card is available to just about anyone of adult age. For £30 a year this card will give you a third off every fare. Coach services, such as National Express, offer various discount cards for different demographics. For example, students or families travelling together can get a percentage fare reduction by buying an annual card. For a relatively small initial cost, these cards can end up saving you a lot of cash.
It sounds slightly mad but it can actually be cheaper to fly from one UK location to another than to take to the roads. Airlines such as FlyBe and British Airways offer a fairly extensive network of flights to airports in cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Southampton and Glasgow. Use an aggregator website like Skyskanner to find the cheapest price for the route that you’re looking to take. Just remember to factor in the cost of getting to the airport. While regional airports tend to be less troublesome to access than those in London, flights at very early or late hours can really bump up your costs.
The ridiculous cost of rail fares irks many a passenger looking to make longer journeys around the UK. However, a few years ago Money Saving Expert discovered that it can be a whole lot cheaper to split your tickets, rather than buy the entire journey in one go. All this means is that you buy the coverage for various stages of your journey separately, rather than together. In most situations you won’t actually need to change trains (although it’s a good idea to check this), you just have several tickets for one trip. If that sounds like a lot of effort to save money then use the Money Saving Expert Tickety Split tool.
If you have some flexibility in your travel times then there are plenty of websites that can guide you in the direction of the cheapest options. Websites such as raileasy.co.uk help to make sense of the different rail fares available and track down the cheapest ones. With Train Genius you could save up to 80% by using advanced fares. It may be that you can slash the cost of your travel by setting off on a slightly different day or an hour or so later. With coach travel it’s often best to go direct to the travel provider. National Express frequently has huge discount sales (e.g. £1 singles) and Megabus is known for its super low fares. Enter your desired dates and times and you’ll see priced travel options from which you can choose the fare that best suits your budget.
Carpooling is increasingly becoming a way for commuters to cut daily travel costs. However, it’s not just limited to short every day journeys. You can save big on your travel costs by signing up for a car share website like liftshare.com. For example, a car journey from London to Leicester could cost you around £8 in a car share. The cost of a trainfare on the same time and day would be more like £30. In addition to the financial savings you also get to reduce your impact on the environment and maybe even make some new friends. The website is very simple to use – enter your journey and the days you want to travel and then choose one of the options.
If you prefer driving to taking public transport, but you don’t have a car, then try joining a car club. E-Car Club, for example, offers environmentally friendly transport from just £4.50 an hour, including power and insurance. These clubs work on the basis of members being able to find a local car point, book the car and then drive off in it. At the end of the journey the car is returned to the nearest drop off and only the hours used are paid for. As long as your start and end destinations feature on your car club list of locations this can be a fast, cheap and simple way to travel around the UK.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley