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Travelling by train in the UK – some tips

June 5, 2014


Are you thinking of taking the train somewhere?  I think about it all the time… I usually say that the best feature about Grantham is the train station! I take it to go to the airports or to just go somewhere else in the country. I ride the train frequently… it’s my life line to the rest of the world. As such, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to navigate it. 

Buying the tickets

  • Try to get them in advance, as much as possible. Check the for prices and just to make sure you are getting the best deal, also check the train company’s own website, as that might save you at least the booking fee. Alternatively, try Take The Train as it will spot the cheapest ones for you straight away.
  • If you find that your trip is way too expensive, try buying separate tickets for the different parts of the journey. It sounds weird but it works in some situations – for example: a ticket from Grantham to London, during peak times can cost on average £86 or more. If you get a ticket to Peterborough at around the same time, it can cost you as little as £6 or £7, up to £11, depending on the train. If you then get another ticket from Peterborough to London, you can get it for £29 or £31 on average. It’s still not dirt cheap but it almost halves the cost of the initial ticket. It doesn’t make much sense why it is like this, but it’s worth trying. If you’re on iPhone, you might want to try the app Tickety Split (up until this date, I don’t think there is an alternative for Android, sadly). I’ve never used it (I’m on Android) but it does the ticket splitting for you. Check out what the MoneySavingExpert has to say about it. Needless to say, you should try and avoid peak times at all costs.
  • You can also try buying two separate singles, as it might work out cheaper than buying a return ticket. Unless, of course, you want to buy an open return.
  • Most train companies will offer a group discount for parties of 3 to 9 people. Check here before you buy as it might be worth it.


Make yourself comfortable

  • Most inter-cities trains will have power sockets, so I always book the window seat. It might not be the best arrangement if you need the toilet, but I also avoid that as much as possible. At least you know that your phone won’t be out of juice by the time you arrive to your destination or if you’re on a very long trip, why not plug in your laptop or tablet and watch a movie?
  • When I take an early train (as is sometimes necessary, when catching flights) I also like to have my cushion handy, not just for the flight. As it’s early, most people will also be napping, so do the same!
  • When I’m not watching my pennies too closely, I actually like to buy a hot drink at the station, especially during those horrid grey and cold days. My favourite is the chai latte. Yum! Other than that, avoid buying food or drinks at the station – it’s usually a rip off.


Don’t forget to mind the gap! Do you have any suggestions of your own?


Take the Bruges train.

April 26, 2013

On my first day in Belgium we went to the Station Centraal,  hopped on the train and made our way to Bruges (it’s not really a sh*tty place, as implied in the film In Bruges).  I had been to Bruges on my first visit to Belgium, some 20 years ago but I have to say I didn’t remember all that much about it. All I could call to mind about it was that there were some canals. One of the things I recollect from the trip there though, was the trains. Having lived in Lisbon all my life (and the fact that Belgium was my first trip outside of Portugal, if we don’t count Spain), taking a train quickly across a country was an interesting and refreshing experience. Portugal is peripheral, surrounded by the sea and Spain and one of the prices you pay is that travelling abroad is fairly expensive! Especially back then, when low cost airlines were merely a dream (or a nightmare, depending on the perspective). 

Seeing a small country like Belgium, crisscrossed by train lines, in the centre of Europe, with such an easy and quick access to other countries, languages and peoples was entirely new and the idea fascinated me. I felt like I wanted to be part of it. I felt like it was so unfair, having so much curiosity about the world and being born in small isolated Portugal! This trip abroad landed the first travel bug seed in me, I suspect it was the first time I felt like I wanted to go see places and live somewhere else. So here I am, living in a different country and travelling to places as much as time (and the wallet) allows. My 15 year old self would have been proud.

Anyway, we had a rather pleasant trip to Bruges on the train and Lali and I had fun taking photos of each other and just chattering in general about girly stuff. I think Iain started to regret tagging along with us right there…

 In no time we arrived in Bruges… What a lovely place, with so much history… but that’s a story for another post.