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This Is the Best Way for Travelers to See the UK by Train

United Kingdom Train Travel
by Morgane Croissant Apr 16, 2024

The rail network in the UK is such a vast and well-oiled machine that opting to travel by train is a no-brainer — especially if you don’t feel like renting a car and driving on the left side of the road. Travelers who plan to travel around England, Wales, and Scotland extensively can make the process a lot more convenient and affordable by purchasing a BritRail Pass. A BritRail Pass provides non-UK residents unlimited train travel within the UK for a limited period of time of the traveler’s choosing. Here’s how it works.

What kind of BritRail Pass is best for me?

There are six types of BritRail Pass that cover different geographical areas of the country to fit every traveler’s plan:

  • The general BritRail Pass which covers the entirety of the country
  • The BritRail England Pass which covers train travel in England only
  • The BritRail London Plus Pass which covers train travel in London and the south east of England
  • The BritRail Spirit of Scotland Pass which covers train travel in Scotland only
  • The BritRail Scottish Highlands Pass which allows for train travel only in Scotland’s Highlands region
  • The BritRail South West Pass which allows for train travel in the south west of England

What train routes does the BritRail Pass cover?

The BritRail Pass covers large swathes of the country’s rail network, from the very south of England to the very north of Scotland. The map below displays the rail routes covered by the various passes in details. The general BritRail Pass covers the entirely of the network. (A zoomable version of this map is available here.)

Rail network covered by the various BritRail Passes

Photo: Britrail

Depending on which pass you opt for, your pass might also includes travel on board three airport trains: the Heathrow Express, Gatwick Express, and Stansted Express.

What trains and routes does the BritRail Pass not cover?

The BritRail Pass does not work on the Eurostar, the train that links London to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam, nor does it work on the London Underground. The BritRail Pass only covers trains operators comprised under the National Rail network of Great Britain, all of which are listed here.

Does the BritRail Pass include sleeper trains?

View of the Caledonian Sleeper, the London to Scotland sleeper train

Photo: Joe Dunckley/Shutterstock

Depending on the geographical area covered by your pass, it may include the famous Caledonian Sleeper (London to Scotland) and the Night Riviera Sleeper (London to Penzance). Note that reservations are necessary for both these trains.

How much does a BritRail Pass cost?

The price of a BritRail Pass varies according to various factors: The type of pass you choose (see above), the class of service you want (first or second class), the season (low in winter or high in the rest of the year), as well as the duration of the validity of the pass.

The BritRail Pass, BritRail England Pass, BritRail London Plus Pass, and BritRail South West Pass offer five flexible options (two days, three days, four days, and eight day, all valid within one month, as well as 15 days, valid within two months), and seven consecutive options (two days, three days, four days, and eight day, 15 days, 22 days, and one month).

The BritRail Spirit of Scotland Pass has two flexible options: four days valid within eight days, or eight days valid within 15 days. The BritRail Scottish Highlands Pass has a flexible option of four days valid within eight days.

The general BritRail Pass, which covers the entire network mapped above starts at $240 for a flexible two-day pass in second class in high season ($356 in first class), and goes all the way to $1117 for a consecutive one-month pass in second class ($1681 in first class) at the same time of the year.

Note that there are discounts for children, youth, and seniors.

How can I purchase a BritRail Pass?

You can purchase your BritRail pass online from four different providers: ACP Rail International, International Rail, and TrainLine, and Visit Britain.

Your pass cannot be purchased while in the UK, it must be purchased when you are out of the country. Your pass can be purchased up to six months in advance of the start of your train trip.

You may choose between a paper version of the pass or an e-version called the M-Pass (Mobile Pass). Both are priced the same, but the M-Pass will save you postage fees. Also, while paper passes need to be validated at a ticket office by stamp to be usable, the M-Pass is ready to go as soon as it’s downloaded.

What is the difference between a BritRail Pass and a Eurail Pass?

Eurail paper Pass

Photo: Ugi-Creative/Shutterstock

BritRail passes only work in the UK while Eurail passes work in 33 countries in Europe, including the UK. If you opt to buy a one-country Eurail Pass from the Eurail website, you’ll be redirected to the BritRail Pass website.

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