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Train advance bookings necessary?

Bombay
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Train advance bookings necessary?

Hi.

I will be in London for 4 weeks- a part of which will be spent in a conference and visiting friends.

I wish to make day trips between 1 and 10 July to Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester but I am still not sure on which exact days. My question is this: Is it necessary to reserve the tickets in advance in terms of its cost? What should I do for flexibility for catching the return train?

Thanks in advance.

Bingley, United...
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1. Re: Train advance bookings necessary?

Not "necessary" - but advisable as last minute fares especially to Manchester can be high (though there's no cheap fares to Cambridge).

To get some idea of the difference in prices do some dummy searches on www.nationalrail.co.uk for today and early July

Bombay
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2. Re: Train advance bookings necessary?

Thanks Alanrow. I should perhaps reserve early for Manchester. How about Oxford and Cambridge?

London
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3. Re: Train advance bookings necessary?

There's no need to reserve in advance for Oxford or Cambridge.

If you travel after 09.30 Monday-Friday, or any time Saturday or Sunday, you can buy an off-peak day return ticket at the station on the day, and return by any train the same day. Cost will be around £25.

If you decide not to book ahead for Manchester, again you can get an off-peak return on the day for around £75.

London, United...
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4. Re: Train advance bookings necessary?

One note about booking in advance is that you must travel on that exact train at that exact time. So while you will save money on Advance fares, you lose the flexibility and if you miss the train you need to buy a whole new ticket.

Oxfordshire
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5. Re: Train advance bookings necessary?

"There's no need to reserve in advance for Oxford or Cambridge."

This myth just will not go away.

Lots of offpeak trains between London and Oxford are a great deal cheaper booked in advance. So are most offpeak trains between London Liverpool St (though not Kings Cross) and Cambridge. The Liverpool St routing is about 20 mins slower than the KX one, and some may not think the cash saving on either is worth the inconvenience - but that's a different matter.

Advance fare are usually available up to 1800 the previous night, and on the Oxford route are rarely cheaper than fully flexible prices on buses - which for many people are faster, comfier, more reliable and a great deal more frequent, though the net convenience really depends where you're starting from in London

To dummy the discounts, take any date 7-55 days ahead, and check prices on the National Rail site.

Bombay
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6. Re: Train advance bookings necessary?

Thanks for your replies. I will dummy check on national rail website as suggested.

London
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7. Re: Train advance bookings necessary?

I only said there was no need to book in advance for Oxford or Cambridge - not that you could not.

I was addressing the OP's desire to have flexibilty, and to reassure that it is perfectly possible to buy a ticket on the day for immediate travel, and to come back when you like that same day. I also wanted to counter that other myth - that trains in the UK have to be booked weeks in advance. They don't.

Anyway the OP now has enough information to make up his/her own mind.

Edited: 18 May 2013, 12:21
Bombay
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8. Re: Train advance bookings necessary?

I tried dummy checking on nationalrail site. For Manchester- offpeak return ticket for tomorrow's date is 77 pounds whereas on 1st July it shows almost half this price. So it seems advisable to book ahead.

Thanks everyone again.

I tried similar search for Cambridge and it shows about 33 pounds for tomorrow's date and 23 pounds for 1st july- offpeak return. I can perhaps opt for flexibility here.

I am not clear what's the difference between 'offpeak return' or 'anytime' .

BTW, I will be staying near Fitzroy square(near warren tube stn) and looking for convenient and affordable transport options for day trips to Oxford and Cambridge between July 1 and 10.

Worksop, United...
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9. Re: Train advance bookings necessary?

Off peak will not be valid on trains at certain peak times (and directions) of the day, on weekdays. Weekends are always off-peak. As long as you don't attempt to travel during the times and direction excluded, an off-peak fare is otherwise flexible; get on any train for the appropriate route/journey. Anytime is valid on any train at any time for the appropriate route/journey.

And, as it has been mentioned, "Advance" where available, is only valid on the one specific service detailed on the accompanying reservation or itinerary. It has no value or validity otherwise.

Oxford UK
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10. Re: Train advance bookings necessary?

An option for Oxford might be the Oxford Tube coach service - buses run every 15 - 30 minutes from Victoria CS, Victoria, Notting Hill and Hillingdon, and a return is less than £20. Seat guaranteed on a comfortable bus, free Wifi, and straight into the centre of Oxford - turn up and buy on the day, fully flexible. Might be a nice break from trains?