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London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

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Singapore, Singapore
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London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

Hi all, I need your kind advice please. I will be in UK for 4.5 days during the first half of May 2014. As I need to visit Sheffield and Exeter, in addition to some sightseeing in London, this is how I've planned:

3 May (Sat): ETA at Heathrow Airport 7am. Travel to Sheffield and overnight.

4 May (Sun): Depart Sheffield in the morning. Travel to Exeter. ETA at Exeter afternoon and overnight.

5 May (Mon): Depart Exeter in the morning. Travel to London city. ETA at London city afternoon and stay for 2 nights. Leaving London on 7 May (Wed) afternoon.

Now this is where I'm in a dilemma regarding the travelling options between these 3 counties/city. Based on some research I did, I can:

(1) Rent and draw out a car from Heathrow Airport, so much so that I can drive from Airport to Sheffield to Exeter to Airport, return the car at airport, take the train/taxi/bus to London City Central. Just to check:

(i) If ETA to Heathrow Airport is 7am and I'm flying in from Singapore i.e. international flight, roughly what time should I indicate to the car rental company that I should draw out the car? Is 8am good or 9am safer? This is in view of customs clearance and such especially from an international flight.

(ii) Is the route from Airport to Sheffield to Exeter to Airport relatively straight and easy to drive, or complicated with numerous signboards and meandering roads? Based on google maps, it shows that I have to use expressways M25 to A414 to M1 to A630; A630 to M1 to A42 to M42 to M5; A30 to A303 to M3 to M25. Also, any tolls that I should expect to pay if I travel along this route? If have indeed, what are the toll charges then? In addition, I understand from the car rental company website that there is this "london city congestion surcharge" or some sorts, but in my case, it's not applicable for me since I'm not driving into the city centre right? How about the availability of petrol stations along this route? Are the opening hours of petrol stations in UK generally 24x7 or they operate during office hours only? I ask because if indeed they operate during office hours, that would imply that I would need to carefully plan ahead my route and especially pinpoint those petrol stations with reasonable distance apart from one another, lest my rented car runs out of petrol before I reach the next petrol station and leaves me stranded in the middle of nowhere!! I am also somewhat concerned about the traffic jams and congestion along the above mentioned expressways during the Sat to Mon period.

If the above option (1) is deemed too much of a hassle or cost ineffective, would taking the train be a better alternative instead? I could instead:

(i) Take the train/coach from Airport to Sheffield, then train from Sheffield to Exeter, then train/coach from Exeter to London City Centre directly

(ii) Take the train/coach from Airport to Sheffield, then train/coach from Sheffield back to London City Centre directly, then train from London City Centre to Exeter, then train/coach from Exeter back to London City Centre. A quick check on the web shows that apparently, the costs of the train ticket for the Sheffield to Exeter leg is unusually expensive and hence, I thought of this option (ii) instead.

I apologise for the lengthly post though. Any inputs would be deeply appreciated please. Thanks a lot!!

Dingle, Ireland
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1. Re: London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

An awful lot of driving for a sleep over in Sheffield and one in Exeter, and it is a bank holiday weekend when the world and his wife will be on the road. All on busy motorways. London to Sheffield should take around 4 hours but is anyone's guess. I would urge you to take the train for safety's sake, yours and others.

Bingley, United...
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2. Re: London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

Awful lot of driving after a long haul flight

Bodmin, United...
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3. Re: London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

It's a long drive to Sheffield straight off an overnight flight when you may be very tired. Also you need to factor in the time it takes to actually collect the car.

I would say get the train. And don't go from Sheffield to Exeter via London, that's just taking the time out from your already short time in Exeter.

You will need to book train tickets in advance, best fares are normally found about 12 weeks prior to travel, but as this is a bank holiday weekend, they may not be on sale till a couple of weeks later.

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4. Re: London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

I assume you have really good reasons for going to Sheffield and Exeter for a few hours? This is a huge amount of travelling for hardly any v time at the locations.

Train isn't a bad option. There are a couple of direct trains a day from Sheffield to Exeter, will take about 4.5 hours. Book well in advance as will be expensive. Exeter to London is 2 hours, quicker by train then car. You might want to look at coach options to Sheffield as well as train.

Sheffield
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5. Re: London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

Either National Express coach to Sheffield or tube to Kings Cross/St Pancras (direct by Piccadilly Line) and Midland Mainline train from St Pancras to Sheffield. Where in Sheffield do you want to go? Onwards by taxi or tram.

Direct Cross Country train from Sheffield to Exeter St David's.

First Great Western train from Exeter to Reading, bus to Heathrow.

Train information is at nationalrail.com

It's a heck of a lot of travelling - is it about universities?

Sheffield
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6. Re: London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

Corrections

East Midlands Trains - not Midland Mainline

and website is nationalrail.co.uk

Edited: 14 February 2014, 08:42
Portland, Oregon
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7. Re: London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

Excuse me for asking, but why are you arriving at London, going 150 miles north for one night, then 200-250 miles south for one night, and then 150 miles back to London?

To me that's insane, unless it's a business trip in which case sort out better flights/arrangements and charge them to your company - like fly to Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds-Bradford or East Midlands on May 3 (and even fly to Exeter from a nearby airport if flights are available).

Otherwise, let us know more about the reasons for this and your plans, or re plan your trip.

Edited: 14 February 2014, 08:48
Cotswolds
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8. Re: London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

Do NOT rent a car straight off a long haul flight

Get the bus or train to Sheffield, rent the car there and return it to Heathrow on the way back from Exeter and get the tube into central London

OR (better) get the train from Sheffield to Exeter (£60 ish if booked now, £155 on the day) and from Exeter to London. Cheap advance fares for this leg are not yet on sale and won't be until FGW have sorted themselves out after the flooding.

However there's a superoffpeak single (walk on) at £46 which is not too bad - that's a temporary special offer which may not be there nearer the time and may be worth buying now. It's normally £60 plus

Advance fares, when available, will be cheaper than that though - they start around £13 and £30 ish is common

Edited: 14 February 2014, 08:51
Dingle, Ireland
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9. Re: London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

USBT,

this has me puzzled too. Unlikely to be a business trip on a Bank Holiday weekend though.

UK
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10. Re: London -- Sheffield -- Exeter -- London

I was wondering if its university visits, but I would doubt there would be anyone there over the bank holiday weekend.