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Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

Sarasota, Florida
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Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

Hello TALFers!

First, I’d like to say thank you for all the wonderful advice and tips; you’ve helped me tremendously in planning for my trip to London and Avalon, which begins on November 15! To say I’m excited is the understatement of the year!

This is the first trip I’ve actually planned on my own (that’s usually my husband’s job), from booking the airline tickets and hotels to planning an itinerary. It’s also the first trip that I’ll be traveling partially on my own. While part of me is really excited about doing some of this trip solo, the other part is just a wee bit nervous. Reading some of the female solo traveler trip reports has been quite helpful in quieting the butterflies. I don’t think I could have pulled it all together without this forum!

Thanks to your great advice, I can definitely say you’ve covered the basics for me. I’ve probably collected half a dozen links for the weather and check them regularly. I’ve pretty much decided to be prepared for everything and anything in the weather department! lol! I’ve been mentally packing my suitcase since the summer, and know to pack clothing that can be worn in layers. I’ll definitely be packing two pairs of comfortable shoes. It’s keeping it to just two pairs that going to be the problem. I’ve even applied for a Capital One credit card to avoid having to pay foreign transaction fees. Right now, I’m just hoping it gets here before I leave on my trip.

You’ve given me many wonderful and different ideas for my itinerary. I have almost five days in London before heading to Avalon. I’m keeping my itinerary very loose and flexible but I know I’ll definitely be including the London Eye, an Original London Walk (The London Walk – Westminster and the West End), and then I thought a Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour (it’s between the Original Tour and The Big Bus Company). Thanks to one of the posters here, I even have directions on where to find the Tardis, which I’ll definitely be hunting down!  And, as an added bonus, I get to see the city all decorated for the holidays!

One of the hotels I’ll be using during my stay in London is the Parkcity. And, I must say, I’ve been following the discussion about this hotel with some interest. For a while there, after reading some of the more negative reviews, I was beginning to have some doubts about my choice. However, I felt infinitely better after reading that one of the TALFers (I believe it was adamhornets) actually went to see it himself. How great was that! Again, this forum has been invaluable in planning my trip.

Another item on my “want to do” list is Afternoon Tea. I’ve been reading over all the great posts on this subject. As I’ll be in London on Thanksgiving Day, I thought that would be the perfect day to splurge and finally decided on The Ritz for Afternoon Tea. Unfortunately, I waited too long and they are totaled booked for that day. But, as nice as that would have been, the tea reports on the Wolseley and Lanesborough sound great too. I’m going to look into them next.

Okay, so here’s where I need that great TALF help. I’m trying to finish up my transportation arrangements. My first question regards the HEX. I’ve pretty much decided to take the HEX from the airport into London. I’d like to book my tickets ahead of time using the great discount promo code I read about on this forum. I was wondering if anyone could tell me the difference between Express Class and First Class. Is it worth the increase in price for first class? Also, I was wondering about the distance from Paddington Station to The Parkcity? Would I be able to walk or is it definitely a taxi ride distance? I hate to admit it, but I’m seriously challenged when it comes to trying to judge distances! The other HEX question I have concerns the Meeter/Greeter Express Class ticket they offer. I need to head back out to Heathrow to meet my friend who will be joining me for Part 2 of my trip and this ticket sounds like a great idea. Has anyone used this type of ticket before? Any problems? It looks like this ticket can only be bought at Paddington Station isn’t subject to the discount, but it’s still less expensive than a discounted Express Class Return ticket would be.

My next transportation question concerns traveling on the tube. I’ve read tons about the travel cards and the oyster cards and still can’t seem to decide what route to go. For someone who has 5 days in London, but is keeping a very flexible schedule, what would you recommend? I know most of the things I’d be interested in seeing are in Zones 1 and 2, with a possible trip to Wimbledon being the one thing outside those zones. So, a 3 Day Peak Travelcard, or a 3 Day Off Peak Travelcard (Zones 1-6) supplemented by single day tickets, if needed. Or just go with a 7 Day Oyster card? Or, none of the above and just do the single day tickets?

The last transportation question I have, and the one I’m most concerned about, is for booking a railroad ticket. I need to go from London (Paddington Station) to Avalon (Castle Cary Station) on Friday, November 24 returning to London on Sunday, November 26. I’ve been looking at the National Rail website (http://nationalrail.co.uk/index.html). If I’m looking at the fare table correctly, the best deal may be booking single fare tickets each way instead of a return fare ticket. Does that seem correct? Also, I can’t seem to find any information that explains the difference between Standard Class and First Class or what Single A, Single B, Single C signifies. For example, on November 24 I’m seeing a single fare outbound ticket (leaving at 13:15) that I think may be a viable option. However, under Journey Option, I’m seeing two options that are available, both are the same price (£21.00), but one is a Standard Class Leisure Advance Single A ticket and the other is First Class Leisure Advance Single C ticket. Aah, my head is ready to explode! Any help with this would be greatly appreciated.

Hmmm, I know I probably have a few more questions for you, but as this post turned out to be much longer than I anticipated, I’ll end it here.

Again, TALFers, thank you for all your help. This forum has not only been highly informative but it’s a just been a delight to read in general.

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

You are prepared! Now, having been mentally packing since summer, have you now started to make a small stack of things to go, or are you still in the planning stage? Time is ticking, you know!

Well then, to the HEX. The trip takes 15 minutes, so going First isn't worth the extra ££, in my view. Standard class is just fine, and the whole train arrives at Paddington, not just First, so save your money and go Standard. Meeter greeter tickets are another form of Cheap Day Return - not a bad deal. The tickets will be like any other rail ticket - they'll have a magnetic strip on the back, so the system will be able to read the conditions under which you travel. If it works for you, go for it.

It's a fair schlep from Paddington to the Park City - all the way across Kensington Gardens, through Kensington, and almost to Earl's Court. I would take the tube to either Gloucester Road or Earl's Court and then walk, but if you'd like to take a taxi, it shouldn't cost more than £10, depending on time of day.

For five days in London, I'd buy a seven day Travelcard on Oyster. No traipsing to the station or to a shop every couple of days for a new ticket, and if you add an extra £5 of Pay As You Go money on it, you're set for Wimbledon - but - a seven day card for zones 1 and 2 is £22.20, and 1-3 is just £26.00. If you think you'll go to Wimbledon once, then PAYG from zone 2 to zone 3 is just £1.

National Rail fares - yeesh. Evidently there are over 700 fare combinations, so you're not alone in getting eyestrain looking at them. If you click on each of the fares you see, a new window should open, with the details of the fare. A Single A may require a 14 day advance booking, Single B seven day advance, and a Single C possibly three day advance. I'm guessing that the First Single C needs to be booked further in advance than the Leisure Single A. The fare info window will also tell you if the ticket is valid for any rail service or just one company, whether or not railcards are accepted, and if there's flexibility in the fare. Try clicking on the fare - I hope the info window opens for you.

As far as more questions go, ask away.

somewhere out there
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2. Re: Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

My word you are prepared!

No need to go first class on the HEX, it's quite nice enough in 2nd.

If you are new to London then take a taxi to your hotel, this will save you having to learn the underground system with jetlag and luggage.

To meet your friend at the airport you would be better taking the Picadilly line from Earl's Court/Gloucester rd, directly to LHR, this will save you having to traipse all the way to Paddington, to LHR and back. By then you will know your way around and will find it an easy job to do.

I would be inclined to by a three day travel card and two one day ones--you can buy them all at the same time and so don't have to go to the ticket window more than once--rather than the Oyster card for which you have to pay a £3 'deposit' for the actual card.

For any trips outside zones 1-2 you can buy an 'extention' ticket at the ticket window on day of travel.

For National Rail--if you figure out the fare system, let me know as I am still working on understanding it!

Basically though, just buy the cheapest ticket available, standard class is just fine, first just costs more and gives you a slightly bigger seat.

Bingley, United...
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3. Re: Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

If you are going to a hotel near Earls Court / Gloucester Road why on earth are you taking the HEX?

Just get the Tube DIRECT from Heathrow.

Ditto for your return trip to Heathrow to collect your friend

As for passes just get the one day off peak tickets for the zones you need that day.

2 single train tickets being cheaper than a return is quite feasible especially for cheap fares

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4. Re: Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

Like Alanrow, doesn't seem worth going over to Paddington for the HEX if you're at Earls Court. I can appreciate its your first time to London but if assuming you're a couple by the time you pay for a taxi to Paddington plus the HEX fare it'll be as cheap just to get a cab to Heathrow.

If you take the Underground to Paddington, doesn't make sense when the Underground goes direct to Heathrow in about 35 minutes from Earls Court.

Also with regards your Paddington - Castle Carey train for 'Avalon'. I always associate 'Avalon' with Glastonbury which is the main town. IF you're going to Glastonbury, do you realise Castle Carey is 15 miles from Glastonbury.

An alternative to rail is a daily National Express coach direct to Glastonbury from London Victoria (4 stops on the Underground from Earls Court)

London, United...
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5. Re: Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

For travel within London for 5 days the 7 day travelcard will probably be cheapest - 5 single day travelcards would cost you about £25 (if you travel only after 9.30), a 3 day plus two one days will cost about the same. If going to wimbledon on the tube you can just put £2 extra on the 7 day oyster card (ie £1 each way) and the fare should be automatically deducted. Total would still be roughly the same or slightly less than the other options. You can do the same (by adding more money) if going to Heathrow on the tube. If you're going to Earl's Court the tube is probably the best option - level access at Heathrow - and it's unlikely to be too busy starting here, lifts if you need them at Earls Court.

For First Great Western to Castle Cary, there are 2 main types of tickets - walk up and advance purchase. Walk up fares, such as Saver and Open are available up to the day you travel and don't tie you to any particular train. They're generally more expensive, and returns are cheaper.

Advance fares must be bought at least a day before you travel, and are sold as singles, they can be much cheaper than walk-up fares, but you must travel on the train booked. The ticket numbers are limited and are at varying price levels, A, B, and C. They all have the same validity, but theoretically the cheaper 'C' tickets sell out first, then B, then C, so the earlier you book the cheaper it is. There is the same system for first class - the advantage of this is generally less distance to walk and lounge at Paddington, bigger seats/more space, service of drinks, snacks and newspaper on train. On the Heathrow Express there is little point paying for 1st, as it's only 15 mins, but if you can get it on the Castle Cary train for little or no more money it's definately worth it.

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6. Re: Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

What a wonderful post. It's the sort of thing that makes all that we try to do worthwhile. Thanks for the kind words.

You may have read that there are a group of TALFers who are going to be enjoying tea at The Ritz on the 23rd. Some of that group are also planning to meet other TALFers in the nearby Red Lion pub around 7.30. You are more than welcome to join us. More details -


Another thing about the hop on/hop off tours that I learnt today. During the winter (from November 15th) The Original London Tour will make their tickets valid for 48 hours. I would expect Big Bus to offer the same.

As others have said the tube from Heathrow will be cheaper and possibly nearly as quick as The HEX. The Park City is no more than a 10 minute walk from either Earls Court or Gloucester Road. Having said that if you have a lot of luggage and you don't mind the extra cost then the HEX followed by a taxi is quick and easy. Personally I would go with a 7 day travelcard on Oyster. It's a one off payment, you get a nice card in a wallet, you can travel within zones 1&2 whenever you like and the £3 deposit is currently being waived.

Now to train fares! A look at www.thetrainline.com reveals that the 13.15 train you were thinking of involves two changes. For the same cost you could take a direct train that leaves Paddington at 12.18 that gets into Castle Cary at 14.07, a journey that would nearly an hour less. A saver return purchased on day of travel is priced at £51 compared to two singles at £15.50 each so it's certainly worth buying those singles in advance as long as you realise that you must travel on the services that you have booked for.

If you have trouble buying the tickets online (I think you need a UK postcode) try typing the postcode of the Parkcity. You can then collect the tickets from a machine at Paddington although you must print off your confirmation and bring the credit card you booked with.

I do hope that makes sense but please do ask again if it doesn't or indeed if you have any other questions.


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7. Re: Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

magnets Its: Everyone else has done a great job of answering your questions, so I just wanted to say welcome to the forum! And, yes, do please join us at the TALF pub meet on 11/23.

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8. Re: Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

Just a tip about Castle Cary - this station is actually located just outside a small village - do NOT assume there will be a taxi waiting to take you to Avalon, unless you have pre-booked one of course. I assume that you have seen the advice in this web page isleofavalon.co.uk/pilgrims/visit-transport.… which seems to be up to date.

Sarasota, Florida
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9. Re: Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

Hello again, TALFers!

Thank you all for your warm welcome and quick and kind responses to my questions! You’ve really helped to bring things into focus for me.

TravellerPlus, I’ve definitely moved on to the stacking stage. I’ve already got piles of “trip clothes” scattered around the bedroom.

anemone, Thanks for your thoughts on the Express vs. First Class on the HEX. That’s exactly what I wanted to know.

Alanrow, ~If you are going to a hotel near Earls Court / Gloucester Road why on earth are you taking the HEX?~

LOL! In a nutshell, because I’m just a little bit chicken! Adam hit it exactly when he said, "Having said that if you have a lot of luggage and you don’t mind the extra cost then the HEX followed by a taxi is quick and easy." I’m figuring quick and easy is the best route for a chicken with little sense of direction. Although, you’ve certainly given me a great alternative to ponder now.

handfordr, Yes, Glastonbury/Avalon is where I’m going. I’ve been lumping the two places together in my mind as they’re so close. My hotel is actually in Wells. Yes, I did read that the Castle Cary train station is a bit away from Glastonbury and I’ll need to arrange transport from there to my hotel. Castle Cary is the train station I do want though, correct?

KNRB, Thank you for your great explanation regarding the A, B, C fare structure of the tickets. For the life of me, I could not figure that out. Now it seems so logical. Hmmm, I like your thoughts regarding getting a first class ticket for the trip to Glastonbury. I’ll definitely keep it in mind when booking my ticket.

"Walk up fares, such as Saver and Open are available up to the day you travel and don't tie you to any particular train." So let me see if I understand this correctly. If I buy a Saver or Open ticket I can take any train leaving on that day? However, if I buy a single ticket I’m tied into the specific time I choose?

adamhornets, Thank you for the kind invite to join the TALFers at the Red Lion pub. If I can arrange it, I would definitely like to stop by and thank you all in person for all the great help you’ve given me.

Wow, 48 hours for the Original London Hop On/Hop Off bus tour. That’s great to know.

Also, thank you for noting that the ticket I was looking at involved two changes. I definitely don’t want to be changing trains. I’ve been back to do a little more research, checking now between www.thetrainline.com and http://nationalrail.co.uk/index.html and I swear I seem to come up with different options each time I plug in my dates. lol!

Ouch, looks like I just missed a decent First Class ticket fare. Just when I made a decision on a ticket and went back to book it that price wasn’t showing up anymore. It figures! lol!

Also, just to double check, Paddington Station is where I want to be leaving from, right?

LeeB., Thank you for the warm welcome to the forum. You’re so right, everyone has done another great job in answering all my questions. Thanks to all the help, I’ve been busy tonight doing more research and making some final decisions.

I do hope I’ll get a chance to say hello to you all on 11/23!

Phil-the-bus, Thank you for the reminder about the taxi at Castle Cary. I had read that there is a taxi station there but I didn’t realize I should prebook it. That’s definitely on the “to do” list now!

Again, many, many thanks TALFers! :-)

Sydney, Australia
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10. Re: Hello, Thank You, and Some Transportation Questions

Wow, you've planned everything!

On the subject of getting to Glastonbury (particularly if you're staying in Wells) , have you considered renting a car rather than trying to do it by public transport and taxis?

It's a long way for a taxi from Castle Cary to Glastonbury OR Wells, and then no small taxi ride again between Wells and G'bury. And as an earlier poster said, Castle Cary station is a very small place and you'd definitely have to pre-book taxis, which adds hassle to the not inconsiderable expense

Getting round rural England is MUCH easier if you have a car, in many areas (like the one I live in) it's pretty much essential

I would also take the tube from Heathrow. It's not that much hassle with luggage (there is space set aside in the Picc line carriages) and if you get off at Earl's Court there are also lifts providing step-free access to the street. For that journey it will probably be as quick, and definitely cheaper, than taking the Heathrow Express