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Curious about train travel in the U.K.?
Oh to be in England! Or Scotland - both wonderful - my "favourite" places in the world. Part of my love for them is based on how easy it is to travel around without renting a car. I hate renting cars - it's expensive, difficult, and somewhat scary, especially in a foreign country...where they drive on the other side of the road. I also don't like group tours - I like to see what I want to see, when I want to see it and I don't love paying a bunch to have those privileges taken away from me!
Luckily, England and Scotland are both easily accessible for tourists using public transit. So let's discuss how to explore England and Scotland by train, and the best places to visit in the UK without a car!
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Train travel in England and Scotland
It is extremely easy to see much of England and Scotland relying solely on public transit from the major cities, and continuing to rely on it to get around when you arrive in your destination.
Many first-time tourists overspend on private day tours or rent expensive rental cars, mistakenly believing that is the only way to see disparate sites through England and Scotland. While these tours may sound appealing, they allow for less freedom than you'd expect and, if you're anything like me, you may end up stuck with a guide providing more commentary than you'd actually enjoy.
The Tube in London is one of the greatest metros in the world. It can get you - quickly and easily - essentially anywhere a tourist wants to be in the capital. London, and large and small cities in England and Scotland, have efficient bus systems as well, to aid you beyond the train travel we're discussing.
Edinburgh is not large enough to require a metro/subway, but it does have a tram-on-tracks that tools around the city. We haven't ever taken advantage of it, as we're huge walkers and Edinburgh is a very walkable city, but it's an option, if you're interested!
Also, if the best part of a day trip is visiting the local pub (which it just clearly is), I'd rather do this without someone I don't know waiting in the car. Renting a car in foreign countries is also, of course, expensive, and driving with different rules of the road is complicated, to say the least.
And, finally, of course with no language barrier in the UK if you're coming from the US, you have the added public-safety-usage key fact of being able to ask for help if you get confused, understand the signs, etc., though I will say that it is all extremely straight-forward, once you get started!
So, have a I sufficiently established that you can handle public transit in the U.K.? Then let's talk tips!
General Tips for Train Travel in England and Scotland
UK train travel: Money saving tip
It is often significantly cheaper to buy your train tickets in advance. Rail Europe is my usual choice. If you know when you'll be traveling, definitely look into locking down those tickets well before your trip.
Of course, that said, sometimes the convenience of being able to change your plans or a desire to take a spur-of-the-moment trip, makes the extra expense worth it! Be sure to check into ticket prices for your awareness, so you don't have an unpleasant price tag at the station.
UK train travel:
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