7 ways to get cheap coach tickets
Can't afford to shell out on overpriced train tickets? Travel by coach instead – it's miles cheaper, and with these tips, you'll save even more money on your tickets...
Before heading straight to book a train ticket for your next journey, it's worth reminding yourself that trains can be even more expensive than flights these days.
As comfortable as taking a train or driving in your own car can be if you have a long journey, the amount of money you'll be able to save if you travel by coach will make it well worth the back pain and leg cramp – we promise.
Plus, it's actually possible to get coach tickets for even less. We've got tips on how you can find the best deals on coach travel (including how to get a huge 25% off a trip), plus the best companies to travel with.
Cheapest coach and bus companies
These are the best coach companies for cheap fares and tickets:
You've most likely seen Megabus coaches out on the road. They're identifiable by their bright blue and yellow branding, so they're hard to miss.
The deals they offer (such as coach tickets from £1.50) can seem a bit too good to be true, but they really are just extremely cheap.
You can also get 10% off your Megabus journey if you book online with a TOTUM/NUS Extra card.
National Express is the longest-running coach company in the UK, so you can rely on their sturdy reputation when it comes to getting you from A to B with the least amount of fuss possible.
Snap is a new player on the coach scene and, unlike National Express and Megabus, it doesn't have its own fleet of buses.
Instead, Snap matches up groups of people who are all looking to make a similar journey and puts them on a bus run by what they describe as some of the UK's top independent coach operators.
One of the bonuses of Snap is that you can create your own custom route and share it with people in your network. Then, if enough people sign up for it, Snap will run the service – perfect if you're part of a uni society!
Of course, Snap does depend on enough users wanting to take a specific journey for it to take place – but for popular routes, this shouldn't be a huge problem.
Usually, if you sign up through up our Snap link, you can get 25% off a return journey. However, this offer has been paused due to coronavirus – keep an eye out as we're hoping it will resume again soon.
Coach and bus ticket booking sites
Of course, you don't have to buy your coach and bus tickets directly through Snap, Megabus or National Express.
There are loads of sites where you can book coach tickets. Although their prices may not be too different compared to tickets bought directly from the coach or bus operator, some of the apps and websites are a lot easier to use. What's more, some will also have cashback offers.
Some of the most popular sites for booking bus and coach tickets include:
In terms of prices, National Express and Megabus tend to offer similar fares, so it's just a matter of searching for your date of travel and destination to see what comes up – and keep in mind both student discounts.
How to save money on coach and bus fares
Follow these tips to get the best deals on coach and bus tickets:
Buy a National Express Coachcard
If you're going to be doing a decent amount of travelling, at just £12.50 for a year's pass (or £30 for three years), it's worth investing in a Young Persons Coachcard – it's similar to the 16–25 railcard, but for coach travel.
Young Persons Coachcards are available to full-time students and anyone aged between 16–26, and these cards will save you a third off Standard and Fully Flexible fares. But that's not all – you'll also get 10% off travel to festivals and events.
Coachcards are about £20 cheaper than railcards (without a discount), but it's worth noting that they only work on National Express coaches.
Switch bank accounts
Did you know that some banks offer free Coachcards as an incentive when you sign up to a student account with them?
Check out our guide to the best student bank accounts this year, plus what other freebies are up for grabs.
Book coach tickets in advance
It's sometimes easier said than done, but if you do know the dates you'd like to travel far in advance, this could see you saving a fairly substantial chunk on the price of your ticket.
Instead of putting off the expense until it's too late, book your tickets ASAP to get the best price. As painful as it may be to fork out for something early, you'll be comforted when you see how much more expensive the tickets are on your day of travel.
Break your journey up into multiple stops
Obviously the easiest, most comfortable and least stressful way to travel by coach is to just get one bus that takes you directly to your destination.
But, if you're on a really tight budget, it might be worth checking out a few other options. Sometimes booking a ticket that involves a bit of a detour or a bus change somewhere along the line will be cheaper.
Check if other destinations close by are cheaper
If you're using a ticket aggregator like CheckMyBus, widening the search mileage for your starting point and final destination can bring the price down a little.
Sometimes opting for the centre of cities can be more expensive, although the downside of choosing a location a little further out is that you might end up needing additional transport to reach your final destination. So, it's worth doing the maths to see if this still works out as a cheaper option.
Travelling at less popular times will almost always be cheaper, simply because the tickets are in less demand.
If there's no need for you to be in your destination at a particular time, you'll save more by being flexible. If you can carry out your journey at off-peak times, we'd definitely recommend doing so!
Getting off-peak coach tickets usually means travelling in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, and avoiding weekends.
A nice little added bonus is that your journey is likely to be shorter during off-peak times as there's less traffic on the roads.
Look out for deals
Every now and then, companies like Megabus give away free tickets (although there is a 50p booking fee), and often their fares can be as low as £1!
If you decide to spend a little extra to travel by train, make sure you know when you're due a refund.