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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 on your tickets!

coaches national express megabus

Credit: (background) steved_np3, (top) Michaelpuche, (bottom) AL Robinson – Shutterstock

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 ahead of you, the amount of dosh you'll be able to save if you travel by coach will make it well worth the back pain and leg cramp. Promise!

AND it's also possible to make the cheap option even cheaper. We've got tips on how you can find the best deals on coach travel (even how to get a whopping 25% off a trip), plus the best companies to travel with.

Cheapest coach and bus companies

These are the best coach companies for students looking to save money on bus fares and tickets:

  1. Megabus

    megabus cheap coach tickets

    You've probably seen Megabus coaches out on the road. They're normally identifiable by their garish blue and bright yellow branding, so they're hard to miss!

    The deals they offer (such as £1 or £3 tickets going to major UK cities) can seem a bit too good to be true, but they really are just crazily cheap.

    You can also get 10% off your Megabus journey if you book online with a TOTUM/NUS Extra card.

    Check out Megabus »

  2. National Express

    cheap coach ticket national express

    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.

    You can get a third off the price of your ticket by using a Young Person's coachcard (more on this later...) for £12.50 a year, but these cards can't be used for savings with Megabus.

    If you don't travel enough to justify a coach card, National Express also offer a 20% discount on full price fares to TOTUM/NUS Extra cardholders (15% for UNiDAYS).

    Check out National Express »

  3. Snap

    snap coach bus cheap

    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 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.

    And remember, if you sign up through up our Snap link you get 25% off a return journey!

    Check out Snap »

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, and although their prices may not be too different (if at all) than booking through the operator directly, 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 remembering to take into consideration both student discounts!

Before you make any booking commitments, make sure you check out our student travel deals page to see what's up for grabs.

How to save money on coach and bus fares

Follow these tips to get the best deals on coach and bus tickets:

  1. Buy a National Express Coachcard

    national express coach

    Credit: Michaelpuche – Shutterstock

    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 well worth investing in a Young Persons Coachcard (just like the 16–25 railcard but for coaches).

    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 a railcard (without a discount), but it's worth noting that they only work on National Express coaches.

  2. Switch bank accounts

    lloyds and tsb banks

    Credit: Barry Barnes – Shutterstock

    Bear with us on this one! Did you know that some banks offer free Coachcards as an incentive when you sign up to a student account with them?

    Both NatWest and RBS currently offer a free 4-year coachcard when you open a student account with them. And it's easier to switch banks now than it's ever been!

    Check out our guide to the best student bank accounts this year, plus what other freebies are up for grabs!

  3. Book coach tickets in advance

    red alarm clock

    Credit: samritk – Shutterstock

    Sometimes easier said than done, of course, but if you do know the dates you'd like to travel well 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 lowest 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.

  4. Break your journey up into multiple stops

    kit kat chocolate bar

    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 come at a much cheaper price.

  5. Check if other destinations close by are cheaper

    dog on computer

    Credit: Kalamurzing - Shutterstock

    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!

  6. Travel off-peak

    empty motorway

    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!

    Off-peak times typically 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 to battle with!

  7. Look out for deals

    girl with binoculars

    Every now and then, companies such as Megabus give away free tickets (although there is a 50p booking fee), and often their fares can be as low as £1!

    Keep an eye on our travel deals page, and like our Facebook page for the latest offers before booking a journey.

Still prefer train to coach travel? We won't judge – but just make sure you know when you're due a refund!


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