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8 ways to get cheap coach tickets

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Can't afford to shell out on overpriced train tickets? Travel by coach instead! It's much cheaper and, with these tips, you'll save even more money on your tickets.

Woman with travel ticket and coach

Credit: Bagus Production, Pajor Pawel – Shutterstock

Before heading straight to book a train ticket for your next journey, remind yourself that trains can be even more expensive than flights these days.

As comfortable as taking a train or driving in your car can be on a long journey, the amount of money you'll be able to save travelling by coach will make it worth it.

Plus, it's possible to get coach tickets for even less. We've got tips on how you can find the best deals on coach travel, as well as the best companies to travel with.

Cheapest coach and bus companies

These are the best coach companies for cheap fares and tickets:

  1. megabus

    megabus logo

    You've most likely seen megabus coaches out on the road. They're identifiable by their bright blue and yellow branding, making them hard to miss.

    The deals they offer (such as coach tickets for a few quid) can seem too good to be true, but they are just extremely cheap.

    You can also get 10% off your megabus journey if you book online with a TOTUM card.

    Check out megabus »


  2. National Express

    cheap coach ticket national express

    National Express is one of the longest-running coach companies in the UK, so you can rely on their sturdy reputation when it comes to getting you from A to B.

    You can get a third off the price of your ticket by using a Young Persons Coachcard (more on this later...) for £15 a year (or £35 for three years). However, these cards can't be used for savings with any other coach company.

    If you don't travel enough to justify a Coachcard, National Express also offers a 15% student discount on full-price fares.

    Check out National Express »


  3. FlixBus

    Flixbus Logo

    Launching in Germany in 2013, FlixBus are new to the scene when it comes to cheap coach travel, especially in the UK. They weren't available here until 2020 when routes opened up between a number of popular cities.

    Nowadays, routes take you to well-loved destinations such as London, Manchester, Edinburgh and many more. You can even use them to travel to a limited number of airports on your next getaway. If you try this along with our tips for getting cheap flights, you’ll be able to keep your travel costs down.

    FlixBus offers some of the cheapest coach tickets around. With prices starting from just a few quid, you can truly bag a bargain.

    In fact, at the time of writing, a ticket between Leicester and London cost as little as £3.49. That's less than half the price of the same journey with National Express.

    While it will vary by destination, it's worth doing a bit of price comparison to find the best deal. Plus, FlixBus offers student discounts when you book via their app. Although the amount varies, you can typically get 11% – 20% off.

    Check out FlixBus »


Coach and bus ticket booking sites

Of course, you don't have to buy your coach and bus tickets directly through megabus or National Express.

There are other 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. It's just a matter of searching for your date of travel and destination to see what comes up. Also, don’t forget to use your student discount!

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 tickets

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

  1. Buy a National Express Coachcard

    National Express coach

    If you'll be doing a decent amount of travelling, at just £15 for a year's pass (or £35 for three years), it's worth investing in a Young Persons Coachcard. It's similar to the 16–25 Railcard, but for coach travel. You can buy them on the National Express site.

    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 15% off travel to festivals and events as well as a £15 day return offer on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays.

    Coachcards are about £15 cheaper than railcards (without a discount), but it's worth noting that they only work on National Express coaches.

    In the past, we've known some banks to offer free Coachcards as an incentive when you sign up to a student bank account so keep an eye out for similar offers.

  2. Book coach tickets in advance

    It's sometimes easier said than done, but if you know the dates you'd like to travel far in advance, you could save a lot of money.

    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.

  3. Break your journey up into multiple stops

    The easiest, most comfortable and least stressful way to travel by coach is to get one bus that takes you directly to your destination.

    But, if you're on a tight budget, it might be worth checking out other options. Sometimes, booking a ticket that involves a bit of a detour or a bus change somewhere along the line will be cheaper.

  4. 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. Make sure to do the maths to see if this still works out as a cheaper option.

  5. Travel off-peak

    Travelling at less popular times will almost always be cheaper, simply because there's less demand for the tickets.

    If there's no need for you to be at 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 recommend doing so.

    Getting off-peak coach tickets usually means travelling in the middle of the day or night, and avoiding weekends. On top of that, your journey is likely to be shorter during off-peak times as there's less traffic on the roads.

  6. Look out for deals

    Now and then, companies like megabus give away free tickets (although there is a £1 booking fee), and often their fares can be as low as £1!

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

  7. Use loyalty cards

    If you're a fan of collecting loyalty card points, see if you can use your points for discounted bus tickets.

    For example, you can use your Tesco Clubcard points to buy bus and coach tickets (and railcards). When cashing in your points for discounts with a Reward Partner, you'll get even more bang for your buck.

    At the time of writing, every £1 in Clubcard points is worth £2 in megabus vouchers or £2 to put towards the National Express Annual Young Persons Coachcard. If you want to get National Express vouchers, you'll get £10 for every £5 in Clubcard points. Note that you may have to pay a booking fee though.

  8. Shop around for the best price

    As we mentioned earlier, doing a bit of price comparison can save you cash. Even if it's just a few pounds, it adds up if you travel often.

    Before booking your next trip, check out multiple websites to compare prices and opt for the cheapest option. Trust us, you'll thank yourself later.

If you decide to spend a little extra to travel by train, make sure you know when you're due a refund.

Jake Butler

WRITTEN BY Jake Butler

Jake joined Save the Student in 2010 and is the COO. As an expert across student finance, Jake has appeared on The BBC, The Guardian, Which?, ITV, Channel 5 and many other outlets. He particularly enjoys sharing tips on saving money and making extra money with opportunities like paid surveys and part-time jobs.
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