Jul 2006

Travelling Dublin-London

I recently popped over to the UK for a few days. I spent a day in London, then a couple of days in West Sussex and then returned to Dublin. It’s possible that I may make that trip — to see gigs or visit friends — several times a year, so I wanted to find a cheap way of doing it that didn’t involve the airline industry.

We’ve all got an obligation to avail of less energy-extravagant, and less polluting, forms of transport where possible. Having taken far more than my fair share of flights, that’s an obligation I’ve begun to feel quite keenly. Which is not to say that I’ll never fly again… I still plan on visiting the United States at least once more, and who knows where else life will take me… but where there’s a practical alternative – even if it’s more expensive – then I’ll avoid planes.

And having visited the Ryanair website and seen the advertisements for the 99 cent Dublin-London flights, it’s inevitable that the alternatives will indeed be more expensive.

Or so you’d think. But in reality those 99 cent flights are only available to a select few individuals… people, who by virtue of their peculiar diplomatic status, don’t have to pay the fuel surcharge and airport taxes. Because, you see, those 99 cent flights (or €1.98 return) cannot actually be purchased without also spending over 50 euro on surcharges and taxes. It’s the same for every other low cost airline. The same for Aerlingus.

In fact, it’s not possible to get a return flight from Dublin to London for less than the €51.40 charged by the taxmen at both airports. This is still a scandalously low price, don’t get me wrong, but do bear it in mind when you see a poster advertising flights for 99 cent.

Especially as you can get a coach for €35. And no hidden extras. In fact, it’s possible you may be able to do it even cheaper than that, but I’m a sucker for publicly owned public transport, so even if they don’t offer the best deal I’m going to go with Bus Éireann. I doubt – after all – that you’ll do much better than 35 euro.

12 Hours

Anyways, that’s the problem. It’s a 12 hour journey. And I’m 6’1″… which is too tall to spend 7 hours sitting in the narrow seat directly in front of the hyperactive six year old who throws up near Birmingham.

You see, it’s bearable to have a 7 hour coach trip followed by a 4 hour ferry crossing. The return journey is — relatively speaking — a breeze. Because although the ferry is too bright, too loud, and you can never get properly comfortable; it’s nonetheless a glorious relief after 7 hours cooped up in a coach between London and Holyhead.

But having disembarked from the vaguely hostile environment of the ferry, 7 hours in a coach is a terrifying prospect. Especially when idiotic parents feed their already-wired child with cola and chocolate.

Which is why, next time I make the journey, I’ve decided to get the train from Holyhead to London. It adds an extra €15 to the total cost of the trip (still cheaper than the airport taxes though), and it doesn’t save a huge amount of time (thanks to the faff of changing at Crewe), but trains are far more comfortable than coaches.

So yeah, 50 euro round trip from Dublin to London… coach-ferry-train / coach-ferry-coach. Cheaper than flying, better for the planet, and you get to do some reading. Yay!

NOTE: The environmental benefits of taking the coach are established, and discussed, in this entry.

Some links (update February 2012)

This post is the second most popular one on my blog. So I’ve added a couple of recent links for people looking for information on travelling from Dublin to London without using a plane. I don’t want to give the impression that these links constitute a commercial endorsement of these companies, but they do provide a very useful service for those of us seeking to avoid air travel for environmental (or other) reasons.

  • Stena Line Sail and Rail: Offering an integrated ferry and train ticket between most mainline destinations in Ireland and the UK. Approximately €50 for a ticket on the day of travel between Dublin and London (with a slight discount for advance booking).
  • Bus Éireann Eurolines: Offering a combined ferry and coach service between destinations in Ireland and the UK.
  • Bus Éireann: Bus Éireann website. For coach travel within Ireland.
  • Irish Rail: Irishrail.ie. For train travel within Ireland.
  • Dublin Bus: For bus routes and timetables in Dublin.
  • Luas.ie: For the Dublin Luas (light rail) system.

Hope this helps!

Posted in: Opinion