Manchester is situated in the centre of England and is the countries sixth largest city (by population). Made famous worldwide for its impressive football team Manchester United, the city is visited by more than 1 million international and domestic tourists each year.
Meanwhile, London is the capital city of England. It’s the largest city in the country and has more than 30 million domestic and international tourists visiting each year.
There’s a stark contrast between the high rise buildings of London and the more northern feel of Manchester which is why I always advise those visiting England for the first time to visit both to truly experience the best of what English cities have to offer.
I’ve found the best way to travel the 200 miles between Manchester and London is on the train. However, the train isn’t always the cheapest method, so if you’re booking last minute you may want to opt for taking a coach (National Express or Megabus) instead.
Both trains and coaches run approximately every half hour between the two cities for the majority of the day so there’s certainly no shortage of options and always availability.
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As I briefly mentioned in the introduction, travelling by train is, in my opinion, the best way to get from Manchester to London (or vice-versa).
Trains run every 20 minutes between the two cities during the peak hours (7am until 7pm) so there’s certainly no shortage of availability. However, that doesn’t change the fact that travelling by train in England is incredibly expensive.
The 2-hour journey will cost around £60 one-way when booked around 4 weeks in advance. This price can go up to almost £200 if you plan to book tickets last minute and travel on the same or next day.
How To Save Money On A Train Journey In England
Luckily there are some things you can do to make a train journey in England slightly cheaper.
Book In Advance
Most tickets come out 12 weeks in advance, this is the cheapest time to book (in the case of Manchester to London I managed to get tickets for around £30 per person when looking 12 weeks in advance as appose to 4).
As the date, you’re looking to travel draws closer the price will increase. You can set to receive email alerts to remind you when tickets come on sale for your particular journey to ensure you don’t miss out on getting the best deal.
Book Using A Comparison Website
There are a number of different train companies that can run the same route in England. To avoid checking each of the companies websites indervidually you can check and book your train tickets using a comparison website.
My personal favourite website is Trainline. Trainline also has a mobile application which in most cases allows you to download the train ticket to your phone instead of having to collect physical tickets.
Being flexible in both the day and the time in which you’re willing to travel can have a major impact on the cost of a train journey between London and Manchester.
Trainline (and the majority of other train websites in England) often issues a prompt to tell you if there’s a cheaper price for your journey 3 days either side of the date you’re currently looking at. As you can see, the alert here tells me that I can save a further £5 by travelling on a different date instead.
However, changing the time of day you travel can also have an impact on the price you pay for your train journey. Sadly, this is something that has to be searched for manually but can be relatively straight forward.
Simply select the date you’re looking to travel and use the buttons at the top and bottom to change the times and look for a cheaper price.
In this case, I managed to find a train for £25 instead of £30 on the same day by taking the train at 9pm instead of a midday train.
Where Is London Euston Station
All trains heading to Manchester from London leave from London Euston Station. You can get to the station easily from elsewhere in London as it’s on the Victoria line of the London Underground.
While you could splurge on a taxi or get a bus, I generally find the easiest and often quickest way to get there is using the underground.
Being the countries sixth busiest station there’s always plenty going on at this station so be sure to arrive well in advance of your train to give yourself plenty of time before boarding. The boarding of a train usually starts around 15 minutes prior to the trains departure and doors close 1 minute before departure.
Depending on the train ticket you have you might be able to get on another train, however, this is often very unlikely (train tickets tend to correspond to the exact train you’re getting on) at which point you’ll have to pay full price for another ticket and being the same day this can often be £100+.
Where Is Manchester Piccadilly
There are four train stations situated in Manchester. Trains from London call at the largest station, Manchester Piccadilly which dates back to the 1800s.
Manchester Piccadilly is slightly east of the heart of the city around half a mile from the Gay Village and three-quarters of a mile from the Northern Quarter.
Getting to and from Manchester Piccadilly is relatively easy as Manchester is a well-connected city. Despite no underground like London there is a tram service which runs regularly around the city, as well as buses.
Private taxis are also around 30% cheaper when compared to London. You can use a local cab company upon your arrival into Manchester Piccadilly, get your hotel to arrange a taxi for you if you’re heading to the station or use the Uber service.
National Express tends to be the more expensive of the two but offer a slightly better service, meanwhile Megabus often has cheaper rates, however the service isn’t quite as luxurious.
A coach journey from Manchester to London or vice versa takes around 4 hours depending on the service stops and the time of day you travel. If you end up arriving into or leaving Manchester or London during peak traffic (7am – 10am and 4pm – 7pm) then you can expect to add on an additional hour at a minimum.
Travelling by coach across England is nowhere near as luxurious as by train, however, it can be significantly cheaper with both companies offering one-way trips between the two cities for as little as £3.50 when booking in advance.
If you’re looking at a last-minute booking you’ll often still find one-way coach prices of around £20 between Manchester and London which is around 80% cheaper than a last-minute train journey.
The main depot for coaches leaving and entering London is at London Victoria Coach Station. Situated around 300m from Victoria train station, this is a relatively quick and convenient location to get to from anywhere in London.
There are a number of pick-up and drop-off points in Manchester for coaches, however, I find that Manchester Coach Station is best (unless you’re coming or going to Manchester Airport in which case you can get the coach to drop you off or pick you up there instead).
Manchester Coach Station is situated between the Gay Village and Chinatown in the heart of Manchester City centre making it easy to access day or night for tourists arriving or leaving the city.
While you can book your coach tickets in person at the station I recommend booking them online or using either the Megabus or National Express mobile application. The process is relatively straight forward and allows you to select days, times and prices that best suit your needs.
A hire car is one of the most expensive ways to travel between London and Manchester, especially if you don’t plan on returning the car back to the pick-up location as you’ll be charged an additional one-way fee.
The majority of the major car hire companies such as Hertz and Europcar have multiple offices in both London and Manchester making hiring a car relatively easy. However, that doesn’t mean it’s cheap, nor stress free.
Provided that you’re aged 30 or over at the time of pick up you’ll find the average cost of hiring a car in London is around £90 per day. The price will increase significantly if you’re under the age of 30, want a larger or nicer rental car or plan to drop the car off at a different drop off location.
This is before the additional costs of added / extra insurance and petrol which currently costs £1.40 per litre inside of London city centre and approximately £1.25 in Manchester. Nor the additional cost of parking which is notoriously expensive (£20+ per day) in both cities.
I’d advise against getting a taxi from London to Manchester or vice versa, however, if you’re travelling in a large ground (5+) then it may be worthwhile looking into the cost of hiring a minibus as an alternative method of transport between the two cities.
A minibus would be a private and direct connection between your accommodation in London and your accommodation in Manchester.
With no additional stops required the journey could be completed in around 3.5 hours without traffic and around 5 hours with traffic. However, during that time, much like on the train you’ll be able to sit back, relax and simply enjoy the journey.
I found a quote on Blackberry Cars suggesting the price for five people one way would be around £325 one-way. However, I’ve not personally ever travelled like this between these two cities so I’m unable to speak from experience as to the actual costs.