Six ways to get ScotRail sleeper bargain berth tickets

In November 2012, ScotRail changed how you buy bargain berth tickets, so the advice in this particular post is out of date. I’ve written a more recent post that explains (to the best of my understanding) how things have changed and how to now hunt the bargain berth fares.

Since I wrote a recent post about attempting to get the cheapest bargain berths between Inverness and London, I’ve noticed I’ve been getting quite a few hits on my blog for people searching for terms related to those infamously elusive £19-£49 tickets between Scottish stations and London.  That earlier post was a bit of a rambling narrative and probably not quite so easy for someone looking for tips about bargain berths to find what they’re looking for.

So I’m tidying up my tips into a neat, manageable and hopefully useful list, with a more search-engine friendly title.

  1. Mark the Friday twelve weeks before your date of travel.  ScotRail releases pretty much all their tickets twelve weeks beforehand.  Prior to this you cannot make reservations or buy bargain berths; after this they go very quickly if they’re popular (which the bargain berths obviously are).
  2. Be quick on the day of release.  There are only about four tickets at each price level (£19, £29, £39 and £49) on each route, so once you have the date in the diary, make sure you’re free around 9am with a good internet connection (or two) as they are released.  The ScotRail site slows right down once the fares go live, but do persist.  You can also follow ScotRail on Twitter to see when they announce the releases, though sometimes this is a minute or two before the tweet goes live, so you’re best just following the website.
  3. Bookmark the precise page and do a practice run the week before.  This, for instance, this is the current page for Inverness-London. If you check prior to your intended purchase date you can see how sales are going.  And just in case…
  4. Check the page regularly – as this comment on my other post says, sometimes and quite without warning tickets can go on sale at other times of the week.
  5. Travel midweek if you can.  Not only are tickets less sought-after (people more often tend to seek the weekend get-away) but for some unfathomable reason the Friday dates particularly are unreliable.  Maybe it’s just the sleepers between Inverness and London, but the Friday dates seem to be released anything up to twelve hours later meaning it’s hard to pounce on the very cheapest ones.  Don’t bother querying ScotRail about this; I’ve tried tweeting them about this and they’ve replied by simply stating that the fares have been released (when quite obviously they haven’t), so it must be something computery that takes a while to automatically update.
  6. Split your ticket if need be – for instance, if you want to go to Inverness and the tickets are all sold out, maybe there are still some bargain berths available to Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen and you can change on to an early morning train from there which itself might only be about £15 single or less.  Not ideal, but still probably cheaper than a regular sleeper berth.

Do your experiences match up to this?  I’m not actually that regular a sleeper traveller, and I know of some folk who do it most weeks, so I wonder how they cope with getting the best fares.  So if you have any tips in addition to these, do please share them in the comments section below.

23 thoughts on “Six ways to get ScotRail sleeper bargain berth tickets

  1. We’re hoping to use bargain berths in the future but foudn it really hard to get them back from Dundee in August as we managed to pick a very popular weekend. I’ll see if we can use these tips in future though.

  2. Got ’em! 38 pounds for two people from London Euston to Fort William (meaning that Leipzig, where we live, to Fort William by train has cost us a total of 75 pounds each).

    I got the Firefox app called ReloadEvery and had a separate window always in view on my screen set to auto refresh the London to FW ticket page every 60 seconds. Tickets were released at 8:50am UK time.

    Can’t stop smiling!

  3. Thanks for that David, and well done! Who needs Ryanair when you have forward planning and cheap rail tickets like that? I hope the trip is especially more enjoyable for all that. Thanks for the ReloadEvery tip too – will look into that, it could be perfect for this sort of thing.

  4. Good advice, which I followed and got 6 berths, 2 @ £29, 2@£39 and 2@£49 – not bad compared to the full price.

    Unfortunately our trip has now been cancelled. Any idea how to offload 6 bargain berths? Someone might want one!

  5. Thanks Charles, glad the advice helped. Out of interest what route was that, and what day and time were the tickets released?

    What a shame for you that the trip is now cancelled. They’re unrefundable of course but given demand I am quite sure you’d get takers for your tickets. Perhaps posting on some rail or travel forums or something with geographic specialisms like Gumtree might work?

  6. Great post, thanks.

    Looking to travel to Fort William on the sleeper later in the year, so have been keeping an eye out this morning to see how easy it might be get some of these elusive bargain berth tickets.

  7. Thanks Alex and good luck. It would be good if you could report back so I know if my advice is still current. Though I’ll be discovering that for myself in a few weeks when on the hunt for bargain berths for the summer.

  8. Gutted – tried these tips and ordinarily would have been fine I think but because of the Olympics it doesn’t look like they are going to be available over the weekend I want – and now they’ve sold out of berths and only have reclining seats. £150 for a reclining seat is not appealing! Plane it will have to be. Thanks for info though.

  9. Two bargain berths seem much cheaper than single occupancy (first class). Would there be a problem if I booked two bargain berths in the same cabin with a fictitious a.n.other (who of course failed to turn up) ?

  10. Lisa – I suspect you were caught up in the same Olympic situation I was. Scotrail didn’t cover themselves in glory with this, and I’ll be posting a blog post tomorrow describing my experience. Shame, really – just proves the BBs are a bit of a lottery even when it comes to their existence at all.

    David H – good question. I’m honestly not sure. Ethically, and given the huge number of people chasing the BBs, I’d suggest there would be a problem. Practically, though, I guess you would get away with it. There’s a good chance, though, that you might be questioned about the other name and the other berth may be reassigned if, for instance, there’s a gender mix-up or other customer complaint elsewhere in the journey. I’d advise against it purely because it’s not nice on other customers, but I’d be lying if I said I had no interest in hearing of someone’s experience of trying it!

  11. Hi thanks for these tips, I have one quick question.

    If I’m travelling on the 21st November would I need to be online on the 24th or 31st August? I’ve counted several ways and each one seems to give a different answer.

  12. Hello L. I’m not sure to be honest. I imagine it would be whatever would be twelve weeks before. The best thing to do is check what the horizon is just now, and count forward. Or check a couple of weeks before the 24th and watch it each week from there. Let me know how you get on!

  13. Scotrail used to show a monthly diary giving bargain berth prices for each day. This made it easier to find the cheaper days. I cannot find this now. Do you know whether it still exists or do I have to go through day by day? Thanks.

  14. Hi Anne. Yes it did, and your comment has alerted me to the fact that they’ve changed it. What a shame. I’ve just spoken to a representative on chat and you now have to search day by day and it’s not even Friday mornings they’re released any more, but at random times. What a pain in the neck for customers.

    I’ll blog an update on the bits and pieces I’ve found on this in the coming days.

    Thanks so much for posting about this – I might not have discovered for some time if not for that!

  15. Do you know if there is a way to purchase a bargain berth fare from the US. The web says confirmation can come via print@home or SMS but SMS does not show as an option and print@ home (even though the description says it can be used for overseas customers) does not work if you don’t use a british credit/debit card.

  16. Bargain Berths have become as difficult to get as information out of MI5

    I could not have been any quicker of the mark for an obscure day and date in May 2013 but still could not get one

    Do the release more as the weeks go on?

  17. Read the latest post on this Harry – linked at the top of the page. It seems that it’s still the same release time but now more unpredictable. There was also a sale recently. Best thing is to just keep watching and waiting. Follow Scotrail on Twitter too.

  18. This is very tricky. I spent all day today refreshing every 5 minutes from 7am. At about 9.30 some tickets came out for £99 a berth instead of the standard £150, just about when Scotrail tweeted that the sleeper tickets were available. I assumed this was their 1/3 off sale and that the bargain berths would come out later, but no sign. There were none on any day of the week. Maybe they don’t release them every week? Or they just disappeared in <5mins! Could be since we're booking for August time. Was good to have the advice, especially about twitter, at least I know we tried our best!

  19. Hi Lucy. I think they probably just went quickly, and of course it’s hard to find them because they are now amongst the other ones – please check the more up to date post linked at the top of this post. They do release them every week – at least, all usual train fares are meant to be, across the UK’s operators.

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