SSi Forum

A learner's notes on low-budget trips to practice Welsh (South + West Wales edition)


#1

Learning Welsh language got me curious about Wales - where I had never been, except for a few hours on a train to Holyhead, many years ago.

Besides that, I thought I’d definitely need a challenge to keep my motivation to keep on studying something I would not use in my everyday life. A trip to Wales to speak with the natives sounded like a good idea, but a long holiday too complicated to organize.

Solution: about a week, low-season, low-budget, to mark about 6 months since starting SSiW. Very doable. It worked great and I really enjoyed myself besides making a huge jump in my ability to understand and speak! So I did two more weeks since then, same way.

And even with the extra bureaucracy there will probably be in the future, as long as the island stays where it is, I plan to come back again - you’re warned! :wink:

A few learners seemed to be looking for information to organize similar trips. Therefore, I thought I might share my notes on the web, in case someone finds them helpful.

I travel by myself because that’s the best way for me to be focused of what’s around me, to be braver to start and speak with people and oh well…also because anyone not interested in Welsh language would complain all the time about my choices! But my notes may work for 2 or more.

GETTING THERE

Easiest/fastest:

  1. Flight to Cardiff

PROS

  • Well. You’re in Wales right away, how can you beat that, huh?
  • It’s a very small airport so fast and easy to get around and reach gates.
  • Shorter queues (big bonus especially after Brexit).
  • Easy to get out and find any transports to the City, and back. The T9 bus stop to Cardiff centre is right outside the only entrance/exit.

CONS

  • Not many destinations available throughout the year
    Example: this winter there’s no flights from Italy. Last year I paid about £70 return from/to Milano Malpensa
  • Fewer low-cost offers available, compared to other UK airports
  1. Flight to Bristol

PROS

  • Wider choice of flights and offers available. Example: In January 2020, I paid £ 40 return from/to Turin.

  • Bigger than Cardiff, but not huge, so still quite easy and fast to get around; reasonable queues at arrivals and departures

  • Coach stop to Cardiff Centre is right outside arrivals exit. From Cardiff, right outside depatures entrance.

CONS

  • Journey to Cardiff Centre rides less often, takes 1.30 hours instead of 40 minutes, standard price is higher unless you find an advance special offer

Not recommended:

Flight to/from London Stansted

PROS

  • Plenty of choice of low cost flights

CONS

  • Lots of flights arriving there, long queues everywhere (which are going to be even worse after Brexit so definitely to avoid!)
  • There was no direct connection fromthe airport. It took ages to reach Wales, including London Tube in rush hours, quite a nightmare. On a week-short trip it’s a huge waste of time and energy, just not worth it!
  • Airport is closed at night, while flights are often very early in the morning so you might end up having to pay for a hotel room, just for a few hours. Quite annoying.

Worth trying someday:

Train

As soon as I can find a good match between my availability + good offers on my route Turin - Paris - London - Wales, I will go for it.

PROS

  • Usually, straight from the city centre to the city centre
  • No need to go there a lot in advance for security procedures, check-in, etc.
  • You can bring all the luggage I want at no extra cost. It travels with you so it won’t get lost or broken. No need to wait for it at luggage claim.
  • You can also bring bottles from Italy, and different bottles back from Wales - you know what I mean! :wink:
  • It is a long trip, alright. But once you’re on the train you can relax and make good use of your time and also walk around a bit from time to time. Then off the train, just walk to the next train and do the same.
    With flights it’s all broken into small bits, reach the bus stop or station well in advance, hurry dragging around luggage, wait, than hurry, then wait even longer, then sit squeezed in a seat with constant annoyments around, then maybe go through it all again for the connection, stand in a queue, figure out how to reach the town without spending a fortune and getting lost. Jeesh!

CONS

  • Less choice, more complicated to figure out the itinerary, harder to find very cheap offers
  • It usually takes more time than for a flight and actually quite a bit more than a direct flight from most locations in Europe
  • Not very doable if you don’t live in Europe, I guess!

GETTING AROUND WITHOUT A CAR

COACHES (FROM ENGLAND)

If you flew to England, the cheapest way to reach Wales I’ve found is…a coach.

Note: sorry I couldn’t resist because in Italy we usually call them all “bus”, and I can’t help thinking of these every time I hear “coach”.

Now, serious. You can check routes and prices here:

https://www.nationalexpress.com/en

Examples of advance offers I’ve found: Carmarthen - London Victoria Station £13 (6 hours), Bristol Airport - Cardiff £ 5.50 (1.30 hours)

Standard prices are higher, but usually still lower than trains.

You can also check https://uk.megabus.com

IN WALES: ROUTES AND TIMETABLES

You might not be able to visit very specific tourist sites or tiny villages in the middle of nowhere, but if you’re not too much in a hurry, there’s quite a lot you can see and do by using public transport only.

You can check and find most train and bus routes, timetables and prices here:

Traveline.Cymru https://www.traveline.cymru

(there’s also an App for Android for sure, I guess also for iOS).

TRAINS

Trains are usually quite expensive in the UK, but you can plan a journey well in advance - both date and time, prices are much lower.

For example: Cardiff - Carmarthen single advance, on specified train only, non refundable between £ 8.50 and £ 13.50. Full price at the station, travel any time about £ 25.

You can also check timetables and buy tickets on:

Trafnidiaeth Cymru/Transport for Wales App (for Android I can tell it works well, actually) or the website: https://tfwrail.wales

BUSES

Besides basic info on Traveline Cymru site linked above, you can find more details about Traws Cymru network, which covers main long-distance routes through Wales on their website https://www.trawscymru.info

You can recognize these in general timetables because their lines numbers usually start with a “T”, excapt Carmarthen/Caerfyrddin-Cardigan/Aberteif that’s 460 and Brecon/Aberhonddi-Abergavenny/Y Fenny that’s X43, no idea why!

You can buy tickets, paying with a contactless card if you like, right on the bus.

Examples of standard single tickets: Carmarthen - Aberystwyth £6.25, Aberystwyth - Cardigan £5.65, Cardigan - Carmarthen £ 5.10.

There’s discount on Return, Day and a few other options you can check on their website.

Note: traveling on most routes on their network is free on Saturday and Sunday!

In addition to those, there’s local bus services connecting smaller towns even though they usually don’t run very often and only accept cash to buy tickets.

I’m sure there’s more, but the ones I know are:

Additional note: every time I’ve been there, I also got offered lifts from Welsh-speakers or fellow Welsh-learners to reach or visit places. If you hang out in Forums and on-line groups or get in touch with people in the area in advance, you’re very likely to get plenty of extra help!

ACCOMMODATION

Unfortunately, neither I nor other Welsh learners I have been able to find a website listing Welsh-speaking hosts, hotels and establishments. (Maybe we should do it then!)

Occasionally, I got tips from locals about cheap places not listed on the web.
Or sometimes they’re even willing to offer a spare room to a Welsh-learning guest (this is a very welcoming land, see!)
However, if you don’t have a car, you might just want to take some time to check the maps, because some places are very complicated or even impossible to reach using public transport.
In other cases they were full cottages or just for long stay-rentals so not the kind for one traveler stopping by for a day or two.

In any case, in low season you can find quite a lot of reasonably priced rooms on the usual portals.
Beware: not necessarily Welsh speaking, though.

To give an idea based on my experience, the average price for a room for one person (late January and September), was around £ 30. The most expensive accommodation, in Aberystwyth, £45 without breakfast, for this :heart_eyes::

The cheapest in Cardiff: £ 18, including breakfast for this :rofl::

FOOD, SHOPS, LEARNERS MEET-UPS AND TOURISTY THINGS

For eating, there’s really plenty of choice, in all different styles, type of cuisine and prices.

Maybe someday I’ll write down a more detailed list of all the places I’ve enjoyed, for foodies.

For now I’ll just list a few places where I got a chance to speak Welsh.

Adding a handful of shops

Welsh speaking staff:

Pantri Blakeman - Carmarthen: they enjoyed a chat and spoke slowly and helped me find words I couldn’t remember

Fisherman’s Rest - Cardigan: leaners’ chat groups are held there regularly every Friday morning, so they’re used to our fumbling.

Bar & Restaurant of Harbourmaster Hotel - Aberaeron: first time I’ve been greeted in Welsh first!

Cafe Hafan - Tregaron: if you speak to them in Welsh, they’ll answer and go on in Welsh.

Bessie’s/Dyffryn Arms - Pontfaen: Plenty of fluent speakers, and my first time being accused by an English-only speaker to be rude for cutting out of the conversation non-Welsh speakers :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Crwst - Cardigan: not everybody’s fluent, but there’s always at least one or two speakers around

Welsh speakers hang out there, and they were happy to chat with me, so I guess also with other learners:

Sophie Bach Tea & Coffee - Aberystwyth

Bub’s - Cardiff

Other places where you can certainly use or practice Welsh:

Awen Teifi bookshop - Cardigan: Say you’re a learner and they’ll be happy to hear your story, and get you involved in the conversation, since there’s often people stopping by for a chat.

Siop Y Pentan - Carmarthen

Siop y Pethe - Aberystwyth

Castell Aberteifi + restaurant and bar - Cardigan

Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum + tourist info - Aberystwyth

The National Library of Wales/Lyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru - Aberystwyth

Learners meet-ups, groups open to everybody and all levels:

I’ve been at and enjoyed:

Enjoy, mwynhewch, buon divertimento! :slight_smile:

If you have any questions, or would like to correct or add something…just let me know.


#2

This is really great @gisella-albertini - wonderful resource for learners!


#3

Wow, thank you so much for this write-up! I wasn’t able to find the direct Bristol-Cardiff coach on my own but now I know to look better for it! :grinning:
Would you mind sharing the name of the place where you stayed in Aberystwyth? I’m looking at the options right now.


#4

I think it’s Cardigan bay guest house


#5

Coach is actually from Bristol Airport (not city) to Cardiff Sophia Gardens.
On weekends it’s not supposed to make extra stops in Cardiff, but since there was only me on the coach from Newport to Cardiff, the driver made an exception so that I would not have to walk quite a long way and through the park alone! Always better ask, people are very kind and willing to help. :wink:
With humour: “Don’t fall while you walk out of the coach, cause insurance won’t cover it!” :rofl:

Yes, it’s Cardigan Bay Guest House as @DanJones correctly guessed.
But you have to catch a special offer, because otherwise prices are higher!

Downstairs, there’s also a very comfortable lounge, with second hand books in English and Welsh you can read or buy for £ 5 flat/each, (and a kitchen you can use as you like).


#6

What a fantastically comprehensive resource - deserves wider publication IMO


#7

This is brilliant @gisella-albertini!
Something for the newsletter @catrinlliarjones :slight_smile:


#8

Thank you for sharing this @gisella-albertini :smile:


#9

Thank you for sharing this! I’m not sure if I’d ever be able to “return” but it will surely be super useful if I’d get the chance too one (some distant) day.

Unfortunately that was my only approximately cheap option in 2016 when I traveled to Wales and even that costed me 270 € (without any further arrangements) alltogether with insurance and luggage. All other flights from Ljubljana would be even more costly so except to London there are no really low budget flights from Slovenia to UK though (or at least there were none when I needed them).

Not on low budget for me also. I’ve asked for things and calculated all options back in 2016 but the more I’ve calculated the more it came out that the forth and return trip would cost me about 1000 €.

:smile:

Haha! Me too!

Many tickets can be booked and payed online in advance also.


#10

If I don’t remember wrong you went to Wales around Eisteddfod time, didn’t you?
Well, I don’t think I’d be able to get much better prices then you got, no matter how hard I try for that period!

However, one thing I’ve learnt is that in order to find the best deals you have to check also kinda non-obvious options - or at least not the first ones that naturally come to mind or pop out in the portals.

For example, if I wanted to plan one week in Wales, off peak season, from Lubjana I would:

  1. Check destinations available from Bristol airport, on Bristol Airport website
  2. make a list the ones which are closer to Lubjana. Example: Venice.
  3. Search on Skyscanner for cheapest month for flights Venice - Bristol. It shows March.
  4. Choose two of the dates with the lowest prices. Example: 5 to go and 12 to come back. Total price (return) = 24 € . It’s Ryan air so you have to add luggage fee, about 10+10 €. So total 44 €/37 £ for the flight.
  5. Then, coach :wink: from Lubjana to Venice. Flixbus on those dates is 18 to go, 11,99 to come back. Then, total is about € 30/£ 25 .
  6. Just one more missing piece to reach Wales, coach from Bristol Airport to Cardiff. As of today best price is about £ 10 each way (total £ 20).
    So Slovenia - Wales and back, next March, one option would be:
    37+ 25 + 20 = £ 82 or € 97 return.
    How about that, to start with? :grin:

#11

Thanks @gisella-albertini - really helpful :star2::slightly_smiling_face::star2:


#12

I’ve found Maes Y Mor in Aberystwyth good too @Irina - no food, but do get use of kitchen (including plates, cups, cutlery, cooking pans and tools, and space to store food). There’s also a laundry on site (pay as use), which can be helpful. Prices are cheaper if you can book direct.


#13

Thanks this can be useful to me as well, for next time! :wink:


#14

Gisella,

That was so useful - diolch yn fawr mille!


#15

This is totally incredible @gisella-albertini and you are an absolute star! Diolch for going to so much effort to put this together - it is invaluable and will definitely be going in this week’s email. :smile:


#16

O yes brilliant Gisella. I might nick (steal, in a nice way) some of these to put in my Places to Stay thread. If OK with you.


#17

Sure, this is meant to be helpful and shared. :wink:
I don’t even get a percentage on sales! :rofl:

However, for accommodation it’s just travel notes I presume handy, not necessarily places with Welsh speaking staff (if it’s unclear from the way I wrote it, let me know and I’ll try to explain better).


#18

Ah, sorry, Gisella. I just scanned over it during lunch break. I intend to do it justice and read properly tonight. So thank you so much (o galon) :+1:


#19

Diolch! :slight_smile:

p.s. for the low-budget part, truth is I actually secretly aim at becoming an honorary Cardi. :sunglasses: :rofl:
(I love the region, and the people I’ve met. Then I’ve been told about the stereotype reputation…which, from my experience, I think it’s totally undeserved! But I had fun joking about it with a few locals and we actually agreed on several points about money spending, so…! :grin:)


#20

Yes, you remember corrdctly.

Well, there are some facts which went oposite my way so I couldn’t do much though.

  1. it was high season so naturally flights are (at least here) more expensive then usually.
  2. I had only (even less than) a month to plan purchase tickets, make plans etc. etc and on top of that it could all crumble into itself if I wouldn’t get extra money (I’ve waited for that to happen or not to happen to practically the last day of departure).
  3. FlixBus didn’t drive from our country at the time yet. Now this is much easier for sure. We could go with GoOpti vans to (for example) Venice but summa summarum it might not be that cheaper either.

This is very tempting in deed, but there are no insurances included, right? I love low prices but these cheaper flights don’t include any insurances so if something happens you’re on your own. This is the only thing I don’t want to go with though as our health system is way too complicated (to maybe get money back) even without that. And, of course, if things have insurances included this lifts the prices though. And, if I tell you that apart from EasyJet all other plane companies offered the return tickets form the lowest of 450 €, then this was really a good “bargain”. :slight_smile: For the overnight sleep in London I have to say million thousands thansk to @margaretnock and her mom who took me under her roof overnight and to Margaret again who took care for me to come safe and sound to Tresaith and bootcamp.

In Cardiff I’ve stayed one week with one really nice lady for a week through AirBNB.