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GWR First Class Review: Travel to the West Country in Style

If you’re travelling around the West Country, rail is one of the best ways to do it. 

Great Western Railway connects London Paddington with cities like Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth and ventures all the way down to Penzance in Cornwall.

The journey time from London to various destinations in the West Country can range anywhere between one and a half hours to five hours, so depending on how long you’re spending on the train, it might be worth upgrading to a first-class ticket! 

If you’re wondering if Great Western Railway first class is worth it, here’s my full first-class review! 

I travelled with GWR on a press trip to visit Exeter. I upgraded on my return journey. All opinions remain my own. 

GWR first class vs standard

First up, what extras do you get in first class vs standard class? Here are the main differences: 

  • GWR has comfortable seats throughout all of its trains. But first class are much more spacious than standard class seats, with plenty of legroom and space to work on a laptop. 
  • There are no rows of seats, all seats are at a table
  • Plus, there are some individual seats with tables, which are perfect for solo travellers. 
  • The complimentary Wi-Fi is stronger and more reliable. 
  • You get complimentary refreshments and hot or cold drinks. However, no alcohol is available. 
  • There are more USB sockets than standard class. 
  • Lounge access in London Paddington. 
  • Fewer seats in the carriage, meaning that it’s nearly always quieter. 
  • A guaranteed reserved seat. 

This is what you get in the standard seats: 

  • A table or airline seat. Sometimes you can reserve your seats in advance, but this isn’t always available. 
  • You’ll usually share power sockets with your neighbours. 
  • Wi-Fi is available, but it can be quite spotty. 
  • The seats are more spacious than other networks, and GWR usually uses modern trains. However, if you want to work or have a bit of room to spread out, you’ll have much more space in GWR first class. 
  • Both classes usually have plenty of storage space for bags, although first class has a bit more. 

GWR complimentary food and drinks

GWR first-class tickets include complimentary drinks and food. 

The food is usually a snack box, with a few food items like olives, hummus and crackers. There are gluten-free and vegan options available. 

You’ll also have a range of soft drinks to choose from, or you can enjoy a hot tea or coffee. 

If you want to purchase any alcohol, it’s extra. 

GWR first-class lounge Paddington 

GWR first class tickets include lounge access at London Paddington. 

Ideal if you need to work or just chill out, the first-class lounge is a place where you can relax before your train. It has free wifi and complimentary refreshments, helping you destress before boarding your train out west. 

All you need to get in is your 1st class ticket – just show this to the receptionist, and they will gladly show you around. 

Is GWR first class worth it? 

I’ve travelled on GWR many, many times (as is the case when you’ve lived all over the West Country but have family in London!). 

I’ve started to keep an eye on GWR’s prices for first-class tickets, because it is generally a much more relaxing experience, with the guarantee that you’ll have table seats and fewer crowded carriages! 

As I tend to work on trains, the extra space and good WiFi help a lot.  

Get a railcard!

Before we go into pricing, I have one major tip for you.

And that is: if you’re applicable, get a railcard!

You can use railcards for first-class trips and can save a third off the fare.

They only cost £30 for a year (or £70 for three years), so if your train fare is over £90, you’ll have earned your money back in one year.

How much extra is GWR first class? 

It really varies, depending on how busy the route is and when you’re booking. 

It can be as little as £10 and as much as £70! 

However, I do have two tips to help you get first class train tickets for cheaper. 

1) Travel at the weekends. GWR has a flat rate for weekend upgrades, and they’re usually cheaper. The exact rate depends on your departure and arrival station. 

2) Use SeatFrog to find auctioned first-class tickets. They sell first-class tickets for cheap rates, usually an hour or two before departure. 

3) As I mentioned before, GET A RAILCARD! Anyone under 30 or over 60 is eligible for a railcard; if you don’t fit in that category, you may be able to apply for a Two Together Railcard or another option. Read more about the incredible savings you can make by clicking here.

Otherwise, you can either book advance tickets or ask for an upgrade when you’re at the station. 

If you don’t mind spending a little extra, it may well be worth the upgrade from standard class to GWR first class.

With quite a few benefits, it’s ideal for anyone who wants to focus on work or just travel in a more relaxed and comfortable way!

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