How to get to Brighton (UK) from Australia or the USA on a budget

The music conference and festival The Great Escape is one of the most popular annual events in all of the UK and Europe – serving as a place for hundreds of bands from around the region, and the world (including plenty of Australians) to make their mark.

Last year, I discovered artists like Jack Garratt, Nothing But Thieves and Slaves, while having an incredible time in the beachside town of Brighton, England, which hosts the festival across 35 venues over three days. Now, the only question is – how do you get there?

Here are a few tips to get you to Brighton the cheapest and easiest way possible, whether you’re coming from the US or Australia.

The closest airport to Brighton is London Gatwick, which at only 30km away from the Beachside city takes about 30 minutes via a train station that’s attached to the airport (the Gatwick Express is your best bet). Compare this to the more popular Heathrow Airport, which takes at least 90 minutes, depending your transport option, plus take into account slower processing speeds due to its size and you’re looking at an extra hour on top of that at peak times. If you’re lucky! Processing is usually quicker at the smaller airports – Southhampton, is another, and it’s about 2 hours away, while arriving at the London City Airport with an airline like Swiss Air will take about two hours by train. So no matter where you land, if it’s not Gatwick, you’re adding 90+ minutes onto your schedule.

Arriving via Gatwick from USA

Easyjet, British Airways, Aerlingus and Norwegian Airlines are among the airlines who fly into Gatwick, and for those coming in from the US, there’s a direct flight from New York’s JFK Airport with Norwegian Airlines that we have reviewed HERE. While British Airways also flies direct on that route, Norwegian are the only airline to fly direct to Gatwick out of Los Angeles. In terms of price, you aren’t going to beat Norwegian on either route – with the budget airline offering competitive one way and return fares – plus, they fly you in their new Dreamliners!

Arriving via Gatwick from Australia

If you’re flying out of Australia, Qantas and Emirates can take you to Gatwick via Dubai, and Turkish Airways also offers a fare that will first take you to Singapore with Singapore Airlines, before travelling to Gatwick via Istanbul with Turkish. The extra flight will make it a longer journey, but the prices out of Sydney are comparable to the Qantas alternative. But no matter who you fly with, flying to Heathrow is going to be the cheaper option – Flying with Thai Airways, for instance, will save you some $700 on the prices we were quoted with the Gatwick routes.

Probably not worth the extra money for the two hours it’s saving you, huh?

It could work well for those on a more flexible schedule, however. Most of the airlines flying into Gatwick are coming from Europe – with the exception of the mentioned US options above – so if you’re planning to spend some time in Europe before or after TGE, you could fly into your European destination, and then change to a different airline to get yourself to and from Gatwick at a time that best suits you. That also gives you flexibility to spend time in London afterwards, potentially flying into Gatwick but then out of Heathrow to get back to your European port.

Arriving via Heathrow from Australia

Ultimately, if you’re on a budget, the cheapest fare to London from Australia is going to take you to Heathrow, from where you’ll travel to Brighton via train or road. Training with Gatwick Express is your fastest option, but make sure you book online in advance – you will save a few pounds doing this. Trains that operate with National Rail will serve as the cheaper option, however, as long as you book well ahead of your journey. Fares can be 5 times cheaper just by booking more than two weeks out.

If you do have to sort it last minute, a bus is sure to be cheaper than any train option – but it is the longest journey – and far less pleasant than a train. National Express is your best bet for the London to Brighton bus journey – sadly, Megabus don’t offer the route.

Once you get there…

Since you’re able to do everything at the festival on foot – and there are plenty of Taxi’s in the city itself – don’t waste money on renting a car. Get to Brighton via Bus or Train and enjoy the amazing bars, music and nightlife the city has to offer. And let’s not forget Brighton Pier! They have plenty of internal bus options, too.

The Great Escape takes place from the 19th to the 21st of May. For more details about the festival, head to:

Photo from Wikipedia Commons


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.