How to get cheap train tickets

This guide contains ways to get cheap train tickets, including getting the most out of your Railcard, finding promotions and booking in advance.

1. Get a Railcard or 16-17 Saver

With a Railcard you can get 1/3 off the price of most train fares.

Most Railcards are priced at just £30 for 1-year or £70 for a 3-year Railcard (roughly £23.30 a year).

Typically, the cost of your Railcard will have paid for itself after one or two trips. 

If you are aged 16 or 17, you are eligible for a 16-17 Saver which offers 50% off most rail fares, including Season tickets. 


16-25 Railcard   1/3 off rail fares Anyone between 16 and 25 years old or in full-time education

£30 £70
26-30 Railcard 1/3 off rail fares. Available to anyone aged between 26 and 30.   £30 NA
Family & Friends Railcard 1/3 off adult fares and 60% kids fares

Up to 4 adults when travelling with up to 4 children aged 5-15

£30 £70
Two Together Railcard 1/3 off adult fares for two named people travelling together Two people travelling together aged 16 and over £30 NA
Senior Railcard

1/3 off adult rail fares

Anyone 60 and over £30 £70
Disabled Persons Railcard 1/3 off rail fares for you and your friend You might qualify if you are in receipt of a disability-related benefit; have a visual impairment; have a hearing impairment; have epilepsy. £20 £54
Network Railcard 1/3 off adult fares and 60% off fares in London and the South East of England. Anyone 16 and over. Maximum group size is up-to four adults (aged 16+) and up to four children (aged 5-15). £30 NA
16-17 Saver 50% off adult rail fares

Anyone aged 16 or 17

16-17 Saver is valid for one year or up until your 18th birthday, whichever is comes first £30   N/A
Veterans Railcard 1/3 off rail fares for you and a named companion and 60% off kids fares Anyone that has served for at least one day in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces (Regular or Reserve) or has been a Merchant Mariner and seen duty on legally defined military operations 




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2. Book advanced fares

If you want to journey by train in the future then booking your trip in advance could save you a lot of money.

Rail operators usually release tickets 12 weeks in advance although this can vary, so the earlier you book, the better the chance you have of getting the best price.

Book with Confidence - Up until 31/12/21, if your plans change, you can amend date and time of Advanced tickets fee free up until 6pm the day before you travel. (Fare price difference may apply. Advance tickets purchased online can be exchanged for a voucher for future journey. Fee free changes also apply to Off-Peak and Anytime tickets, up to the date of departure.)

You can read more about more about these types of tickets here.


3. Buy a Season Ticket

If you’re going to make the same journey over a week or month it may be cheaper to buy a Season Ticket rather than buying tickets daily.

For instance, if you’re regularly travelling between Waddon and London, it’s cheaper to buy a monthly Season Ticket than a weekly Season Ticket. 

National Rail has a calculator that can easily help you work this out.

If you sign-up with an alert system like this one you’ll instantly be able to find out when the cheapest tickets are available.

4. Use a fare finder

National Rail have a journey planner that lets you find cheap train tickets for most trips.

5. Avoid booking fees

Many booking sites charge a set or a variable fee for booking tickets. If you want to avoid this cost use a site like National Rail.

National Rail don’t sell rail tickets, but they will show you the cheapest prices available. They link directly to the train companies, many of which are fee-free.

6. Smart ticketing

The government have announced their plans to roll out smart ticketing throughout England and Wales by the end of 2018.

Smart tickets will give passengers the option to travel using digital tickets hosted on their phones as well as physical vouchers.

The smart ticketing technology will eventually be rolled out to every rail franchise over the course of the year.

Check out the video below to learn more about smart ticketing.

7. Use promotions

National Rail maintain a promotional index which displays all the offers that rail operators have like “Club 50” by Scotrail over at

8. Try booking late

Many people know that booking beforehand is cheaper but not everyone knows that you can buy advanced passes quite late.

A summary of the furthest travel dates where you can reserve seats now for rail companies providing advance prices can be found at

9. Avoid the rush

If you're flexible with your travel times then you stand a greater chance of getting cheaper rail prices.

Avoid peak times: Trains that arrive and depart at rush hour (typically 7-9am and 5-7pm during weekdays) are usually more expensive because of their popularity. If you can, try to stay away from travelling at these times and look for alternatives.

Travel mid-week: If you can, try to keep away from travelling on Friday or at the weekends as these are typically the most expensive days to travel. Travelling on Tuesday or Wednesday morning is usually the most cost-effective.

10. Join a cashback site

Cashback sites allow you to get money off pretty much anything including car rentals, books, and flights. In short, when you buy a product online you get a percentage of the money back.

A few of the most popular cashback sites are Quidco and TopCashback.   

11. Refunds

Under the National Rail Conditions of Travel, if your train is cancelled or delayed and you choose not to travel, you are entitled to a full refund.

If you decide not to travel for another reason, you can usually get a refund less the price of an admin fee (maximum £10).

Some tickets, such as Advance fares, are not refundable.

To get your refund you should return your ticket to the retailer where it was bought, stating the date and time you intended to travel.


12. Cheap First Class tickets

There are a few ways to get discounted First Class tickets. 

Railcards: The 16-25 Railcard, Disabled Persons Railcard, Senior Railcard, Two Together Railcard and Veterans Railcard allow you to get a third off all First Class rates.

Book early: When you book beforehand the price between a First Class ticket and a Standard ticket is usually very small.

Travel at weekends: Many operators allow you to upgrade your seat on weekends in advance or on the day of travel for a small supplement.

13. GroupSave

Most operators offer discounts for people travelling in groups aka GroupSave. Groups of 3 to 9 can get 1/3 off fares at peak times when they travel together.

There are certain restrictions on when you can use GroupSave. Check out National Rail to learn more about getting cheap train tickets for groups.

14. Sleeper trains

GWR's Night Riveria Sleeper service (between London and the West of England): There are no discounts on Sleeper package products. If you buy a valid train ticket for your journey with a Railcard discount, you can then purchase a Sleeper berth supplement. There is no Railcard discount on the berth supplement.

Caledonian Sleeper service (between Scotland and London): Discounts don't apply on tickets for travel in Sleeper or Seated accommodation with a route Caledonian Sleeper only. See Caledonian Sleeper website for further information on fares and tickets.