Cheap Train Tickets

On 2nd January 2018 the price of rail fares increased by an average of 3.4% to cover the costs of services like paying for trains, fuel, staff and other related operational costs.

This guide contains 18 ways to get cheap train tickets, including getting the most out of your railcard, split ticketing, finding promotions and booking in advance.

1. Get a Railcard

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

Most of them are priced at just £30 for one year or £70 for three years (roughly £23.30 a year).

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

  DISCOUNT ELIGIBILITY RESTRICTIONS 1 YEAR COST 3 YEARS COST
16-25 Railcard   1/3 off rail fares Anyone between 16 and 25 years old or in full-time education

https://www.16-25railcard.co.uk/using-your-railcard/travel-times-tickets/

£30 £70
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

https://www.familyandfriends-railcard.co.uk/using-your-railcard/travel-times-tickets/

£30 £70
Two Together Railcard 1/3 off adult fares for two named people travelling together Two people travelling together aged 16 and over https://www.twotogether-railcard.co.uk/using-your-railcard/travel-times-tickets/ £30 NA
Senior Railcard

1/3 off adult rail fares

Anyone 60 and over https://www.senior-railcard.co.uk/using-your-railcard/travel-times-tickets/ £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. https://www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk/using-your-railcard/the-benefits/ £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). https://www.network-railcard.co.uk/using-your-railcard/discounts-on-tickets/ £30 NA
26-30 Railcard 1/3 off rail fares. Currently restricted to people aged between 26 and 30 living in East Anglia https://www.26-30railcard.co.uk/help/railcard-terms-conditions/   £30 £70

 

Take a look at the calculator below to determine what you could save today.

 

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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 passes12 weeks in advance although this can vary.

So, the earlier you book the better the chance you have of getting the best price.

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

3. Buy a Season Pass

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

For instance, if you’re regularly travelling between Waddon and London, it’s cheaper to buy a monthly season pass than a weekly season pass. Take a look at the price comparison below:

7-day pass costs £44.10 a week but £176.40 for a month.

1-month pass is priced at £169.40.

That’s a £7.00 saving! 

National Rail have 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 the cheapest prices for any journey.

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 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. Consider Mega Train

Mega Train sells hundreds of singles for many routes across the country for £1 plus a 50p booking fee.

It's operated by East Midlands trains so you can be assured that you’re receiving a high-standard of service even though the permits are inexpensive.

Availability is limited on certain journeys with the following train operators:

  • East Midlands Trains;
  • South West Trains;
  • Virgin Trains

For more information visit https://uk.megabus.com/products/megatrain

8. Use Promotions

National Rail maintain a promotional index which displays all the offers that rail operators have like “Club 50” by Scotrail and “Weekend First” by Virgin Trains over at http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/359.aspx

9. 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 http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/ticket_types/44703.aspx/.

10. 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 journeying at these times and look for alternatives.

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

Avoid holidays: If you can, try to circumvent travelling on school holidays, public holidays and days when events are being run as these days are costlier to travel and a lot busier than normal.

11. Don't Use ATMs

Most station ATMs don't display discounts and because of this they can be more expensive than buying advanced tickets, on-line or over the counter.

12. Split Your Ticket

Split ticketing is one of the best ways to save money whilst journeying.

With split ticketing people can save money by buying a different voucher for separate stages of a journey even if they stay on the same train for the entire journey. 

As an example, it may be more economical to book a pass from Manchester to Birmingham, then Birmingham to London, than to just buy a pass from Manchester to London.

Check out https://www.splitticketing.com/ to see were you could save.

13. Use Singles

Getting two singles can be cheaper than buying a return as discounts are usually offered on individual tickets.

For example, a search for a trip on National Rail’s Journey Planner from Birmingham to Edinburgh, coming back the following day, displayed a price of £123.80 for a standard return. In contrast we found that an outbound advanced single pass was £43.30, whilst returning, a single advanced pass is priced at £38 – £81.30 for the whole journey.

14. 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 on-line you get a percentage of the money back.

For example, if you spend £20 on a pass with Trainline then you’ll get £2 cashback.

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

15. 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 it was bought, stating the date and time you intended to travel.

Source: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/ticket_types/72098.aspx

16. Cheap First-Class Tickets

There are a few ways to get discounted first-class passes. 

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

Book Early: When you book beforehand the price between a first-class pass and a standard pass is usually very small.

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

17. GroupSave

Most operators offer discounts for people journeying 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 http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/46506.aspx to learn more.

18. Sleeper Trains

Save money by taking a trip overnight with a sleeper train.

Sleeper Trains operate nightly from Sunday to Friday and connect London Euston with the main cities in Scotland and London Paddington with South West England.

A sleeper birth is often similar in price to a hostel or hotel so you can save by combining travel with accommodation.