Buying train tickets
Our simple guide to UK train tickets will help you track down cheap train tickets – including walk-up tickets, advance tickets and money saving tips.
Train tickets explained
There are three main types of train ticket in the UK
Advance tickets are available until 6pm the day before travel. These are often the cheapest tickets, sold as singles, and are only valid on the booked train.
Off-Peak tickets are the cheapest walk-up tickets. They are generally available after 0930 Monday to Friday and anytime at weekends.
Anytime tickets are the most expensive (and most flexible), but for shorter journeys, especially with a railcard, they can be fine.
For shorter day trips it’s often easiest to buy an Off-Peak day-return ticket (which you can buy at the station on the day) – but there are extra savings to be had…
1. Get a railcard and save around 33% on most tickets. If you’re under 26, a couple, a family, or over 60, you’ll be quids-in with a railcard.
2. Search online for the cheapest ticket – for delivery to your mobile or collection from any station ticket machine.
3. Check for deals if you’re travelling with kids or in a group.
For longer journeys you can save around 50% by booking ahead (even more with railcard). Here’s how to find the cheapest advance train tickets…
1. Search online for the best fares on Trainline, Rail Europe or any train operator’s website – they all sell all the same tickets.
2. Book well ahead for the cheapest tickets. ‘Advance’ tickets usually go on sale around 8-12 weeks ahead. You can find out if tickets are on sale and set up a ‘ticket alert’ on Trainline.
3. Book a bit ahead and you may still save. Advance tickets (if not sold out) are available until the day before, and sometimes even on the day, so it’s always worth checking.