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.
These types of tickets can be bought for different lengths of journeys
Single tickets can only be used for one journey.
Return tickets take you to your destination and back again. It is often cheaper to book an advance ticket for a specific date. However, you can also chose flexible tickets to return within: one day (a return), at the end of a long weekend (a ‘weekender), or in one month (an ‘open return’).
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 Railsmartr or any train operator’s website to fine the cheapest tickets, without any booking fees.
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.