Trains are something most people love to hate. Many of us take them everyday, often several, and what are the first things that come to mind? Overcrowded? Dirty? Expensive? Well, yes, they often are! But there are some exceptions to that rule! Read this post to find some tips about how to get the cheapest train fares. These rules are no representation of European train travel, that’s a totally separate post which will come later on!
While I hate to exaggerate, the point I made about some trains here being pretty abysmal is truthful unfortunately. This is proven in this picture below, from a recent journey on a Great Western Railway service!
Furthermore, we all know that the United Kingdom has a pretty difficult ticketing system to understand, especially for the inexperienced or tourists! I would hate to have to explain it to them, not going to lie about that one… But here’s a few tips to get the cheapest tickets…
- Travel Off-Peak > Seriously guys, travelling at peak time is daylight robbery, no discounts, overcrowding and a disappointing experience. So if at all possible try and change your plans to travel at off peak times, after 10:30am and not between 4-7pm along with weekends usually, but this varies across train operators.
- Book 12 weeks ahead > This is when train operators usually release their ‘advance’ tickets. These are the cheapest and allow you to travel in first class along with standard for rock bottom prices. They sell out quick and you must catch the specified train, so if you need flexibility don’t book these tickets. It’s never cheaper to book closer to the date in this industry once 12 weeks has passed.
- Split your ticket > There are tools online that allow you to search these, but you can do it yourself. Here’s an example of one I’ve done. I needed to travel from Liverpool to Birmingham and wanted to travel on Virgin to Stafford and change to Crosscountry to Birmingham. A ticket in first class? £40 off peak advance. Not bad, but I can do better, buy one ticket from Liverpool to Stafford and then a separate one from Stafford to Birmingham on the same trains just separate bookings, total now? £15 first class off peak advance.
- Consider buying a railcard > These cost around £30 for a year, but you save 1/3 off train travel in the United Kingdom, along with other event discounts. There’s plenty available for students, seniors and families too, so check out if you’re eligible on this website: https://www.railcard.co.uk/
- If you’re a regular commuter, consider buying a season ticket > to make significant savings, it can be a lot, and it’s well worth it, plus it saves the hassle of buying a new ticket.
- See if buying two singles is cheaper > Sometimes return tickets can be more expensive than singles for the same train. Look into all options provided on the booking portal. Plus do note that some machines at the station offer different prices for the same train, so always make sure that you’re not being ripped off.
- Using Virgin Trains site to book your train tickets > In doing this you can save paying booking and delivery fees that other companies will add onto your booking, Virgin don’t charge these, and they sell tickets for ALL companies at the same price, so don’t worry if you’re not travelling with them, it’s all one big system.
While you wait for me to post the European train ticketing discounts, I recommend that you book them through this site! I’ve always used them right from their origin as Captain Train, they’re easy, have nearly all European rail companies integrated, and don’t charge unnecessary fees.
Also while you’re here, check out this site for advice on travelling round Europe via train rather than flying, it’s a relaxing way to travel, and Mark has been incredibly helpful in providing this site for the public to gain free advice for this travel, it’s been invaluable to me!