Want to travel the trains around the UK as cheap as possible? Read these tips to ensure you get the best deals around. It’s a little well-known fact that travelling in the UK by rail can sometimes be expensive, in fact it’s the most expensive railway in Europe. If you have ever used the railways in the UK you will more likely than not, know of the pain that the delays, engineering works and short notice cancellations cause that lead to packed trains. However follow my blog advice below and save hundreds of pounds and learn how to get part or all of your fare back if your train is ever delayed.

Travel Off Peak

Train fares shoot up at peak times, due to commuters getting to and from work. By travelling outside of these times you can save yourself a lot of money. Take the example below of a real train ticket I looked at booking two days before travelling.

09.20am London – Manchester £169.00
10.20am London – Manchester £55.00

By getting the 10.20 train which is only an hour later than the 9.20 train I have already made a saving of £114.00. By getting the train at 11.20, the hour after that, I can save an extra £15.50, getting the ticket for just £39.50. BARGAIN!

Peak travel times are between 06:30 – 09:30 and 16:30 – 19:00, Monday to Friday, not including Bank Holidays. So if you can, my advice to you would be to book outside of these times and have a few hours of flexibility to avoid paying the peak premium prices.

Book in Advance

If you have planned your trip and travels around the UK well, you should be able to book your tickets well in advance, even if you can only book it a week or even a few days in advance, it’s always better than booking it on the day. HOWEVER don’t book too far in advance! Train operators normally only release their advance fares 8-12 weeks before travel, so keep an eye out. I would suggest booking 4-8 weeks before travel.

Below I have given an example of the same ticket for the same date and time of travel. On the 10th of November 2018 on the 19:20 train, London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly.

Booked 8 weeks before travel London – Manchester £25.00
Booked on the day London – Manchester £85.90

A saving of £60.90! There are also many more perks to booking your train in advance. First off you get to pick your seat free of charge. This means on that timed train for that route you have a seat and people who book on the day if the trains full will have to stand. Would you rather sit or stand for a 3 hour train journey? You also get to choose what type of seat you want. Window seat, seat with a table, plug socket seat (handy to charge your travel electrical devices and phone).

City to City Splitting Tickets

If you’re visiting the UK to travel there is a good chance you’ll be visiting the major cities. However you might want to go away from these and see some of the smaller towns or historical sites. For example a city to city destination would be London to Manchester, but if you wanted to go to Walkden – a town 8 miles north of Manchester – then as Walkden is not a city or main hub station it would normally be cheaper to book separate tickets for each leg of the journey. Let me explain.

London – Walkden £44.00
London – Manchester – Walkden £29.40

By buying the first ticket London to Manchester than the second ticket Manchester to Walkden I have saved an extra £14.60 on this fare. However, check both ways because sometimes it is cheaper on selected routes to buy the ticket straight through. I have sometimes seen tickets from London – Walkden at £25.00, giving you the Manchester to Walkden bit free. It all depends on the route and when you book I think so again check both to see the cheapest.

Delay Repay

Since the end of 2016, train operators have had to start offering a little thing called delay repay, however it is on the emphasis of the traveller to make the claim. No one likes a delay, the reason we book a train for a certain time is so we can arrive at our destination on time and continue our travels in the new city we have arrived in. However if I said arriving 31 minutes late and you can get 50% of your fare refunded or 61 minutes late and you could get a full refund, maybe that short delay would be a welcome one!

So how does it work? Well if your train arrives between 30 minutes and 59 minutes late into the station, you can claim back 50% of your single ticket fare. If your train is 60 minutes or more you can claim 100% back (travelling free) of your ticket. It is easy to claim, just go online to the train company you are travelling with and find their delay repay page (or goggle it). Fill in the online form, attach photos with your printed tickets or mobile tickets, and send. If everything is right the money will be back with you in 10 days. EASY! If for some reason they say you don’t meet the qualifying criteria, email them back and tell them what trains you did get because of the cancellations which shows you arrived late.

Railcards

Depending on how long you’re visiting the UK for and how much you’ll be using the trains, to save even more money why not get a railcard. The railcards can be used with all the advanced fares mentioned above and get you an extra 1/3rd off (33%) your ticket price.

A full list of railcards can be found here. Let’s take our example from London to Manchester on the 10th of November 2018 but booked 8 weeks before. Remember we got this for £25.00 already saving us £60.80, but add a railcard and we can get this ticket for only £16.50, saving another £8.50.

Or let’s say you didn’t listen to my advice and book in advance, booking only a few days before as mentioned would cost £85.90. You can still use your railcard on the day to get this discounted and then your fares gone down to £56.70, saving you £29.20.

The railcards are £30 a year so if you make 3 or more trips with the advance purchases, or just one trip when paying on the day, the card pays for itself and everything else is an extra saving. Make sure you read the terms and conditions of the railcards as most don’t let you travel during peak times, but why would you want to travel at peak time!

Sales and special fares

Every now and then certain train operators offer sales and extra discounts, Virgin Trains have them quite often and have fares from just £12 from London to Manchester at certain times. Sign up to the train companies emails and be the first to find out when their sales are on.

My final point

To find out about all these fares you can go on any of the train companies websites and search the trains and prices. To save you some time though I would download ‘The Trainline’ app to your phone. Its so easy to use and you can find prices for all routes. You can purchase the ticket from the app and collect at 1000’s of ticket machines across the UK or as most routes let you download mobile tickets its nice and safe on your phone.

If you have any questions about rail travel in the UK or need help, comment below or send me and Email, I’ll try my best to help and show you how to get a good deal.

19 Comments

  1. CLMuileboom Reply

    Cool, thanks for sharing this information. It’s a great read for a frugal traveller ;). If I ever go to the UK, I will now be more informed of the trains, and how to save some money. Thanks for this informative post.

  2. This is awesome, I’m considering to visit England again this summer and this helps a lot. Thanks. 🙂

  3. Hey Martin, I hope you’re doing great. I am planning to go to UK next year. I haven’t planned my trip yet (as in map an itineraries and budget) and I know very little about it. But I heard it’s quite expensive to travel there. It’s nice to have stumbled upon this post. I’ll be sure to bookmark this. Thank you so much!

  4. this is great! traveling the UK by rail has a certain excitement to it. will definitely take your tips into consideration next time I am over for a visit.

  5. And here I thought, Berlin is expensive, lol. Thank you for sharing this informative post, since I’m planning to go to UK soon.

  6. Thanks for the information! We always book in advance, and use a two together railcard which cuts our fare price down by 33% which is very useful!

  7. Wow. Really nice trick. Sadly this doesn’t work in India but I’ll surely share this with friends traveling Europe/UK in future.

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