The Sweet Art of Buying Cheap Train Tickets

The Sweet Art of Buying Cheap Train Tickets.

I’ve been a serial train-ticket-buying-ninja for years now, and I’m always surprised at the number of people who still have no idea how to get cheap train tickets.

In fact, it’s only in the last few years that most people have started to cotton on to how easy and cheap it can be to buy train tickets online (well, you’ll see how easy if you read this), so I reckon it’s about time that I did my bit and passed on what I know.

So here goes:

1) Use a comparison site like Trainline or Redspottedhanky – they are both good – and book at least the day before. But don’t just use one site; check both. Sometimes one is cheaper than the other.

2) If you’re really really organised then buy an advance ticket 12 weeks in advance. These are definitely the cheapest of all tickets but you must be sure of your journey because they are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. You also must travel on the train specified as these tickets have seat reservations (which is why they are so cheap). The great thing about advance tickets is that there’s no booking fee

Buying cheap train tickets can be a nightmare. The prices seem to jump up and down, there’s a million different websites, and you don’t know if the ticket you buy is actually the cheapest one available.

As a travelling Brit I’ve spent some time researching this topic and looking for ways to make buying cheap train tickets more reliable and less painful. My goal is to find out if I can get my train for £2 or £3 each way by using various price tricks. Here’s what I found…

Train ticket booking has never been easier. Today, a quick search online can turn up the cheapest train fares in seconds. But not all rail tickets are created equal and there are still plenty of tricks to keep your costs down and save yourself money when travelling by train.

So, whether you’re looking for cheap advance tickets, super off-peak deals or simply want to know how to find the best savings on train fares, we’re here to help!

Here are some tips and tricks on how to get cheap train tickets:

1. Book early. If you book in advance you’ll be able to find some great deals on cheap tickets and save up to 80% compared to the price of an Anytime ticket. Advance single tickets usually go on sale 12 weeks before the day of travel, so if you know where you’re going and when, this is a great way to bag a bargain.

2. Travel off-peak. If you’re flexible with your travel dates then travelling off-peak can help save you money too, as it’s when prices are lower than at busier times of day or on popular routes. And don’t forget if you have a Railcard you’ll enjoy even bigger savings off these super off-peak fares!


To make a note of the cheapest fare, you need to know the route you are taking. As an example, we will use London to Edinburgh in our search as it is a popular route.

You can use the National Rail Enquiries website ( to find out what stations are on your route, then click on ‘Fares’ and enter your journey details. This will bring up the cheapest fares for each operator on your chosen route on a particular date. You can then select ‘Find tickets’ to buy the ticket. If there were no cheap advance fares available for your journey (or you want to travel without booking), you can select ‘Find alternative tickets’ which will show you other options for buying a ticket for your journey. Note: If you do not know the stations at each end of your journey, DO NOT try a general search for train times from one town/city to another as this will return a list of stations with no indication of which is nearest to where you actually want to go!

So there you are. You have to go to London. And you don’t know how to book train tickets?

Don’t worry, here is the guide that will show you the way.

1 – Look for departures between 8am and 10am

Traditionally, the most expensive times to travel are Monday and Friday mornings. If you’re able to travel Tuesday-Thursday instead you’ll usually find much cheaper tickets.

2 – Buy your ticket at least three weeks in advance

Train companies usually release the cheap advance tickets 12 weeks before departure. That means it’s worth checking for tickets every few days (and signing up for email alerts) until 12 weeks prior then purchasing when they become available. They sell out quickly so be ready!

3 – What day of the week you’re travelling on can make a difference

If you’re heading off early on a Monday morning, it’s going to be much cheaper travelling on the Sunday night, or even Saturday night, before. Likewise if you’re travelling back on a Friday afternoon, it’s going to save money if you come back Thursday or even Wednesday night instead.

4 – Travel off-peak

Avoid travelling during peak hours and times where most people are using the railway system like rush hour or bank holidays.

Buying train tickets can be a real minefield. The following tips will help you navigate the system and get the best ticket for your journey.

The first thing to do is understand how train fares work in the UK. There are hundreds of different fares, some routes have one type of fare, other routes have another. Some trains are cheaper than others, some services have special offers, some journeys have to be made with a specific operator.

Understanding all this is nigh on impossible for most people, so I’ve included a few basic tips that apply to most journeys:

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