Belles on Location

10 Tips for Budget Travel by Train in the UK

Ways to save on train travel within the UK

The British love to moan about the expense of taking public transport and quite rightly so, as it is one of the most expensive in Europe. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid paying the higher fares and travel on the cheap while visiting the UK. Budget travel by train is indeed possible!

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Tips for trains and coaches
1. Buy your tickets as early as possible. When browsing websites look at all the different times, as you’ll be surprised how much they can differ according to when and what day you wish to travel. Provided you’re flexible with your journey, you could be saving yourself a small fortune.

2. Split up your tickets. Purchasing two or more tickets for a trip can save you more money than buying a one single ticket for the same journey. Once you’ve decided on your destination, find the stops en route and split the tickets between these destinations.

3. If you’re planning a long train ride and some of the journey overlaps with peak times, buy a ticket only for the peak time and a separate ticket for the rest of the journey. By doing this you won’t be charged the peak time fare for the whole journey. However, it’s best to avoid traveling during peak times at all if possible; not just to save you money but it might also help with the comfort of your journey as trains can frequently get overcrowded during these times.

4. Compare the different prices for a return and two single journeys, as quite often buying two singles can be cheaper than a return.

5. If you travel late at night, prices are considerably cheaper. However, you should check that if you have any connecting trains or coaches, they still travel to your final destination that late, especially in rural areas. Alternatively, you can take a sleeper train for a longer journey.

6. Look out for promotional 2-for-1 offers at stations and online, especially on journeys from London.

7. If you’re planning a long stay in the UK or traveling to many destinations while you’re there, then you might be wise to invest in a Railcard or Coachcard. These can be bought for students, family, disabled or senior citizens and will save you up to a third of the price of a ticket.

8. Although it’s more common to book in advance, it is still possible to buy a discounted ticket right up until you travel – just make sure you buy online and not at the ticket office.

9. If your train is more than 30 minutes late, you could claim back some of your money provided you keep hold of your tickets to prove your purchase.

10. If you’re traveling by train you can still eat in the first class buffet with a second class ticket. It may cost you extra but if you’ve ever tried a sandwich from the buffet car you might prefer a snack from the comfort of a first class carriage!

*Photo by ell brown, used with permission

Dianne Thomas is a teacher and freelance writer. She has travelled, worked and written about Europe and is passionate about exploring new places. She currently jaunts between London and Bulgaria.

This article has 7 comments

  1. A Montrealer Abroad

    Very useful info! When I lived in the UK I had to take the train all the time to get out of London, and booking 12 weeks in advance is one of the easiest ways to save money.

  2. Michelle

    As well there are GroupSave options which if you are travelling as a group of 3 or 4 can save a bundle. To book this on a lot of the booking sites you will find this under “Railcards” even though it isn’t a railcard and doesn’t require a railcard to book and save under this deal.

    It does require your group travel together for the entire journey on all tickets.

    Details:

    Train companies:
    c2c, Chiltern Railways, East Midlands Trains, First Capital Connect, First Great Western, Greater Anglia, London Midland, London Overground, ScotRail, South West Trains, Southeastern, Southern, Stansted Express

    GroupSave offers the opportunity for three or four people (minimum one adult) to travel for the price that two adults would normally pay on various off-peak ticket types. Up to four additional children can accompany the main party, and travel at the flat fare of £1 each, single or return (not valid on ScotRail). In addition two children under the age of five can travel free of charge with each fare paying passenger.

  3. Ayelet - All Colores

    I always hear about the UK as such an expensive travel destination, it’s refreshing to read of ways to make a trip there more possible-looking.

  4. Krista

    Such good tips, Dianne! I found the UK so expensive and am delighted to learn some new ideas to save money. 🙂

  5. Karen McCann

    Thanks, Dianne, for the great information. I live in Seville, Spain, and fly regularly back to the US through London. My husband and I often schedule layovers of a few days in London on either end of the journey, and are planning longer ones so we can explore England a bit. Train travel is clearly the way to go, so we don’t have to take our lives in our hands attempting to recall which side of the road to drive on!

    Karen McCann
    EnjoyLivingAbroad.com

  6. Turkey's For Life

    I think most people would appreciate this article. Whenever we go back to the UK, we always look at the public transport options for getting around and they’re woeful. Expensive and never seem to do the route you’d like them to. That’s Blight for you. Turkey is so much more simple! 😉
    Julia

  7. Dianne

    Thanks for all your positive feedback and I’m so glad that you’ll be able on save some money next time you’re all on travels in the UK!

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