So it's a good idea to pick the train operator site that www. The National Rail website It's often best to start with the national rail website, www. This doesn't sell tickets itself, but after answering your enquiry it will offer you a choice of all the ticket selling websites, including the train companies' own sites, and the operator most relevant to your journey will be offered at the top of the list.
Pick a train company site such as www. To buy train tickets by phone , there are a number of train operator telesales lines, all selling the same tickets at the same prices, for example, Virgin Trains on Reservations normally open around 12 weeks before departure , you can't buy tickets before then.
But here's a good idea: Sign up for a free email 'ticket alert' when bookings open for the specific route you want, allowing you to snap up those cheap fares as soon as they are released It's worth trying later in the day if you don't immediately see any cheap deals available. To sign up for an alert, go to www. Some other train companies also offer this service. There are several weeks at the extremity of the booking period when expensive fares are shown but no cheap fares appear. This catches out many overseas visitors to the UK, desperate to book their long distance train trip months ahead.
Cheap Advance fares can only go on sale when reservations open, usually 8 to 10 weeks out, because availability at each price level is controlled by the reservation system. That means there's a gap of several weeks when only expensive fares are shown, before the cheap fares appear. Train fares have a reputation for being complicated, but the Quick guide to the 3 types of train ticket on this page will make it simple.
If you book a cheap 'no refunds, limited changes' ticket in advance you can find some great fares, for example:. You can buy tickets for any route in Britain online at www. You can buy Advance fares a maximum of 12 weeks ahead, though it's usually less than this, perhaps 8 or 9 weeks.
If reservations aren't yet open for your date of travel, sign up for an automatic ' ticket alert ' from www. Wednesday lunchtime is usually cheaper than Friday or Sunday afternoon! Advance fares are only valid on the train you've booked, no refunds, only limited changes to travel plans allowed If you want flexibility, you'll need an Off-Peak fare or Anytime fare instead.
Bookings for Advance fares theoretically close at But in practice they remove any remaining Advance fares at Cheapest available one-way Advance fares: Is there a cheaper but slower route? Journey planners are built to find the fastest route, then find the cheapest fare for that route. Sometimes there's a slower route run by another train company with cheaper fares which a regular journey planner enquiry won't find. To check this, simply run the usual enquiry on www.
Click the button against each price, working your way down the list. Consider getting a railcard if you're under 26, over 60, travel as a family, travel as a couple, or have a registered disability. Split the journey, where two tickets are cheaper than one: Check your journey at www.
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You'll often find a situation where the cost of a ticket from A to B plus a ticket from B to C is less than the cost of a ticket from A to C. As long as the train stops at 'B', you're entitled to use a combination of tickets, it's perfectly legal and there is absolutely no need to get off the train. Such situations usually arise where different pricing managers from different train companies price the various sections of route, and have not noticed the anomaly. It's less likely to happen on obvious direct routes to and from London, as these will usually be priced by one pricing manager working for one train company who will naturally avoid creating any such anomalies if he can.
For example, rather than buy a Penzance to Birmingham Off-Peak ticket you can save money by buying a Penzance to Cheltenham Off-peak ticket plus a Cheltenham to Birmingham Off-peak ticket, as all the Penzance-Birmingham trains call at Cheltenham. Under Condition 19 of the National Rail Conditions of Carriage there is absolutely no need to get off the train, the only requirement for using a combination of tickets under Condition 19 is that the train itself calls there. The Man in Seat 61 says: I checked these claims using nationalrail. I'm not sure I'd now buy any long-distance flexible ticket without at least checking what this system said.
However, either the split-ticketing system doesn't work with Advance fares, or split-ticketing itself seldom makes any difference with advance-purchase fares, it's mainly the off-peak and anytime fares that show the savings. The benefit if any of split ticketing varies enormously from route to route and time period to time period.
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I might only save 60p on an off-peak mile trip from Aylesbury to London, but if I needed to catch the You can then click to buy all the tickets online as one transaction, as easily as buying one ticket. There's no booking fee unless they make you a saving, then they take a small fee out of the saving. Split the journey to avoid paying peak fares for the whole trip: You can sometimes save money by splitting the journey into two tickets if your chosen train starts as a peak train but becomes an off-peak train en route. This often happens where Off-peak fares carry an 'any departure after For example, if you need a train leaving at The split-ticketing system at www.
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A word of warning about 'travelling short': There are many cases where it's cheaper to buy a ticket from A to C and get off at B. For example, a cheap limited-availability Advance ticket might be available from London to Edinburgh, but no cheap fares available to Newcastle, only Off-Peak or Anytime fares costing more than the cheap deal to Edinburgh.
In practice you might get away with this, especially if there are no ticket barriers at your destination so you can just walk out of the station. But technically, you cannot break your journey with an Advance fare, nor with the outward portion of a long distance Off-Peak return fare.
Under the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, ticket inspectors are entitled to charge you the difference in fare between what you've paid and the cheapest walk-up ticket for the journey you've actually made. Launched in , the Two Together Railcard for two named people of any age, who travel together.
A railcard can pay for itself in just one or two long-distance train journeys. Buy online at www. Senior Railcards are for anyone over See the website for more details. You don't need to be related, as long as the party includes at least one child and all travels together.
It can easily pay for itself in just one long-distance train trip! The named individuals, both of whom will need their photos on the railcard, must both be over 16 but need not be related. For details and online sales, see www. For a summary of all railcards see www. Railcards only give discounts on British train tickets, not for travel in mainland Europe, or on Heathrow Express or Eurostar.
If you're visiting the UK from overseas and want to save money with a railcard, no problem, you can! You can buy a UK national railcard if you meet the criteria for age or for a family group or two people travelling together, you don't have to be a British citizen or live in the UK to qualify for a railcard. However, you will need to buy your railcard in person at any staffed station when you get to the UK, you cannot buy one online as they won't send the railcard outside the UK.
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But you can still buy tickets online in advance with the railcard discount selected at www. Just make sure you buy the railcard over the counter at any staffed station before you board the train and remember you may need to bring passport-sized photos of yourself. As well as online train times and fares, www. There's also a small office at Holyhead.
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Most other stations don't have left luggage facilities. The best free downloadable map of the UK train network is here: This and other UK train network maps are listed on www. I also recommend rail fare expert Barry Doe's UK rail map which shows which train operator runs where, www. Most leisure travellers go standard class, with first class used by businessmen. But if you pre-book you can find some great first class deals.
Below right, a full English breakfast with cereal, toast, tea or coffee and juice is served on Virgin Trains inter-city services leaving before Another good reason for taking a morning train not plane from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle to London! Traveline is a national initiative to make local travel information available on a single number nationwide.
All call centres open Ferries to the Isle of Wight: Ferries to the Isle of Man, see the Isle of Man page. Ferry to the Scilly Isles: Aberdeen-Shetland has a daily overnight service, the ships are little gems, with cosy cabins, lounges, bar, restaurant, and an excellent premium lounge called the Magnus Lounge which is well worth the small extra charge. Northlink's terminal in Aberdeen is in central Aberdeen, an easy minute walk from Aberdeen station. The premium Magnus Lounge on the Hrossey.
The Hrossey ready to sail from Aberdeen Northlink's distinctive Viking logo A premium cabin on the Hrossey Most trains carry bicycles, sometimes for free, sometimes for a small fee with advance reservation required. Try split-ticketing Rail bosses last year admitted that a glaring anomaly of the archaic ticketing system is that it can sometimes work out much cheaper to buy two or more tickets for different connecting segments of your journey rather than one ticket for the whole trip.
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10 simple secrets to saving money on UK rail fares
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It's cheaper because when you book a break, we pass on special discounts for packages from hotels and train companies as well as making the total price lower. And you'll make a break in LESS time because in one place you can book your hotel, your train plus s of shows, events and attractions.
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