Lots of people tell me that they think that train travel is expensive and they want to save money on trains. Using my tips and tricks, you can get cheap train travel. Train travel is the best way to travel. I can relax whilst someone else drives and let the train take the strain. The facilities on board are great with a buffet and loo being especially welcomed by families. I love to relax and catch up with a good book or DVD. It CAN be done on a budget – just follow my tips and tricks.
1) Railcards There’s almost a railcard for everyone! It’s a great way to get discounts on fares ans ave money every time you travel by train. Most people know about the 16-25 card for young people, the friends and family card and the senior railcard. However there is also a Two Together railcard which allows discounts on two people travelling together. Costing just £30 a year it gives 1/3rd off Standard and First Class Anytime, Off-Peak and Advanced fares. It might be cheaper to get a Two Together railcard rather than each person having a senior card if you always travel together. It also gives discounts on partner offers such as up to 60% off theatre tickets. You could save the cost of the railcard just one trip and go on to use it for a whole year. I often think that people are so quick to go abroad to see the sights when there’s still a lot of Britain that they have yet to see. There’s lots of great places you can see in the UK with a railcard.
2) NUS cards If you are a student, be sure to get a NUS card. You can save as much as 25% depending on which train operator you are using. You can also save money when you are buying a young person’s railcard.
Reduce the cost
3) Split Tickets Great savings can be made by buying more than one ticket for your journey. You don’t have to get off the train but you may have to move seats. There are some great websites that can work out the best value split tickets. Always compare these to a single route pricing to check for savings.
4) Single tickets Compare the price of getting two single tickets for your journey instead of a return ticket. It might even be cheaper to travel First Class rather than Standard for one leg of the journey. If you are in First Class, remember drinks and snacks are usually complementary on long distance services.
5) Train booking sites There are many train booking sites such as Train Genius. Be careful as some of these add on a booking fee and this may wipe out any savings. Use the train booking site to find the cheapest deal but then check if you can get the fare even cheaper by booking directly with the train operator for the same train.
6) National Rail cheap fare finder National Rail have a great tool that allows you to search all train operators and all routes to find the best deal. Check it out here
Can you be flexible?
7) Timing If you can be flexible on what time of the day you travel, you can make considerable savings. Consider catching an early or late train to avoid the peak travel times. 70% of train journeys begin or end in London and it’s much more expensive to travel at peak times.
8) Take a bit longer Picking a slower train can save money. Look for trains that take a bit longer and make more stops.
9) Vary the route Check if an alternative route is cheaper. You might have a choice of routes that you can use each using a different train operator. For example, Exeter to London is usually cheaper into Waterloo as it is a slower route with more stops than the Paddington route. If travelling to Heathrow, the stopping Heathrow Connect service is cheaper than the Heathrow Express.
10) Drive to another station If you’re lucky enough to have a choice of stations, it can make a big difference to the fare depending on which one you use. For example, in the Midlands, driving to Rugby station and travelling to London works out cheaper than travelling by train from Market Harborough. Think about whether you could use an alternative station and route and see what savings you can make.
Get someone else to pay!
11) Tesco vouchers Exchange Tesco vouchers for Red Spotted Hanky and travel free of charge. £5 of Tesco vouchers gives you £10 of Red Spotted Hanky vouchers. You can also buy a friends and family railcard for £15 of Tesco vouchers giving you 1/3rd off most adult fares and 60% off children’s fares for a year.
12) Nectar Card Swap your Nectar points for Virgin Trains East Coast Advance Tickets. These can be used for full or part payment. Nectar points can also be used for Eurostar tickets if you are travelling further afield.
13) Cashback If you don’t use a cashback site then you could be missing out big time! Topcashback offer money back when you buy tickets directly with certain train operators including Virgin trains and East Midland trains. This also applies when purchasing railcards – a double whammy!
14) Refunds for delays If your train is delayed, you maybe entitled to a full or partial refund. Make sure you claim if you think this is the case – they can only say ‘No’! Refunds usually start to apply when a train is delayed for more than 30 minutes.
Get tickets for free!
15) Competitions Try to win your train tickets! Keep an eye on the social media sites of the train companies. Set up a follow on their Facebook pages and get notifications for Twitter. They often run competitions to win tickets to be used anywhere on their own services. Check out the free magazines you sometimes see on trains and at stations. Search on the internet for ‘win train tickets’ and set the search to look for posts in the last month.
16) Mailing Lists Join the mailing lists of the train companies you use and keep an eye on your emails. Some train companies even offer loyalty schemes. For example, Cross Country have a monthly draw for free tickets every time you make a purchase.
Other ways to save
17) London Underground travel card If you travel on the London Underground, you can now use a contactless debit card in place of an Oyster card. Just swipe the debit card on the Oyster pad as normal. Over the course of a day, you’ll never be charged more than a daily travel card. It can work out cheaper than buying tickets for each single journey. The system calculates the cheapest method of ticketing and only charges you for this amount.
18) Sleeper trains For long journeys, it might be cheaper to take a sleeper train rather than a train journey and a hotel at your destination. Sleepers are available between London and Cornwall and London and Scotland. You can get single and double compartments and inter-connecting compartments for groups of four.
19) Food and Drink It goes without saying that the cheapest way to eat and drink on a train is to take your own supplies. However when this is not possible you can apply for a free Bite card and save 10% from food and drink in many of the outlets on railway stations. Update: as of May 2018, the Bite card was closed to new members however it may be active again soon so worth a check.
20) Attraction tickets Train companies often have brokered deals with attractions at the destinations they serve. Have a look at the train operator websites to see what they offer. In London they offer 2 for 1 tickets on many attractions on production of a valid train ticket
Finally – Don’t forget that seat reservations are free of charge!
Read my tips to get a seat on the train if you don’t have a reservation.
If you have tips for cheap train travel that I’ve not mentioned here, please feel free to add them in the comments below.
Emilio Pasquale says
Train travel is definitely expensive here in the states. Most people will opt for cheaper and faster airplanes. But I, too, enjoy train travel.
I’d love to ride the California Zephyr – what’s the most scenic route is the US?
Paul Duck says
Could I add 1 more to your suggestions sorry.
Visit your local station they have extensive knowledge of ticketing. I work in an independent railway ticket office in Teesside meaning we go out of our way to find the best deals. Sometimes better than split ticketing websites. Give them a try, I can insist enough that if passengers want ticket offices to remain they need to trust them in finding cheap tickets.
Paul @ Eaglescliffe
Great idea thanks Paul
Hazel Vanbergen says
Most interesting and potentially useful. Thanks.
Thank you Hazel. I hope you have some enjoyable rail journeys.
Ted Barnes says
Well you just about cover it ..
Michael Reid says
Rail Sail. A fairly cheap way if you want come Ireland.