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Tips on finding cheap train tickets

There are plenty of great deals to be had on train fares. We’ve put together this list of steps to help you find cheap train tickets and low-cost fares.

Book early
Book early

Always book early

Cheap train tickets are usually released by train operators in advance of the journey. Normally, this is around 12 weeks in advance, as the timetable for any particular day is normally confirmed 12 weeks in advance.

For a temporary period Network Rail isn’t able to do this, instead confirming timetables 6 weeks in advance. This means that for some routes online journey planners, including Red Spotted Hanky, will not be completely accurate until 6 weeks before travel.

Advance tickets for many routes will still go on sale 12 weeks in advance, but where they don’t will be available from 6 weeks before the date of travel. Where it is not possible to book tickets 12 weeks in advance as usual, train operators will still offer the same range of discounted Advance tickets – they will just go on sale later.

The tickets are then managed on a regular basis in line with demand. This can sometimes mean increasing the quotas on trains or reducing them, which can make ticket prices rise. If you know your travel dates, it's a good idea to start searching for tickets as soon as you can, to see what's available. Just remember the longer you leave it until you book your train tickets, the more expensive they tend to be.

Be flexible
Be flexible

Be Flexible

If possible, try searching for cheaper train tickets on different dates and times. There may be a greater allocation of cheaper tickets still available on different dates and times, so it’s always worth having a good look.

Check alternative routes
Check alternative routes

Check alternative routes

Some journeys have competition between operators, meaning there are sometimes cheaper train tickets on different routes, or where on board service is less extensive. You can check all routes by using our train ticket search at the side of the page.

Avoid Peak times
Avoid Peak times

Avoid Peak Times

Whenever you can, avoid travelling at peak times. This means trains arriving before 0930 or 1000 and leaving between 1500 and 1900). Train operators tend to reduce their cheap train ticket quota in these busy periods.

Avoid Friday and Sunday
Avoid Friday and Sunday

Avoid Fridays and Sundays

These days tend to attract higher prices with weekend travellers pushing up the prices.

Get a Railcard
Get a Railcard

Check Your Railcard Eligibility

You could make great savings on your rail travel with a railcard, but railcards are only available to people who meet certain criteria.

To find the railcard that’s right for you (and potentially make big savings) take a look at our handy rail card guide.

Can you avoid London?

It’s sometimes cheaper to book journeys that don’t go through London. If it’s possible, always compare fare prices of journeys going through London and journeys avoiding London. There can be a big difference.

Good luck finding cheap tickets for your rail journey. If you have any tips of your own for finding the best deals on tickets, please let us know.

How much can you save?

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