Whether you're heading to a social event in the city you live in or travelling further afield, public transport is usually the easiest way to get where you need to go. Plus, if you plan on having a tipple or two, it's the most sensible, too.


For some of us, catching the train is part of our everyday life; we bundle our books into our bags for college or university, we pack up our laptop for a work meeting, or hop on the train armed in a uniform ready for our shift to begin.

We’d always prefer to catch public transport than drive, too. After all, you can’t exactly read a book, watch a film, or fall asleep while you’re behind the wheel… But with rising fares, it sometimes seems that catching a train isn’t worth the hassle. That’s why we’re here to tell you how to bag the cheapest train fares for all your transport needs.

Finding cheap tickets for things is something of RadioTimes.com's speciality. With the cost of living crisis an ongoing epidemic, coupled with the need to save on things (such as our commute) to enjoy the activities we love, we're fully aware of the importance of tightening our wallets. We've put together guides on how to get cheap theatre tickets, how to get cheap cinema tickets, how to get cheap football tickets, how to get cheap concert tickets, plus more, in the Going Out section. So have a read of those guides when you can.

Plus, if you’re a regular commuter wanting to slash the price of your daily or weekly trips, we’ve got some top tips for that, too.

Looking for something to do while on the train? Check out the best Audible deals, best Kindle deals, and best Disney Plus offers for this month.

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How to get cheap train tickets

how to get cheap train tickets UK europe
Natalia Lebedinskaia via Getty Images Natalia Lebedinskaia via Getty Images

Now, for the main event: how to get cheap train tickets. There are a few sure-fire ways to bag discounted train tickets, like purchasing a Railcard or a season ticket, and opting for websites without a booking fee. There are also a few nifty tricks you can try to reduce the cost, like splitting the journey and booking in advance.

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What day is cheapest to travel by train?

If you can, it’ll save you money to travel ‘off-peak’. When we say ‘off-peak’, we mean any time outside of the busiest times of travel (commuting hours and weekends).

For example, a single train ticket from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston during peak commuter time will set you back £173.30. However, if you choose to travel just 15 minutes later at 9.35am, it will cost you £71.

Over £100 difference for one train ticket sounds like a fib (and we wish it was!). However, when we looked on Trainline at the time of writing this article (Thursday 6th April), it was unfortunately there in black and white for a train for the following week.

Visiting London this year? We have some great activities for you to try, like the best immersive experiences, best West End shows, and top London walking tours.

When are cheap train tickets available?

Train operators publish the timetables 12 weeks in advance, so 12 weeks before any trip is the best time to book tickets.

Best cheap train tickets and deals at a glance:

Best cheap train tickets and deals for September 2023

how to get cheap train tickets cheap eurostar tickets uk
Getty / Dave G Kelly

Save up to ⅓ of the fare with a Railcard

If you’re a regular traveller, Railcards are a brilliant way to save money on your train fare. On average, a Railcard user saves £140 per year, as they can get up to ⅓ off the cost of travel.

You’ve probably heard of the 16-25 Railcard, but there are lots more Railcards, too, like the Senior Railcard, Two Together Railcard, Disabled Persons Railcard, Veterans Railcard, and more.

Save up to ⅓ with a Railcard

Swap to a season ticket

This deal is best suited to commuters. If you’re travelling multiple times per week, you’ll more than likely save money with a weekly, monthly or annual season ticket. If you can afford to, an annual season ticket will save you more overall, but if that’s a stretch, don’t worry; the monthly and weekly passes will still help you put away those pennies. Money Saving Expert handily has a season ticket calculator.

Check out the season tickets on Trainline

Split the journey

In our opinion, this next hack is worth the extra bit of effort to save those all important pounds.

Instead of making one trip, split the journey in two. For example, if you’re travelling from London to Durham but the train stops at York, you could buy a ticket from London to York, then York to Durham, where often the individual journeys will cost less than the overall one.

Trainline has very handily introduced a tool to help you split the journey. When booking a ticket via the app or website, look out for the 'SplitSave' icon. SplitSave will split the journey, giving you multiple tickets, however, this doesn't necessarily mean you'll have to swap trains, just swap tickets.

Find out more about SplitSave at Trainline

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Avoid the booking fee

You’ve confirmed your trip, you’ve got your debit card out, and you’ve just been met with a £1.75 booking fee. It’s not the biggest sum in the world, but when you’re about to spend a decent amount on train tickets, it’s annoying at the very least.

Some online train companies do charge a booking fee, like Trainline and Raileasy, and some train companies don’t, like East Midlands Railway and Avanti West Coast.

You can use sites, such as East Midlands Railway, for example, to book any journey across the UK - it wouldn’t have to be in the East Midlands.

A quick Google search of booking fees on individual sites should tell you whether you’ll be met with a charge or not.

Single vs return train tickets

In theory, return train tickets should be cheaper than paying for two singles. In practice, this isn’t always the case. Be sure to check on your chosen website which costs less.

How to get cheap first class train tickets

Usually, first class seats are more expensive, but on rare occasions, they’re the same price as standard tickets or cheaper. This may be luck of the draw when you’re on the site ready to purchase a seat. Or, they’ll work out cheaper in comparison depending on your time travelling. For example, an off-peak first class seat may be cheaper than a peak standard seat.

If you’re wanting to treat yourself to a first class seat, be sure to purchase it 12 weeks before your trip, as this will be the cheapest price. With websites like ScotRail, you can save up to 30 per cent on first class travel if you book an ‘Advance’ ticket.

If you're looking for a saving (aren't we all?), then take a look at our how to get cheap Thorpe Park tickets, how to get cheap Chessington World of Adventures tickets, how to get cheap LEGOLAND tickets, and how to get cheap Alton Towers tickets articles.

How to get cheap Caledonian Sleeper tickets

The Caledonian Sleeper is an overnight sleeper train which has services between London and Scotland. It’s almost definitely going to be comfier than the trip one of the RadioTimes.com team took to Edinburgh last summer (where they spent 12 hours on a Megabus), however, the Caledonian Sleeper will be pricier.

Here’s how you can get Caledonian Sleeper tickets for less.

Use your National Railcard. Selected Railcards — the 16-25 Railcard, the Senior Railcard, the HM Forces Railcard, the Veterans Railcard, the Friends & Family Railcard, the Disabled Persons Railcard, and the Two Together Railcard — offer up to 34 per cent discount on Club Solo or Classic Solo Rooms and seated products.

Also, choose a website that doesn’t have a booking fee. For example, you can book Caledonian Sleeper seats on ScotRail and Trainline; ScotRail doesn’t have a booking fee, whereas Trainline does.

How to get cheap Eurostar tickets

The earlier you book, the better the chance of getting the lowest cost tickets. To get the best price, book 120 days in advance. We know that’s quite early for a lot of people, but you can now change your booking as many times as you’d like with no exchange fee up to seven days before departure.

It’s also worth noting that you can buy train tickets from London to Paris on Trainline, and yes, you can add a Railcard.

If you're making the trip across the channel, why not check out our how to get cheap Disneyland Paris tickets guide?


Now that you've got your cheap train ticket, here's some ideas on where to go! Take a look at the best Manchester theatre shows, best UK zombie experiences and best London art exhibitions.