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How To Save Money On Extortionate UK Train Journeys

Train travel hacks
Source: Pixabay

UK train rip-off

Anyone who has travelled by train in England or the UK knows it is expensive. Unlike flying, there’s little in the way of UK train loyalty rewards, and no points to redeem for free journeys. I’d definitely be a Millionaire (of loyalty points, that is!) if that was the case!

A standard train journey from Sheffield to London often costs well over £100. Seriously, I can fly to a bunch of places in Europe for less! If I want to travel first class for some much-needed extra space, a hot breakfast and free wi-fi, that price might exceed £300!

UK train travel hacks

Whilst you are unlikely to ever get a budget airline, bargain bucket fare of £9.99, there are a few hacks you can use to get a better deal on train fares.

virgin Trains screenshot

Book at least two weeks in advance

Virgin entice you to book early with discounts of up to 40%. This can make a huge difference, particularly if a number of you are travelling.

Book off-peak tickets

As someone who has travelled the East Coast Line from Sheffield to London every week for pretty much the last three years, this is the best piece of advice I can give you. If you jump on a train at 8am, you are not going to get the best fare. Why would you even want to? After all, if you are on holiday, you are supposed to be chilling!

Have a leisurely breakfast, book your train mid-morning and you will be surprised by how much you can save!

Group book

If three or more people are travelling you can claim a 20% discount so why not get together with friends and save? You can also take advantage of a number of 2 for one offers by travelling by train. In London, for instance, you can book a BOGOF deal to the Sealife Aquarium and Arsenal.

Group of friends on mountain bikes
Source: Pixabay

Sign up for alerts

You may also wish to sign up for alerts for cheaper tickets on the Virgin website.

Still too expensive?

If the prices are simply still too expensive, you can check out tickets on National Express buses which run frequently from London Victoria to destinations throughout the UK. Buses are better value but do take longer (especially if you get stuck in rush hour traffic!)

Finally, the newest kid in town is Megabus. Their buses may not be as comfortable as National Express, but you can occasionally pick up tickets for less than a cup of coffee.

Do you have any tips for getting cheap UK trains?

I’d love to know them.

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips

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  1. There may be different money-saving tips for different distances. For distances as short as the neighbouring county, is the train the best choice? For a distance as long as London-Sheffield, it seems the best when good deals are available- and the trains are attractive too. Then there’s the Caledonian Sleeper. How much can we save on that one? Then there are the passes- when are they the best choice?

  2. Great tips – I found that my student ID worked really well for discounts on UK trains while I was there for a year. Highly recommend anyone in school or university to sort out an International Student ID before they leave 🙂

  3. We had a great trip from Rhyl in Wales to London last year. My cousin works on the railways so he got the tickets a little cheaper lol

  4. That is pretty expensive! There are a few really nice trains that run in Europe that can get expensive, but overall travel in Germany isn’t too bad. We have a great rewards program. The few times I’ve been in the U.K I ended up renting a car, but these hacks might help reduce the cost a bit to something more reasonable. Thanks for sharing your secrets.

  5. Why is train travel in the UK so expensive? At those prices it would be cheaper for you to fly to Europe and back (and you could probably even pay for your accomodation) for the price of a train trip within the UK!

    • Sadly that is true. I can fly to a ton of places in Europe for less than what I pay to go from Sheffield to London by train. Yet the trains are still packed although you would have to be insane to want to drive in London

  6. Trains can be so expensive if you don’t book them at the right time. I find you can’t book them too early and you can’t book them too late. Its all about timing really!

  7. If have the luxury of booking 2-3 month in advance, when tickets come out you can find very good deals then. It traveling with a family get a family rail card. It’s inexpensive and will save a fortune.

    • Yes definitely. I really need a good deal to London for January so am hoping I can grab one of those deals as my usual price is around £180 when I’m travelling for business. Ouch! That’s not even first class!

  8. If you are over 60, you can buy a Senior Railcard for 30 GBP and save on tickets. The railcard is good for one year, and can be renewed online.

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