TOP SECRET Hacks For Getting Cheap Train Tickets In 2023
If you’re anything like us, you’ll have become wayyyy more obsessed with trains since following Francis Bourgeois on Tiktok – right?
He’s completely transformed how we view travelling by trains, and we’re not mad about it. However, when it comes to train travel prices, THAT is where we have an issue.
Train travel is ace, but it has got very expensive in the last few years, meaning it is more difficult than ever before to afford to travel when and where you want to.
The price of train tickets seems to go up every single year and this can make it hard to get home to visit your family or to explore and visit new places for a short break from time to time.
Finding cheap train tickets in the UK is still possible and, living as a student, you’ll want to know where you can make the most of your budget and still enjoy the things you deserve to, even if the prices keep going up!
It’s not unheard of for some people to fly rather than take the train, it is that expensive. Especially for those travelling from one end of the country to the other, it is notoriously difficult to find cheap train tickets in the UK. A flight from Edinburgh to Exeter can cost you less than a train fare.
Here are our tips for finding UK cheap train tickets in 2023…
1. Get A Railcard!
Buying a railcard should be one of the first things you do as a student, even if you don’t travel by train that much.
The 16-25 railcard is only £30 for the year, but you’ll get a massive third off every train ticket you buy!
This is the best way to find cheap train tickets in the UK as a student, and there is an extra hack too.
If you buy a three-year railcard just before you turn 24, you could experience cheaper train travel up until you’re 27! Once you turn 24, you’ll only qualify for a year-long railcard.
If you don’t qualify for a 16-25 railcard but travel with a partner or a friend regularly, it could be worth looking at the Two Together railcards as an alternative.
This costs the same price of £30 for a year that the 16-25 railcard costs and gives you a third off rail travel (as long as you travel on trains departing after 9.30 am Monday-Friday)
If you do have a railcard and live in London you can also link it to your Oyster card, giving you a third off all off-peak travel in the capital.
It’s worth noting that some banks offer a free railcard when you set up a student account with them, so check before you buy!
2. Book Train Tickets In Advance
In most cases, the perfect time to book the cheapest train tickets in the UK is around 11 weeks before you are due to travel.
This ‘10-12 weeks before’ window of opportunity is when you’ll most likely find the biggest savings on your journey.
But, even if you book a week before you are due to travel it’ll cost you less than it would to just turn up on the day and buy a ticket for the next train.
Buying train tickets in advance can save you as much as 40% on your journey cost.
And for some journeys and train operators you can even buy advance tickets for cheaper right up until around 10 minutes before departure, so always take a look even if you are leaving last minute!
The Trainline ticket alert service is a good way to find out when is the best time to buy tickets for a rail journey you are due to take.
3. Travel Off-Peak
Wherever possible, always travel at off-peak times.
These are the times when you are more likely to find cheap train tickets in the UK, as during peak times the prices will go much higher.
Peak times are usually just before 9.30 am and just after 5 pm during the weekdays, and you’ll also see that prices are usually higher to travel on the weekends.
If you are booking in advance most train booking websites and apps will let you know the peak times attached to that route, so make sure you only travel off-peak, and it could save you some money.
Not only is it better to travel off peak to save money, but you’ll actually get a seat on less busy services which is always a winner – who wants to fight to get a table?!
4. Split Your Journey
The longer the train journey, the more sense it makes to look at splitting your journey.
Now, we don’t mean getting off the train and getting back on another one, instead, you can buy multiple tickets for the same journey.
So, for example, if you are travelling from Manchester to Cardiff without changing trains, it might save you money to buy a ticket from Manchester to Crewe, from Crewe to Shrewsbury, and from Shrewsbury to Cardiff.
Don’t hold us to that specific journey and price saving though, as these things change all the time.
It will mean you end up with loads of tickets either in paper form or in your digital wallet, but it could save you a lot of money.
Searching for these split savings on your own could take a lot of time, so use a website or app like TrainSplit and they’ll do the hard work for you!
5. Travel With Others
If you’re travelling in a group of between 3 to 9 adults, you can get a 1/3 discount on Off-Peak tickets using GroupSave.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to purchase a Railcard to be eligible for the discount.
So, if you’re planning to travel to a new city or town with your friends or fam, or you’re wanting to show your uni besties your home, you should think about booking all the tickets at one time.
Plus, you won’t just save money but the journey will be fun too!
6. Be On The Look Out For Discounts
You would be amazed by the student discounts that are out there, including money off train travel.
Student Beans offer an exclusive 20% off your digital Railcard purchase at Trainline, as well as 1/3 off train tickets at National Rail.
With a TOTUM card, you can make the most of 25% student discount when you book with TransPennine Express.
TOTUM members can also save 10% on CrossCountry Advance train tickets!
It’s always worth checking what deals you can take advantage of due to your student status, even when travelling.
7. Get Your Money Back For Delays Or Cancellations
With all the train strikes going on currently, more and more services are being delayed or cancelled, which can be a pain when you’re travelling as a student.
One thing to remember though is that you can get your money back if your train was cancelled or delayed.
The exact amount will vary from each train operator, but usually if your service is delayed by 30 minutes or more, you will be able to claim compensation.
If your train journey is impacted you can normally go to the train operators website or app to make a claim.
Remember, there is usually a deadline for making a claim and you do need to keep proof of purchase!
8. Mega Train
You might have heard about Megabus, cheap bus travel if you don’t mind slightly longer journeys and no-frills.
Well, there is also Mega train. The same low-cost fares you know and love from the bus service (sometimes as low as £1) and only a £1 booking fee.
The downside is that it is only available through East Midlands Railway currently.
If you live and study along this route, it is something worth keeping an eye out for.
If you are travelling through to somewhere else in the UK, and part of your journey is on an East Midlands route, look at a split fare service that includes Megatrain, helping you to find cheap train tickets in the UK.
Alternative Transport Options
Of course, if you don’t have to rely on train travel, or you can’t find cheap train tickets in the UK for your regular needs, there are other ways you can travel.
Around the town you live in you should investigate the bus situation. There is often a student discount or student ticket that can be purchased to last a day, week, month, or longer, saving you considerable money.
You can even travel by coach, with National Express offering a 15% discount for students on bookings through UNiDAYS.
Alternatively, in some student cities, it makes sense to either walk or cycle everywhere you need to.
Again, this lowers your travel costs and helps to keep you fit without even barely having to work hard for it!
As you can see, there are a few different approaches you can take to save money on train travel.
The tips above are designed to help you find cheap train tickets in the UK, whether that is using a student railcard, booking tickets well in advance, or using a split ticket service to cut costs.
Train travel is lots of fun if you’re not stressing about cash, so we hope we have helped you find the cheapest train tickets in the UK to make a train journey a good time.