In the UK, there are several ticket types you can choose from, which confuses even well-experienced travellers. This makes it a challenge to immediately decide on which type of train ticket you need to buy. Train fares vary depending on when you choose to travel and on the distance from A to B. If you reserve in advance, you're naturally more likely to get a better deal. It is possible to find much cheaper train tickets if you travel during off peak train times, use a rail card and book a few weeks in advance.
We, at Omio, want to make navigating your way around the UK as easy as possible - that's why we created this train ticket guide to define which tickets exist, to highlight the 'pros and cons' and to identify important parts of the train ticket. If you have the right information, you can buy the ideal ticket for your journey - without spending more money than you need to.
Train tickets in the UK are notoriously difficult to understand. If you needed an excuse to have a lie-in, then this is definitely a good excuse:
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In the UK there are 4 types of train tickets, which vary in price depending on what time you travel and where you travel to. Below we reveal a breakdown of the 4 ticket types and each of their pros and cons. This way you can buy a train ticket that suits you best and is the right price.
|Train Tickets Explained|
These tickets offer the most flexibility as they are valid at any time on Peak and Off Peak services. They are useful tickets to buy if your plans tend to change.
Pros: Travel whenever you want, valid on any service, route or provider.
These tickets are cheaper because they are only valid on a specific service, at a specific time, during Peak and/or Off Peak times. If you have a seat reservation, you must carry the seat reservation ticket with you for your ticket to be valid.
Pros: Get much cheaper tickets booking 12 weeks in advance or even 1 hour beforehand.
These tickets are valid on trains that depart outside of busy commuting hours. Passengers must travel outside of peak times, or on exact train time printed on the ticket. If you have a seat reservation, the ticket is only valid if you also carry the seat reservation ticket with you.
Pros: Cheaper tickets during 10:00-15:00 and again at 18:35.
Super Off Peak:
These tickets are always the cheapest option, but they carry the most time restrictions. This type of ticket is only offered by a some UK train companies. Travelling with a Super Off Peak requires the passenger to travel at very specific date, time and train. If you are flexible with your time so you can travel at around 10:00-13:00, then this ticket is for you.
Pros: These tickets are the cheapest available, great to keep costs down.
If you book with Omio, you do not need to print your ticket out at home. You will be sent an 8-digit-long ticket collection reference by email. At the 'Collect Tickets' machine in the station, have your debit/credit card (used to buy the tickets) handy. - Select 'Collect tickets" - Insert debit/credit card (to trace your booking, you will not be charged) - Type in your ticket collection reference number - Select 'Print Tickets'
When you arrive at the departure station for your journey, you need to put the ticket labelled 'Out" through the ticket barrier. Upon returning, insert the 'Return' part of your ticket, unless there are no barriers at the station. Always keep your ticket on you for the entire journey, as checks can be made by ticket controllers at any time.
There are 4 main types of fares available: Anytime, Super Off Peak, Off Peak and Advance tickets. The cheaper it is, the more restrictions it will have. Book early to save money.
It depends how much you travel. If you are a frequent traveller to the same destination, you can get a weekly, monthly or annual pass. Check with the train provider for availability to find out if it's right for you. Remember you can buy a carnet or search for Super Off Peak tickets to save money, if you're flexible with your time.
In the past this used to be possible, now it is not. Always buy before boarding; you will most likely be fined a penalty fare (£20 at least) as well as 2 full-priced single fares. In the worst-case scenario you could even be prosecuted for fare evasion. The most convenient way is to book your ticket with us online via the Rail Planner App and collect your ticket at the station. This way, you can skip the queue!
Great Western Railway were previously called First Great Western. They operate in the south, providing commuter services to London via Reading. Occasionally, GWR allow you to book train tickets for weekday journeys up to 6 months in advance - good to plan future journeys.
Peak Times: starting from 06:30 to latest 09:30
Off Peak Times: 09:30 - 15:30 and after 18:34. Off Peak tickets valid until 04:29 the next day.
With East Midland Railways you buy an Anytime ticket up to 12 weeks in advance; they are set to a fixed price and do not tend to change. Once checked by the ticket controller, it is valid only on day of travel.
Peak Times: from 06:19 -10:06 arriving into London, going out of London from 05:45 - 9:00.
Off Peak Times: 10:06 - 16:26 and then after 19:00. Valid until 04:29 the next day.
Gatwick Express and Heathrow Express:
There are no Advance tickets available for the airport services. Although, if you travel to the airports often then you could buy a weekly ticket. Heathrow Express tickets are available with Omio, Heathrow Connect tickets must be bought at the station.
Peak Times: trains which arrive before 09:50 into London Victoria Station
Off Peak Times: trains which arrive from Gatwick Airport into London Victoria after 09:50 on weekdays, anytime on weekends.
Advance tickets are available early; save up to 50% off an Advance ticket when booking up to 24 weeks in advance.
Peak Times: starting from 07:00 to 09:00
Off Peak Times: 09:00 - 16:00 and after 19:00. Valid until 04:29 the next day.
Advance Tickets are available up to 24 weeks in advance. Remember that peak times travelling to and from London can vary. An Off Peak ticket is not valid between 15:01 and 18:44 - so be sure to check your ticket validity (before you board the train) to avoid getting a fine. If you're travelling from the North, avoid trains departing before 09:26 if you have an Off Peak ticket.
Peak Times: starting from 06:44 to 09:26 (weekdays); for Southbound trains which arrive into London, peak times run until 10:08. In the afternoon, between earliest at 15:01 - 18:44 latest.
Off Peak Times: Weekends, certain early morning weekday services TO London are considered Off Peak (check route before purchase). Otherwise, the first Off Peak trains are usually between 09:00 and 09:51 (check provider) up until around 15:58 and then Off Peak tickets are valid after 18:37. Again, check your validity of your ticket - if you bought an Anytime ticket (Peak) or an Advance (Off Peak) ticket.
First Hull: Advance tickets can be changed for a £10 fee, although not refunded. for Anytime tickets, make sure you check with which provider you are allowed to travel, as some routes may be cheaper depending on the provider.
Peak Times: starting from 06:30 to 09:30
Off Peak Times: 09:30 - 15:30 and after 18:34.
Scotrail has commuter tickets called a 'Flexipass' (contact them for more details) so you can travel a few days a week on a season pass. There are no Super Off Peak tickets available for Scotrail.Peak Times: 07:00 - 09:30 then 15:30 - 19:15.
Thameslink: These services vary on their times for Off Peak Tickets as they are operating in and out of the capital. Evening Peak Services do not apply for:
- Any southbound train
- Journeys starting south of East Croydon
- Journeys starting and finishing north of West Hamstead Thameslink
- Return leg of tickets with the destination of London Thameslink
- Return leg of tickets with the destination of London Thameslink or London Zones 1-6.
Peak Times: 07:00 - 09:30 then 16:30 - 19:01.
Off Peak Times: 09:30 - 16:29 then after 19:02.
|1.||Class: Choose either First or Standard Class carriages for your journey.|
|2.||Railcard: This part of the ticket shows you if any discount or railcards have been applied to reduce the price.|
|3.||Ticket Type: Your ticket type shows if you have any of these four: Anytime, Advance, Super Off Peak or an Off Peak Ticket.|
|4.||To/From Station: This shows where you are travelling to and your final destination.|
|5.||Single/Return: This tells you if the ticket is a single or a return ticket.|
|6.||Ticket Number: Your ticket number is a unique number which marks your ticket.|
|7.||Price: The cost of your train ticket for that ticket; if it's a single ticket it will be the price for each ticket.|
|8.||Validity: The validity signifies when your ticket is valid for e.g. a day or return within one calendar month.|
|9.||Type: This part means if you have purchased a single or a return journey.|
|10.||Route: Check the route you are allowed to take (e.g. via London or not) as certain ticket types may be restricted.|
Buy your tickets using the Omio App in just a few clicks, then collect them at the Ticket Collection machine in the station (the queue is much smaller).
You can combine a Railcard with your ticket (either Advance, Off Peak or Super Off Peak) to save more money to spend on other things during your travels. You can get up to 30% cheaper train tickets if you link your railcard to your ticket. If you travel frequently, consider getting one; take a look at the different railcards available in the UK and pick one that would suit your travel needs best.