How to get cheap train tickets

This article was published was published on 20 April 2022.

If you’re studying in the UK and you want to see as much of the country as you can. One of the best ways to visit new cities, spend some time in the country or head over to Europe (via the Eurostar and the Channel Tunnel), is to take a train.

The UK has the oldest rail network in the world and despite the closure of some lines it remains incredibly busy. In 2010 there were 1.33 billion journeys on the National Rail network, which makes it the fifth most used service in the world. 

The railways were privatized between 1994-1997 and 28 companies now operate the services up and down the country. The best way to book a rail ticket is online with Trainline where you’ll find the cheapest fares. 

The first rule is to book online and book early. Advance tickets are the cheapest tickets available and they mostly go on sale 12 weeks before the train rolls out of the station (or four weeks if you’re going on Eurostar). That’s because train operators are obliged by law to set their timetables 12 weeks in advance, so that’s when they start releasing their advance tickets.

As a student you will also get a 1/3 off your train fairs by having a Young Persons Rail Card.

Here’s what you need to know about Advance tickets.

  • The earlier you book the cheaper they are
  • They’re always sold as Single (one-way) tickets, so you need to buy two for a return journey.
  • Depending on how popular the route is there might still be Advance tickets on sale the day before (or hours before) the train departs. Make sure you check!
  • Advance tickets are only valid for the train and date specified on the ticket, so if you miss that train you will need to purchase a new ticket.

You may also want to read 

How to fly to the UK cheaply 

How to eat cheaply on a student budget

How to survive on a student budget