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Buying a Ticket

Find the best train ticket for you

Want to know what ticket types are available, how much they cost, and where and when you can buy and use them? Then read on.

Which train ticket is the best choice for me?

As a general rule, the earlier you can buy a ticket, the better the price you can get. If you know the date and time you wish to travel, then an Advance ticket will be suitable. For more flexibility, Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak tickets and Anytime tickets will be a better option, as you are not limited to a specific date or train. For more information about getting the most affordable ticket for your journey, see below.

Advance tickets

These must be bought in advance and are only valid on the date and train specified. They are sold in limited numbers, subject to availability and on a first come, first served basis. You can usually buy an Advance ticket up to 12 weeks ahead of travel, and they are still available until the day of travel on many routes – sometimes up to 10 minutes before departure. They offer a great deal if you know exactly when you want to travel. Find out more about Advance tickets.

Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak tickets

These good value tickets can be bought at any time and allow you to travel on any permitted train during off-peak hours. If an Off-Peak or Super Off-Peak ticket is available for your journey, journey planners will make them available to purchase. In general, Off-Peak hours begin at 09:30 from Monday to Friday in cities and large towns, and at 09:00 everywhere else. If your train is scheduled to depart after this time, you can travel with an Off-Peak ticket. Weekends and bank holidays are Off-Peak all day. Find out more about Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak tickets.

Anytime tickets

These can be bought at any time and allow you to travel on any permitted train, at any time. Find out more about Anytime tickets.

Season tickets and Flexi Season tickets

These offer unlimited travel between 2 stations, and are normally available to buy weekly, monthly or yearly. Find out more about Season tickets and Flexi Season tickets.

Ranger and Rover tickets

These offer unlimited travel in a specified area, and can be a really good option if you’re looking to get a bargain on your ticket. Rangers are valid for 1 day, Rovers are usually valid for 3, 7 or 8 days in a certain period. There may be time restrictions on when you can travel. Find out more about Ranger and Rover tickets.

Pay As You Go with Contactless

You can use a contactless card or device to pay as you go on National Rail, London Underground, DLR, London Buses and London tram services within London and at an increasing number of stations across the South East.

Just touch your card or device on a card reader at the start of your journey and touch out with the same card or device at the end of your journey.

Find out where you can use pay as you go with contactless on the London Rail and Tube map.

Oyster and Smartcards

Oyster is the Transport for London (TfL) card which allows you to store up to £90 of pay as you go credit. You can use Oyster to travel on most National Rail services in London Zones 1 to 9 and some services beyond Zone 9. Check out the London Rail and Tube Map for more information on where you can pay as you go with Oyster.

A Smartcard is a reusable card where you can store tickets and pay as you go credit. Some train companies offer pay as you go with Smartcard if you are travelling exclusively on their network or within their operating area. Find out more about pay as you go with Smartcard and smart tickets.

What is the best place to buy a train ticket?

It really depends on your preference – there are lots of options to find the best fares in the most convenient place. For example, you can use the National Rail website or app, or visit a station ticket office or ticket machine.

National Rail Guide to Tickets

You can view and download the National Rail Guide to Tickets leaflet (PDF, 8.2MB), which provides an overview of the tickets available across the National Rail network and is designed to help you choose the best value ticket for your journey with confidence. It also includes a summary of train companies’ commitments to customers.

Routeing information and ticket validity

Your ticket may show a route or train company that you must use for your journey. If not, you are allowed to use any permitted route for the journey you are making. Permitted routes cover all reasonable routes available for making your journey, including direct services and suitable connecting services.

When you book your journey online, any ticket offered at that time in connection with the journey planner results will be accepted as a permitted route. As the full range of routes and options can be very complex (especially for longer journeys), we would encourage you to check any intended route using our Journey Planner to make sure that it can be used with your ticket.

To search for the full range of Tickets and Restriction Codes, you can also use our Ticket Validity Finder tool, or the Rail Delivery Group’s full Routeing Guide, which includes a list of maps of permitted routes.

Finding train ticket prices

To find the best ticket prices, use our Journey Planner, which will show the ticket options currently available on each service displayed. Please remember that Advance tickets are sold in limited numbers and subject to availability. If you have searched for a return journey the cheapest price for both a return and 2 singles (1 out, 1 back) will be displayed.

The Journey Planner will not show Season ticket or Ranger and Rover ticket prices. You can find information about Season tickets, Flexi Season tickets and Ranger and Rover tickets on our dedicated pages.

There may be other fares available which are not shown. Reasons may include, but are not limited to:

  • some tickets not primarily being railway products

  • sleeper service journeys which may require supplements

  • some tickets are issued with nominal destinations/origins which are not recognised by the Journey Planner (for example, a tram or light rail station)

  • some train companies and third party retailers offer special fares, promotions or methods of fulfilment that can only be bought on their own website

If you wish to see all ticket types and not just the cheapest fares, there is an option to click on more fares.

A small number of other fares are not shown by our Journey Planner.

Find out more about how you can get the best value train fare with our Save Money on Your Train Ticket page.

Ticket availability

We aim to display the full range of tickets available for the journey you have selected. National Rail does not retail train tickets, so when you are ready to buy the ticket you have selected we impartially offer all of the train companies that can complete the transaction.

It may sometimes be the case that the retailer is unable to fulfil the transaction. This may be due to, but not limited to:

  • system limitations

  • site functionality variations

  • browser caching issues

  • products that can only be purchased from certain vendors

Ticket irregularities

All Train Companies adhere to a Code of Practice which sets out the procedures we will follow when dealing with ticketing irregularities. A copy can be found at the link below.

Ticket Irregularities Code of Practice

This document sets out the arrangements agreed by passenger train operators to ensure that ticket irregularities (i.e. when a passenger does not hold a ticket or holds an incorrect ticket for the journey being made) are managed in a consistent way.

FAQs

The most widely available tickets are Advance, Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak and Anytime. We also offer Season tickets and Flexi Season tickets, as well as lots of Ranger and Rover tickets.

Off-Peak times vary but, in general, Off-Peak hours begin at 09:30 from Monday to Friday in cities and large towns, and at 09:00 everywhere else. If your train is scheduled to depart after this time, you can travel with an Off-Peak ticket. Weekends and bank holidays are Off-Peak all day.

The Journey Planner will show you a range of fares for your journey, enabling you to choose the best price. You can also follow the advice on our Save Money on Your Train Ticket page.

That depends on the type of ticket, and where and when you bought it. Please visit our Changing, Cancelling and Getting a Refund for Tickets page