Train fares in the UK are a bit mind boggling sometimes so I here are my top 4 tips for getting the best fares in the UK.
Plan in advance and use the train company’s email alert feature. The best train fares are usually the advance singles which are tickets with set dates and times. The further out you book the cheaper it is. Train tickets go on sale 3 months in advance but if you have a terrible memory (like me) you can set up and email alert with the train company on your intended route or www.thetrainline.com (which covers them all). This way you can get in there the day the tickets are released and get the best possible fare. I scored a trip London to Edinburgh for £28 round trip this way. As a side note if you use Trainline to find fares, you can always then book on the train operators website to avoid their fees
If you are going to more than one place the same day and want to keep flexible, an off peak return allows for you to break your journey along the way. For example when travelling to Penzance I got off the train to have a catch up with a friend in Exeter along the way. Sometimes buying 2 separate sets of tickets can be cheaper, so best to check both options and see which works best on the route you are travelling.
If you travel on South West, East Midlands or Virgin Trains check out Megabus for train fares that start at £1. I’ve travelled to the outlet shops in Portsmouth this way for £2.50 return. Just make sure to select the travel by train option in the drop down menu. Even if Megabus doesn’t cover your whole journey you can go with a split ticket, buy a ticket to the farthest point Megabus goes then buy a regular ticket for the rest of the journey. Make sure to check out the handy map to see where the cover.
The last one relates to those in the London area that have an annual season ticket INCLUDING annual Tube passes. When you get your oyster card with the annual pass, it comes with a ticket that says Gold Card on it. DON’T throw this away. It gets you 30% to 50% off of train tickets for yourself and up to 3 others travelling with you in the Network Railcard area including the Heathrow Express!
It is not well publicised and nothing that came with my annual ticket said anything about what this Gold card was. I went to the TFL site and had a really hard time finding out what it was all about. Here is the link for the details just in case you have as much trouble as I did finding it: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/timesfares/seasontickets/goldcard.html
When making a train booking just look for the section that says add Railcard with a drop down menu. An annual tube pass saves money over 12 monthly passes so if you have been holding back due to the large up front payment hopefully the perk of train discounts might make you think again. It’s worth checking with your employer to see if they have a scheme for buying annual pass via your payroll.