The UK has an expansive system of railways connecting major cities and small villages alike with fast and frequent services. Trains are clean, modern and overall are a great way to criss-cross the country in an environmentally friendly way.

Still, the fare system and various other intricacies may make it difficult for individuals from other countries or accustomed to other methods of transport to get around. In this post, we will tackle the all-important topic of ticketing and fares.

Where to buy tickets

Train tickets in the UK can be purchased in a variety of different methods. You can of course purchase a ticket at a ticket machine or office at any train station. Keep in mind that, most Tube stations are not train stations. You can easily identify whether a station is a train station using the following symbol.

 

Ticket machines will allow you to select your destination station and ticket type. You may pay using cash or card. Different language options are often available. At many stations, there are manned ticket offices. When purchasing a ticket at a ticket counter, you may get help with your journey if you are unclear about anything. buy tickets not departing your current station (for multi-destination trips) or valid for a different date than today for the outbound journey.

You may also purchase tickets online and there are many advantages to using this approach. There are a variety of websites you may use. Arguably the most user friendly and well-known is trainline. However, a booking fee applies if purchased ahead of the day of travel. Therefore, we recommend using the GWR website to purchase your ticket.

Purchasing a ticket is very simple. Enter the departing and destination stations, as well as who’s travelling and if/when coming back. In the case of London and other large cities (Manchester, Glasgow etc.) with multiple train stations serving the same area, you may select a City Name + “Any” as your destination. Then, the journey will be the most direct.

You will be presented with a list of journeys available for both your onward and return journeys, number of changes required as well as an overview of the price.

Clicking at your preferred outward option will give you an overview at the different tickets available for this journey. There is a lot to get through here:

One-way/return:

  • Single – one-way ticket
  • Return – return ticket with the return journey to be made within 30 days (validity displayed on the ticket)
  • Day Return – outward & return journeys to be made on the same train

Time & service restrictions:

  • Anytime – valid on any service, any any time of day
  • Off-peak & Super Off-peak – valid on any off-peak/super off-peak service
  • Advance – one-way ticket valid on the specified service it is purchased for only

The easiest way to tell whether a service is peak or off-peak is to check what type of ticket is sold as the cheapest for this service.

The 1:33pm train from London to Oxford is an off-peak service, whilst the 6:14pm is a peak service.

 

Tickets purchased online can be collected on the station. The process is very simple and quick. On the main screen of the ticket machine, select “Collection” and insert your payment card (or any valid card if paid via PayPal/Apple Pay). This is for authentication & security purposes only and the card will not be purchased. Then, enter the reference provided by the website where you have purchased your ticket. Your ticket(s) and any seat reservations will then be printed.

 

To use your ticket, insert it into the barrier similarly to a bank card to an ATM. The ticket will then come up from the top and you must take it out in order to open the barrier. Note that when exiting and when your ticket validity ends (exiting your destination with a single ticket), the barriers will just open without releasing the ticket back to you.

More recently on selected routes only, you may also use a QR code on your phone/printed at home. Ticket barriers have QR code readers built in and you may scan the code to open the barrier.