How can you find the best deals on last-minute train tickets within the UK?

Buying train tickets at the last minute can often be a stressful ordeal, especially if you're trying to save money. Nevertheless, it is entirely possible to find a good deal on train tickets, even if you've found yourself booking at the last second. In this article, we'll explore different strategies and methods you can employ to secure the best possible fare for your journey.

Know the best places to buy tickets

When it comes to buying train tickets, the venue you choose can play a significant role in determining the price. Booking at the station on the day of travel is typically the most expensive option. Conversely, buying tickets online or via mobile apps can often yield better rates.

Many travellers favour purchasing tickets from train company websites or third-party booking platforms, where they can compare prices and find cheaper fares. Some of these platforms also offer a 'best fare finder' tool, allowing you to identify the most cost-effective times to travel.

Remember that the ticket delivery method can also influence the cost. Opting for an e-ticket or mobile ticket can often be cheaper (and more convenient) than having tickets posted to your home or collecting them at the station.

Take advantage of railcards

A railcard can be a valuable asset when it comes to saving money on train travel. In the UK, several different types of railcards are available, each offering sizeable discounts on train fares.

The 16-25 Railcard, for example, offers a third off rail fares for travellers aged 16 to 25, while the Two Together Railcard provides the same discount for two named individuals travelling together. There are also railcards for senior citizens, families, and disabled individuals, among others.

If you travel by train often, investing in a railcard can lead to significant savings over time. Even if you're booking last minute, having a railcard can make your journey considerably cheaper.

Understand peak and off-peak times

Your travel time can significantly impact the price of your ticket. Trains are usually more expensive during peak times, when demand is high. Peak times generally coincide with rush hour (typically between 6:30-9:30 am and 4-7 pm), but can vary depending on the train company and route.

By contrast, off-peak times occur when fewer people are travelling, usually mid-morning to mid-afternoon on weekdays and all day at weekends and bank holidays. If you have some flexibility, try to book your journey during off-peak hours to secure a cheaper fare.

Book Advance tickets

Even if you're booking at the last minute, it's worth checking if any Advance tickets are still available. These tickets are a limited number and often sell out quickly, but they can offer significant savings compared to standard fares.

Advance tickets are usually released up to 12 weeks before the departure date, but in some cases, you might still be able to buy them up to 15 minutes before the train leaves, providing they haven't sold out. Just remember, Advance tickets are for a specific train and time, so you'll need to ensure you catch the correct service.

Consider splitting your tickets

Ticket splitting is another strategy you can employ to save money on your train journey. This involves buying separate tickets for different parts of your journey rather than one single ticket.

While it may seem counterintuitive, splitting your ticket can often be cheaper, especially for long journeys or when travelling during peak times. Just ensure that your train stops at all the stations you've bought tickets for, even if you don't plan on getting off.

In conclusion, while last-minute train ticket purchases can be pricey, employing these strategies can help you secure the best possible deal. Whether you're heading to London for a business meeting or embarking on a cross-country adventure, there's always a way to save on your train fare.

Leverage Season Tickets and Advance Purchase

For regular train travellers, season tickets can be a game-changer. This type of ticket allows unlimited travel between two stations during a specific period - weekly, monthly, or annually. Although the initial outlay can seem high, the cost per journey can be significantly less than buying daily tickets, especially if you're travelling at peak times.

If your schedule is set and you're travelling frequently on the same route, such as for a daily work commute, a season ticket can save you a considerable amount of money in the long run. Season tickets are available for purchase both online and at the station.

On the other hand, advance purchase tickets can be a great way to get cheap train fares if booked as early as possible - ideally, 12 weeks before your travel date. National Rail usually releases advance tickets up to 12 weeks in advance, offering a considerable discount compared to the standard price.

While it might seem impossible for last-minute train ticket bookers to benefit from advance fares, in some cases, they are available up to 15 minutes before departure, provided they haven't sold out. This is particularly true on routes operated by companies such as Virgin West Coast, which often go from London Euston to major cities.

Take Advantage of Last-Minute Platforms and Deals

While the thought of last-minute ticket hunting might seem daunting, a number of platforms specialise in providing deals on last-minute train tickets. These include websites and mobile apps that specifically cater to travellers who need to book on the day of travel.

Some of these platforms are able to offer significant discounts on tickets that would otherwise go unsold. They also provide a comparison of prices from different train companies, allowing users to choose the cheapest train available for their desired journey.

These platforms are a godsend for those who need to make unexpected trips or who, for one reason or another, are unable to book in advance. By checking these platforms regularly, you can often find terrific deals even at the last minute.

Remember, the key to successfully finding these deals lies in flexibility. If you can be flexible with your travel times and routes, you'll stand a much better chance of securing a bargain.


To conclude, getting a great deal on last-minute train tickets within the UK is entirely possible and easier than you might think. The secret lies in knowing where to look, understanding the various options available and using strategies such as advance purchase, season tickets, railcards and ticket-splitting. Don't forget to leverage the power of online platforms that offer last-minute deals. So, whether you're planning a spontaneous day trip or need to make an urgent business trip to London Euston, remember these tips to save money and secure the best possible deal on your train travel.