Travelling Tips: How to book and catch a train!Watch
Buying and booking tickets:
What do I need to know before buying them?
Firstly, you need to know your starting point and destination, for example Birmingham New Street to London Euston, and what date and time which you want to leave and arrive, for example the 22nd of January at 09:00 arriving at 10:20. If you are changing trains, try and make sure there is plenty of time in between each train in case any trains are delayed. You may also have a day and time in which you want to return. If you don't have a set time, you can purchase an open ticket, which allows you to travel on multiple options of trains that day. I always try and buy an open ticket, if it is affordable, to reduce stress and allow more flexibility.
Where and how do I buy them?
You can buy the tickets at the train station at the ticket office, at ticket machines, purchase them online first and pick them up, or buy a mobile ticket which can be activated on your phone without need for a paper ticket. I find the Trainline, a very helpful website and app to buy my tickets
Which method you use is down to your preference, and I change depending on the situation. Always remember to factor in time for buying tickets if you haven't bought them or picked them up before the day. If you are using a mobile ticket, make sure your phone has plenty of charge for both the journey there and back, and that you have enough data if this is needed to activate it. If you cannot show your ticket, you will likely be liable to purchase another - this is why I tend to prefer paper tickets, personally.
Can I reserve a seat?
Most train companies allow you to reserve seats on set trains for free, you can often specify if you would prefer to face forward, be at a table seat, by a power socket, and/or toilet. If the journey is long and it is expected to be busy, I would always reserve a seat. However, on rare occasion these seat reservations may have errors, where two people have accidentally been booked onto the same seat or the system is down and so all reservations are invalid and anyone can sit anywhere - so don't assume it will always be available, and get there early if you want a seat!
Wow they are expensive, can I get them any cheaper?
If you are a student, like me, you'll love a good bargain. To buy cheaper train tickets, you'll want to look at buying them either very early (cheaper tickets are usually released 12 weeks prior to the journey) or last minute, the night before or on the day they can often be reduced. But these are usually only for set time tickets, for open tickets, they are not often reduced. For a reduction on these, I'd highly recommend purchasing a railcard, for example the 16-25 rail card which can get you up to a 1/3 of the price off your ticket. Make sure you carry this card on every journey or your tickets may be invalid. If you are going to be making the same journey often, then purchasing season tickets can be cost effective, and save time having to buy tickets every for every journey - these can be bought online or at the station.
What are peak times and off-peak times?
Peak and off-peak times can vary depending on the train company and location, for example there are greater restrictions in and out of London including peak times until later in the morning and peak times in the evening. Usually peak time is before 09:30am on week days. Most rail cards will not allow you to get discounts on peak time trains.
Catching the train(s):
Each time you catch a train it will probably be different, a different destination, time, platform, so I will give an outline of the general points of catching a train:
- Make sure you have your tickets, season tickets, seat reservation confirmation, and/or railcard!
- Take some extra money, just in case - you never know if you might lose a ticket.
- Check the platform you need, especially in larger stations which have different areas for different platforms.
- Get there in plenty of time - some trains arrive up to half an hour early, so you can always go and sit on the train or grab a bite to eat whilst you wait. If you are changing trains, try and make sure there is plenty of time in between each train in case any trains are delayed.
- Before you get on the train and before it leaves, double check it is the right train and not a delayed or early train that has got to the platform.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need, most of us have asked at some point.
- Enjoy your journey!
What if my train is cancelled?
Usually if a train is cancelled or significantly delayed, your ticket will be valid on the next available train. If your journey is delayed by more than 30 minutes, you may be entitled to half of the price of your ticket for that journey to be refunded, 1 hour or more is the whole of the one way ticket, and more than 2 hours is often the price of your outward and return tickets - this will depend on the individual train company, they should provide forms or a website address to apply for this, but don't give in... once I got £50 of rail vouchers after complaining for about 3 months, they clearly just wanted to get rid of me ( ), be stubborn with it, good luck!
If you have any questions, let me know, and if you have anything to add, post below
You can also split tickets to make them cheaper - buying two tickets (so going from A to B you would buy a ticket for A to X and then X to B), but it doesn't work for all journeys (I did it Portsmouth-Tamworth, buying Portsmouth-Birmingham then a day ticket Birmingham-Tamworth)
I've managed to cut the cost by 2/3 by adding in a via or splitting somewhere. So if you've got the time, have a play around with the system see what you can do.