Trains in the United Kingdom (Great Britain) are easy to navigate with Trainline, especially if you're coming from abroad. The UK proudly boasts the oldest railway network in the world, however, its trains are also some of the most modern and efficient, which is great news if you're planning on exploring this great nation by rail.

Discover top destinations, travel tips, money-saving ideas and much more in our summer train travel guide.

The UK train network

The UK train network may seem a little complex if you're visiting for the first time. First, let us break down how the network works, and the different types of trains you can travel on in a bit more detail. You can also check out our interactive Scotland Rail Map and Wales Rail Map to view the most popular routes in Scotland and Wales.

UK train tickets explained

There are lots of different types of train tickets available in the UK, and it can be confusing to know which ones to buy, even for the locals. We've tried to make it as easy to understand as possible by filtering out the noise and leaving you with only clear, understandable information about how to get the best prices.

UK train ticket types

Ticket typeDescription
Advance train tickets

If you know your exact travel dates, book Advance tickets ahead of schedule to reserve your seat.

Learn more about Advance train tickets.

Flexi Season tickets

This is the perfect option for you if you're commuting two or three times a week. A Flexi Season ticket is a bundle of 8 Day Passes that allows you unlimited travel between two stations at any time of the day, giving you the flexibility to travel when you need within 28 days.

Read more about Flexi Season tickets.

Anytime train tickets

Offers complete flexibility. Catch any applicable train at a time that suits you, although seats cannot be reserved and are not guaranteed.

Learn more about Anytime train tickets.

Off-Peak train tickets

Travel at less busy times and benefit from reduced fares.

Read more on Off-Peak train tickets.

Super Off-Peak train ticketsLike Off-Peak tickets but only available at the very quietest times of the day. Prices tend to be cheaper too.
GroupSave tickets

Less of a ticket type, more of a discount. Activate GroupSave by buying train tickets for a group of three to nine people.

Learn more about GroupSave train tickets.

Peak vs. Off-Peak travel

If you've got flexible travel plans, then travelling by train in Off-Peak times may save you some money. The main difference between Peak and Off-Peak tickets are all about what time(s) during the day you travel. Peak times vary from train operator to train operator but generally, they tend to be in the mornings and late afternoon times during busy commuting times on weekdays. Off-Peak tickets can usually be found outside of these times, such as in the middle of the day or later at night on weekdays, and on weekends and public holidays (known as bank holidays in the UK).

For more information, check out our Off-Peak train times and tickets page.


Flexible tickets

If you're a nomad who doesn't like to be tied down by exact travel dates and times, you can purchase flexible tickets to allow you to travel at any point of the day. In the UK they are normally called Anytime tickets (either Anytime Day or Standard Anytime). You can get flexible tickets for travel on a certain date or ones that cover travel for multiple dates. They're usually a tad more expensive than fixed-time tickets because they allow you to travel during Peak times.

If you book a flexible ticket and travel on a train without a reserved seat, make sure the seat you pick hasn’t been reserved by another passenger (as noted by a digital display above the window, or a printed paper reserved ticket attached to the chair).

Learn more about flexible train tickets.

Need flexibility when commuting to work? Check out our top tips for finding the best-value commuter train tickets.

One-way or return options

Like with airline travel, you have the option to book either one-way or a return ticket. If you're travelling out of town for a day trip, or you're returning to the same destination within a month by train, you can usually buy a ticket that is cheaper than two single one-way trips by selecting the return option. Selecting the Day Return (Anytime Day Return, Off-Peak Day Return etc.) option will allow you to take a trip to and from the same destinations in the same day, or a standard Return (Anytime Return, Off-Peak Return etc.) will normally allow you to travel back on your return journey within one calendar month of the date shown on your ticket.

Find out about Return train tickets in the UK. 


Standard or First Class

If you're looking for the most affordable train travel options, a standard ticket could be what you're after. Alternatively, if you're coming to the UK for a well-earned break, you can treat yourself and upgrade to a First Class ticket. Most train companies in the UK offer First Class tickets that come with bigger tables and extra legroom, with some including a meal and free WiFi access. First Class facilities depend on the route and the train company you're travelling with and are sometimes subject to availability.

Discover more about the benefits of First Class train tickets or check out our guide to First Class train travel from London to Edinburgh.


Connections to inner-city public transport

In train stations in the many big cities in the UK, you'll find convenient bus, tram and subway connections to get you to your hotel or to catch another train if you're only passing through.

In London for instance, if you need to connect to the subway system (known as London Underground, or "The Tube"), you can to buy a Visitor Oyster Card online here or at a staffed station when you arrive.

UK train times and schedules

Whether you're going from London to Edinburgh by train or trying to get to an airport from a city centre, we'll show you live train times and schedules 12 weeks in advance for any National Rail journey in the UK, all in real time.

Get live train times in our app

By downloading our app, not only do you have your tickets in the palm of your hand, you also get access to live train times. If everything is running smoothly with your train, or it's delayed for some reason, you'll be the first to know. What's more – app users get platform information before those waiting by the departure boards.

Download our app


Live updates at the station

If you don't have our app, you'll find electronic departure boards in most stations' entrance halls, showing live updates, train times and platform information. All travel information will also be announced on a tannoy (loudspeaker) system in English.

How to buy UK train tickets

Buying your UK train tickets online or on our app is the quickest way to get onboard. To speed up the process we've also got Mobile Ticket and eticket options, or have a look at the other collection methods below.

How to find cheap train tickets

If you're after cheap UK train tickets, check out the hints below and see how you could bag yourself a bargain. We'll always highlight the cheapest prices! Even if you're looking for last-minute train tickets, we've got great ways to save on those too.

UK train pass (BritRail)

Investing in a BritRail Pass can be a great way of taking your time and travelling at your own pace. By buying a BritRail pass, it could prove to be money well spent too. They start at £116* for three days use and give you an affordable and flexible way to explore the UK. If you're planning on visiting more than one country in the UK during your trip, a BritRail Pass might be better than buying individual tickets.

Learn more about BritRail Passes

*Pricing correct as of August 2020 and are subject to change without notice. All post-sale care and communications will be with the third party booking company.

Travel Britain by train

There are loads of amazing places you can visit by train in Great Britain, and the interconnected rail network makes travelling cross-country quick and easy. To find some inspiration on where to go, check out these country highlights below.


London to Manchester / Oxford to Birmingham

Discover the length and breadth of England. From coastal counties such as Cornwall and Devon, to cosmopolitan hotspots like London and Liverpool, to the many Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) that reside up and down the nation, see all England has to offer by rail.

Discover trains in England.


Glasgow to Edinburgh / Inverness to Aberdeen

Explore the land of bagpipes, Braveheart, whisky and tartan by train. From crossing the epic Firth of Forth bridge to jumping on the magical Harry Potter train, Scotland's beauty can be seen from the comfort of your cabin. Benefit from smooth cross-country connections like Edinburgh to London in just 4 hours, or check out our Scotland rail map for more popular routes. 

Discover trains in Scotland.


Cardiff to Swansea / Newport to Bangor

Feel the pride of a nation by taking inspiring train journeys in Wales. Whether you're into rugby, nature or castles, Wales has something on offer for everyone. From Cardiff, the capital and most diverse city, to the small towns and villages that make up Wales, go by train to get the most of this gem of a country.

Discover trains in Wales, including South Wales trains.


Rail and Sail (trains to Ireland)

If you're off to anywhere in Ireland for a short city break or you just want to know why the Irish have all the luck, we'll find the best way get you there by land and sea. Take the scenic route and join up your train journey with the ferry to Dublin or Belfast with Rail and Sail package today.

Find out more about Rail & Sail.

UK city breaks by train

If you're travelling from abroad, don't just stick to the London bubble – To find the true beauty of Great Britain, you need to get out and explore! Check out these incredible UK destinations you can reach by train.

Good to know

If you haven't already learnt enough, we've added these extra handy tips and FAQs to make your life just that little bit sweeter.

Train operating companies in the UK

There are 28 train operating companies (TOCs) across the National Rail network in the UK. But don't worry, together with the TOCs, we work to make your journey as smooth as possible. Just let us know where you're going to and we'll do the rest. To see all UK TOCs, visit our UK train companies page.

How to save on Last-Minute train tickets

Ever found yourself scrambling for a last-minute train ticket and wondered if you’re paying over the odds? Well, worry not! With our nifty money-saving tools there’s no need to fret about ticket prices, even if it’s at the last possible moment. Use our Journey Planner to search for tickets, and we’ll always highlight the cheapest fares for the time you’ve selected. Alternatively, with the Trainline app, you can save money right up the last second by using our advance purchase on the day feature.

Learn more about last-minute train tickets.

Travelling to Europe from the UK

A major advantage of visiting the UK is that you're within easy reach of other parts of Europe by train. Fancy a spur of the moment day trip to Amsterdam or to watch the closing stages of the Tour de France in Paris? Discover trains in Europe.

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