London by train: How to get into the city
Travelling on a crowded train into London can be tiresome, however knowing smarter ways to travel means that standing on a train can be a thing of the past. You don’t have to be paying extortionate fees either, as a little bit of research can get massive savings and potential upgrades into first class! Enjoy a much comfier journey into London with our guide on how to travel to London by train.
Get to London by train
What are the main stations in London?
There are 10 main stations in London are:
- King’s Cross
- St Pancras International
- Charing Cross
- London Bridge
- Fenchurch Street
- Liverpool Street
Arrive at the station with plenty of time
If you’ve booked a specific train, make sure you know what time it departs, so you can arrive at the station with plenty of time and save the trouble of seeing your train depart in the distance without you on it.
If you are travelling on an open ticket where you can travel at a train time of your choice, then check the timetable beforehand to make sure you’re not waiting at the station for a long time. Downloading the National Rail app on any device will allow you to check the train times at any station in the United Kingdom, so you’ll be up to date with where your train is and how long you’ll be travelling for.
How can I buy train tickets?
There are many ways to buy your tickets before travelling.
- At the station: You can either buy your tickets at the counter or use a ticket machine. Using a ticket machine may not tell you if there are cheaper fares available, so a ticket machine could be more convenient but also more expensive.
- Online: Train tickets are available to buy through all major companies, including LNER and East Midlands Trains. When buying train tickets online, you’ll be able to reserve specific seats, so you can guarantee you’ll be able to sit comfortably on a long journey. Tickets can also be purchased on the National Rail website, where you’re able to plan your journey. Both online options allow you to compare travel times and prices, so you can decide when you want to travel.
- Train ticket retailers: Popular websites such as Trainline and Red Spotted Hanky allow you to book rail tickets and find the best fares for your travel. They do have booking fees attached, but if the booking fee is smaller than the saving you’ll make, it’s worth using train ticket retailers to search for the cheapest price.
What type of ticket should I buy?
Different types of tickets have restrictions on them, which may limit where you can travel and what time you will be able to. Train travel lingo is often a bit confusing, so here’s a low-down on what different types of tickets mean.
Single: A ticket that takes you to your destination, but is only a one-way ticket.
Return: A ticket that takes you to and from your destination. Return tickets can either be a day return making both journeys on one day or an open return.
Open Return: Open Return tickets mean you do not have to book a specific train back, so you can be flexible on the train you decide to travel back on.
Anytime: These train tickets will allow you to travel at any time of the day on the specific route shown.
Peak: Peak times are Monday to Friday from 06:30 to 09:30 and 16:00 to 19:00.
Off Peak: Off-Peak times are from 09:30 to 16:00 and 19:00 onwards. Travelling at this time is cheaper but you may be restricted on your route.
How far should I buy my tickets in advance?
For an advanced fare and cheaper travel, book your train tickets around 8 to 10 weeks before your journey.
A ticket can be bought in advance up to 24 weeks in advance, but waiting until 8 to 10 weeks before travelling to buy your ticket may mean you get your ticket at a cheaper fare.
What is a “split ticket”?
Instead of having one ticket for your journey, a “split ticket” can break down your journey into two or more parts with a separate ticket for each section. Buying individual parts of your train journey rather than just one ticket can work out cheaper as you can take advantage of the different prices on routes to get the lowest price.
The train must stop at the interim station, but it doesn’t mean you have to get off. On a split ticket journey, you can buy two tickets for your journey even though you are only travelling on one train.
Make use of the smaller stations in your local area
You don’t need to always travel from the big stations. Going from the smaller stations in your local area may mean you can buy a cheaper ticket for the small time cost of adding a few more minutes to your journey.
Travelling from smaller stations can result in saving at least 60% than travelling from a larger station. So make use of other stations around you to potentially save a great deal!
How can I make sure I get a seat?
When booking your train tickets in advance, there will be options to reserve a specific seat, leaving you safe in the knowledge that you’ll be able to have a comfortable ride.
If you do not have a reserved seat, then Busybot may be a great tool. Offered on the Train Line app, it is a tool that allows passengers to find the train carriages with more space, helping you find a seat. The journey tracker will highlight the quietest parts of the train and could make the difference between standing on a long journey and taking that last seat available!
Make sure that the part of the train you are travelling on is not for first-class ticketholders only or a reserved seat for someone.
Why travel to London for just one day when you can enjoy a London theatre break? Celebrate a special occasion or just treat yourself with a bespoke break where you can select a show and hotel to make your time in London special.
Once you’ve travelled into London via train, you may find our article on the London Underground very helpful.