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Is it cheaper to buy train tickets in advance? Find out how much you can save

When’s the cheapest time to buy train tickets? (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Train travel is essential for many people – a vital form of public transport.

Trains typically offer speedier connections between London and the North of England and Scotland, for example, than a car does – and are often considered a sustainable transport option.

However, it can be quite expensive to ride the rail – whether it’s for a regular commute to work or a one-off trip to visit family, explore a new town or city, or head on a staycation.

Many reckon that buying train tickets as early as possible is their best bet for a bargain price, but is it really cheaper to book trains way ahead of time?

Here’s all you need to know.

Is it cheaper to buy train tickets in advance?

Yes, it’s typically cheaper to buy your train tickets in advance.

Usually, it’s advised you book up to 12 weeks in advance for the biggest saving possible.

Advance tickets are usually cheaper than anytime tickets (Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

National Rail explains: ‘Advance tickets are usually the cheapest way to travel by train, and generally go on sale 12 weeks before your date of travel.

‘You have to travel on the train you’re booked on, but you get a much cheaper price by foregoing flexible travel times.’

The Trainline website claims booking this far in advance can help save an average of 61% in some cases.

Of course, you might not know you’re heading on a train trip 12 weeks before the travel date – or may find that, in some situations, tickets are available for dates even further in the future.

The general rule of thumb would be to book tickets as early as you can. You’ll be able to snap up any low fares – and won’t get caught out by steadily rising prices.

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Lower-cost advance tickets can also be released around 10 or 11 weeks before the date of travel, not just 12 weeks, Money Saving Expert says – so do keep your eyes peeled.

There are other ways to try and save money (or at least get some money back) on train fares, too.

These include purchasing a National Railcard for up to 1/3 off rail travel, buying off-peak tickets, or joining a train loyalty scheme like LNER Perks to get credit back.

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