Getting around London isn’t cheap, unless you’re happy to walk, but it’s possible to make big savings on rail travel in the capital by being smart about the way you buy your tickets and use discounts. Combining a few money-saving ideas could see the cost of your railway tickets plummet, but reducing your travel outlay will require a little time, effort and planning on your part.
Avail yourself of an Oyster card. Oyster is a plastic smartcard alternative to cash that allows you to use London's underground, overground, bus and tram networks. You'll need to preload your card with credit before travelling. Once you've done so, you'll typically pay less for your travel than you would using cash or a card. You can buy Oyster cards in shops around the capital and online for delivery to your home address.
Pick up a Travelcard if you're going to be visiting multiple destinations around the capital in one day or want to use London's travel network over an extended period of time, such as a week or a month. Travelcards can be added to Oyster cards or bought as physical tickets. A one-day all-zone Travelcard will allow you to travel throughout Greater London over 24 hours for a flat fee. The more journeys you make, the lower the price you pay for each trip. You'll need to pay more from your Travelcard if you want to use it during peak hours.
Buy a Railcard discount card if you travel by train in the UK regularly. These typically offer a third off all off-peak rail travel and cost around £28 a year, as of June 2013. If you usually don't travel by rail and only want to use the train for a day trip to London, a Railcard won't be good investment.
Check out train booking sites such as thetrainline.com, takethetrain.co.uk and raileasy. Some of these sites claim to offer discounts of up to 80 percent off standard ticket prices, but deals this great are rare.
Book in advance, either online or over the phone. Aim to buy tickets from individual train operators around 12 weeks in advance of the day you're planning to travel. You should also check prices online and via call centres up until the moment you're due to travel. You could get a better price than you would at the ticket counter. Check out the National Rail or Transport for London websites for travel information and prices.