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How can I check if my train ticket is valid?

Know your Off-Peak from your Advance with Railsmartr.

Whenever you take the train, you might hear announcements about making sure that your train ticket is valid. Cue some fretting and double-checking what your ticket says. So, what do you need to look for? Here’s our guide to checking if you’re good to go before you jump on board.

How do I know if my train ticket is valid?

Usually, it’s easy! You might have a ticket for a specific train, or you might have an Anytime ticket. However, if you’re stuck in disruption, or travelling with an Off-Peak ticket, it might not be so clear. Here are our top tips for travelling with ease.

Advance tickets

Your Advance train ticket is valid only on the date and service shown on it. If you jump on a different train without permission, then your ticket is as good as not having one at all!

All of this important information will be shown on the ticket itself. They’ll be shown as ‘Mandatory Reservations‘. Here’s an example:

advance ticket example

Certain types of paper tickets will have the ticket and the reservation on separate coupons. You’ll need both the ticket and the reservation in order to travel if you have an Advance ticket.

Getting across London

If you’re making a journey that involves going across London, then only certain types of ticket are valid. For example, the London Underground does not accept eTickets. Your ticket will need to be a paper one that you can insert into the gate. As well as this, it’ll need to have a Maltese Cross symbol. Here’s an example:

cross london train ticket

Tickets to ‘London Terminals‘ aren’t valid on the Underground. You’ll need to use Contactless instead.

Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak

Off-Peak train times are a bit of a minefield. So, how do you know if your ticket is valid? Well, every ticket has a unique restriction code. This code will tell you when you can use your ticket. On an eTicket, you’ll find it near the bottom:

ticket with restriction code highlighted

You can find this out by visiting nre.co.uk/(your restriction code). For example, nre.co.uk/1l takes you to the dedicated page for restriction code 1L.

Here at Railsmartr, we’ll show you the cheapest ticket that is valid on the train you choose. So, you’ll not need to worry about this!

Day Returns versus plain ‘Returns’

Day Returns are pretty self-explanatory. But how do you know if your Off-Peak Return train ticket is valid, or an Anytime Return? It’s pretty simple:

  • The outward part of an Off-Peak Return is valid until 04:30 the next morning. The return part is valid for a month
  • The outward part of an Anytime Return is valid for five days. The return part is valid for a month.

When you’re using the return part of these tickets, you don’t need to do the entire journey at once. You can break it as many times as you like, for as long as the ticket is valid. If a staff member marks a date on the ticket, that doesn’t change this fact!

Day Returns are valid until 04:30 the next morning. If you’re travelling in the early hours (eg. at 1am), then a ticket from the previous day is still valid.

When things go wrong

If things go wrong, it can be tricky to know whether or not your train ticket is valid. But, here are some simple pointers:

  • If you have an Advance ticket, and your train is cancelled, you can use the train before or after, so long as it’s operated by the same company
  • Missed a connection? You can use the next train operated by the same company at no extra cost
  • Using multiple tickets, such as a different ticket for each train? If you miss a connection, you don’t need to buy a new ticket. You’re protected in the same way as if you had one ticket. Just make sure you leave enough time to change trains.

Do you have an Off-Peak, Super Off-Peak or Anytime ticket? There’s no need to rebook. Just jump on the next train. If your ticket is only for a specific company, you’ll still need to obey that restriction.

If there’s a major disruption, then other companies should accept your ticket. Other train companies cannot strand you if there aren’t any more services operated by the company on your ticket. You can find out more in our guide to disruption.

Is there anything else I should know?

Looking to book some train tickets now? No problem. You can do it all with Railsmartr. We don’t charge any extra fees either, even if you just change your mind about your trip.

All information is issued without liability and was correct at 29 August 2023. Railsmartr is not responsible for any losses or inconvenience incurred as a result of the information provided.

Author Richard

Hi, I'm Richard and I've been working for Railsmartr since 2022. I make sure that everything we communicate with customers is top-notch and write exciting and informative content for the website. When I'm not at work, you'll still find me on the rails - though often in the far corners of Europe!