tips for cheaper travel in the uk

As part of our series on the cost-of-living crisis, this resource is a guide to ways that you can travel affordably and take advantage of all the travel benefits on offer.


There are places you can turn to for support if you are on a low income or just struggling financially. In this resource we will share vital information on local and national support available to you.

on the government website there is a list of general support for transport costs:

Concessionary bus travel which provides free travel on local bus services anywhere in England between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays and anytime during weekends and Bank Holidays.

To apply for this, you need to of pensionable age or disabled. You are eligible for a disability-related pass if:

  • you are Blind or partially sighted
  • you are profoundly or severely deaf
  • you are without speech
  • you have a disability, or suffered an injury, which has a substantial and long-term effect on your ability to walk
  • you don’t have arms or have long-term loss of the use of both arms
  • you have a learning disability
  • your application for a driving licence would be refused under section 92 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 unless that refusal was due to persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol

To apply for the disabled pass, you will need to apply on your local council’s website.


Railcards are available and offer discounts on rail travel. These include:

  • 16-25 Railcard – up to 1/3 off rail fares for people aged 16-25 or full-time students.
  • Family and Friends Railcard – up to 1/3 off rail fares to those travelling with children aged 5-15.
  • Senior Railcard – up to 1/3 off rail fares to those aged over 60.
  • Network Railcard – up to 1/3 off rail fared for the cardholder and up to 3 others in London and the South-East.
  • Disabled Persons Railcard – up to 1/3 off rail fares for the card holder and a companion. For more details on the eligibility please check the Disabled Persons Railcard website.
  • HM Forces Railcard – up to 1/3 off adult rail fares and 60% off kids’ fares for members of the Regular forces, their spouses and dependent children aged 16 or 17.
  • Regional Railcards – a number of other railcards are offered for use in specific geographical locations or on certain lines of a route. To find out more please check the National Rail Enquiries website
  • Two Together Railcard – up to a 1/3 off adult rail fares if the two named adults are travelling together.


If you live in Northern Ireland and you’re a full time university student, you may be able to recoup the costs of a travel card. Find out more via the button below.

london has specific travel cards and discounts:

  • Free travel for under 5s
  • Free travel for 5–10-year-olds with a Zip oyster card
  • 11-15 Zip Oyster photocards give free travel on buses and trams and discounts on other fares
  • 16+ Zip Oyster card offers free bus and tram travel if you live in London and 50% off fares otherwise
  • 18+ Student oyster card offers discounted travel if you are studying or on a work placement in London

for manchester the following are some of the discounts available:

  • Children under 5 travel free on buses and trams with a reduced children’s fee for those 5-15
  • If you are disabled you may qualify for travel vouchers for discounted or different forms of travel such as £20 worth of vouchers for £5, you can also access a membership card for Metrolink travels within Greater Manchester.
    Liverpool offer a MetroCard for public transportation tickets. This is used along any Merseytravel route.
    Network One Travel Tickets offer discounted or free travel along Tyne and Wear on most buses, the Metro, Sunderland to Blaydon rail line and the Shields Ferry

There is further support for specific circumstances such as the NHS Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS).

support for young people offered by local authorities:

  • Home to School Transport – this covers pupils travelling more than 2 miles (for those under 8), pupils travelling more than 3 miles (for those aged 8 or over) and those unable to walk to school due to their Special Educational Needs. There is an additional entitlement to free travel for children from low-income families (those entitled to free school meals).
  • Care to Learn – This supports with the cost of childcare and associated travel costs to ensure these do not prevent young parents (under the age of 20) from participating in education.
  • 16-19 bursary – This provides support for those aged 16-19 in education or training who face additional barriers to staying in education in England. For Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland see the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
  • Discretionary Learner Support – Those aged 19 or over facing financial hardship can access this fund to help support travel and education costs

If you are unemployed there is some further support that can be accessed if you have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit for 3-9 months (if you are 18-24 years old), or 3-12 months (if you are aged 25+).

The following must be discussed with Jobcentre Plus staff or your Work Coach:

  • Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card – this provides a 50% discount on selected rail tickets.
  • Flexible support fund – May be used at the discretion of Jobcentre Plus staff to help with the cost of travelling to an interview, training or the first months of travelling to work.

nhs healthcare travel costs scheme (htcs):

If you are referred to hospital or other NHS premises for specialist NHS treatment or diagnostic tests by a doctor, dentist, or another primary care health professional, you may be able to claim a refund of reasonable travel costs under this scheme.

To qualify you must meet three conditions:

  • At the time of your appointment, you or your partner must receive one of the qualifying benefits or allowances listed on the website or meet the eligibility criteria for the NHS Low Income Scheme(LIS).
  • You must have a referral from a healthcare professional to a specialist or hospital for further NHS treatment or care.
  • Your appointment must be on a separate visit to when the referral was made. This applies whether your treatment is provided at a different location or on the same premises as where the GP or other health professional issued the referral.

You can claim travel costs for your children if you are eligible for any of the benefits under condition 1 in the LIS scheme. You can also claim travel costs for an escort if it is medically necessary for someone to travel with you.

The following forms of travel are excluded from the claim:

  • If you’re visiting a GP, dentist or another primary care service provider for routine check ups
  • Visiting for vaccination
  • Cervical cancer screenings
  • Urgent primary care services during out-of-hours periods (between 6.30pm and 8pm on weekdays, weekends or bank holidays)

A similar scheme is in place in Northern Ireland called the Hospital Travel Costs Scheme, and in Scotland, including information on the total amount you are expected to pay for costs if you live in Highlands and Islands areas.


Read our recommendations to policymakers in response to the cost of living crisis and view all of our Cost of Living support guides.