How to Use Train eTickets | the ONLY way I travel in the UK

The simplest way to travel in the UK is using eTickets and as a Canadian living in England, it’s now the only way I travel. Here’s exactly how to use them.

What are eTickets

As the name suggests, these are train tickets that are downloaded to your phone. That’s it. Historically public transport around the UK has been cash or paper tickets.

How to buy eTickets

I buy all my train tickets through the local train provider’s app. Since I live in Kent, that’ll be Southeastern Railway – but your railway will be different depending on where you live. They should all have an app, though, and you can purchase your tickets through there.

When you’re checking out, there should be a page about “Ticket Collection.”

Rather than collecting them from the station like you might have done in the past, or even loading your tickets onto your Southeastern Key, there should be an option to eTickets which are instantly available. Make sure that option is selected.

How to use train eTickets in the UK

How to use eTickets

Once I buy my tickets, I’ll get an email with the tickets available for both Apple or Google phones. Since I have an iPhone, I just click on the Apple icon for that ticket and add it to my wallet. If it’s a return ticket, make sure to add your return journey as well.

Those tickets will be saved in my iPhone wallet, ready to go!

When I get to the station, at the barrier will be a little screen. Simply bring up your ticket on your phone and scan – the barrier will open.

It’s the same process when you get to your destination and then coming home as well.

What about on the train?

If there’s a train person checking tickets, which happens sometimes, you’ll just need to bring up the ticket on your phone and they should scan it themselves to check.

Why bother?

In my nearly 8 years of living in the UK, this has been the simplest way to travel by far. I don’t need to get to the station early to print off tickets, I don’t need to speak to a train station clerk. I simply buy them on my phone and scan them at the barrier to travel.

I never lose them either like a printed ticket, either.

What if I can’t use eTickets?

This set up won’t work if your local station doesn’t have a QR code reader at the barrier. Kent station didn’t have these for ages and only recently have been upgraded.

The best way to know is stop your station and check, or when you’re checking out online, the option for eTickets may not be available if the app knows those stations can’t read them.

eTickets may also only be available for certain types of train tickets, so if you’re buying something like a yearly pass you may need to collect that ticket differently.

Can I apply my railcard?

Whenever I travel by train, I always apply my UK Railcard in case I’m able to get a discount. You can still use your Railcard when you buy eTickets.

Just make sure to apply your Railcard when you checkout. You won’t need to do anything special.

Also make sure you have access to your Railcard on your phone in case you’re asked to prove you have one while travelling and that it hasn’t expired.

What about Southeastern’s Key?

Lately I’ve been travelling with Southeastern’s Key however the process is totally obsolete for me now. Rather than buying a train ticket, bringing that up on my phone, scanning the Key onto my phone and then using the Key to travel, I simply use eTickets. It’s cut this process in half.

If you live in London…

If you’re one of the millions living in London, you don’t need to worry about this process! London has been contactless and cashless for decades, far ahead of the rest of the UK. This process of eTickets is only relatively new to villages and towns outside the capital.

However if you’re travelling into Kent for example, you should be able to use eTickets instead of printed tickets.