Everything you need to know about flexible tickets and exchanging them when your plans change.
We’ve all been there - either having to ask some scary uniformed official ‘can I use this ticket on this train’, or hearing the words ‘tickets please’ and dreading the F-word being thrown at you - sorry, this isn’t a flexible ticket. The different types of rail or bus ticket on offer these days can be confusing, but we like to make things as simple and clear as possible. Don’t be scared of the F-word. Understand it properly to make it your friend, not your foe.
What are flexible fares?
When you buy a ticket that is called a flexible fare on our website, it will be refundable, exchangeable, or valid for travel on other trains. So, if your plans change, be they timeframe ones or destination ones, you won’t lose out completely. Not surprisingly, you usually pay more for flexibility. Most super cheap tickets, unless they are special offers, usually have the word ‘non’ stamped all over them. Non-flexible, non-exchangeable or non-refundable. And in train travel, non tends to mean non. This is where it is important to read the fare conditions at the point where you are about to buy the ticket. These are clearly displayed on our site in search results and at point of purchase.
Does paying more guarantee a flexible ticket?
Yes, flexibility tends to require more funds. However, it is important to note that more expensive fares aren’t always flexible. Again, always check the fare conditions. You may just be paying more because of the time of your journey, because you left it until the last minute, or because the train operator just hiked their fares up.
The three types of flexibility in rail travel to look out for when you book:
Non-flexible tickets usually don’t allow any amendments unless there are extreme circumstances involved, such as the passenger’s sudden hospitalisation or bereavement. In this case proof is required, which, we appreciate, isn’t always pleasant in the event of an emergency. However, it also depends on each rail operators’ terms and conditions, but we will do our best for you. You can read more about these exceptional circumstances here. Non-flexible tickets can sometimes be refunded for a fee charged by the rail operator. This varies in relation to the terms of each specific ticket, and our Travel Geeks customer service experts are always here to advise on this.
We also sell TicketPlan Cancellation Protection that you can add on for a small fee to any order with all non-flexible fares. This gives you added protection with regards to exceptional circumstances. You can apply for this at point of purchase and it may be worth considering to put your mind at ease, especially if you are spending a lot on a train journey.
Usually more expensive than non-flexible tickets, a semi-flexible ticket allows you to claim a refund or exchange, but you will be charged a fee. This fee is either a percentage of the total ticket cost, or a fixed amount. An explanation of how exchanges work is given in more detail at the end of this article.
Fully-flexible tickets allow refunds or exchanges before travel although the specific ticket conditions can vary. So again, always read the fare conditions at the point of purchase.
Depending on the rail operator, "fully-flexible" can also mean that the ticket is valid on any train, at any time of day, but within a given timeframe. In the UK this type of ticket is call "Anytime". In France, these types of tickets are usually called “Pro” fares. This level of flexibility is clearly stated within the fare conditions (e.g. "refundable and exchangeable for a fee" as shown below). Even if this ticket comes with a seat reservation for a specific train, it is still valid on other services. This can, in some cases, also help you avoid the 'peak' travel fare hike. When you are booking a train during peak hours, it is worth scrolling down to later trains to see if there is one that is cheaper, and also fully flexible. If it is, grab this ticket and use it during peak travel hours.
How can I exchange tickets?
If you find yourself in a position where you need to exchange or cancel a ticket that you bought with us, and your fare conditions allow it, you can do so easily online, by going into your account details, to the section marked ‘Your trips’. Please see our ‘refunds’ blog post for more details.