Getting around the UK

Heading to the UK soon and need to know about getting around our small country? Here’s a guide to the different transportation methods available. The UK is a small country compared to most travel destinations and is easy to get around in. With loads to see and do in such a small country, what’s the best way to get around?

There’s a handful of national city-to-city bus companies which cover the length and breadth of the UK. The main two are National Express, which covers the majority of the UK, offering hundreds of routes and stops. The second, and cheaper option, is Mega Bus which covers the main routes in the UK. Both companies offer early bird savings; the earlier you buy a ticket the cheaper it will be. For example, with National Express, a fare from London to Manchester booked a day in advance is £13.50. When you book a week in advance the fare goes down to only £8.50. Both fares have an additional £1 booking fee. If you book Mega Bus far enough ahead your fare could be as little as £1.

Most city bus stations are centrally located. During the journey the bus will stop at service stations where you can get a bite to eat and use the loo.

National Express bus photo/Graham Richardson (courtesy of Creative Commons)

Getting around Britain by train is a quick and comfortable way to see the country. However it can be expensive. The rail network is split up and run by different companies in different regions. You can buy a ticket with the actual company (Virgin, Chiltern Railways, South West Trains etc.) or use a central booking company to buy tickets. The best place to check for ticket prices and times is the official National Rail Enquiries site (however, it might not be the cheapest place to get tickets). To get the best prices, you will need to buy in advance (8 weeks is best). Sometimes buying two tickets to your destination can be cheaper than buying a direct fare. Look for special offers. You may find a better fare traveling at non-peak times. Finding the best fares can be a lot of work, but may be well-worth the time spent.

Pendolino Train at Manchester Piccadilly photo/Matt Davis (courtesy Creative Commons)

Cost, as mentioned can be crazy. Buying a ticket from London to Manchester on the day of travel can cost £300. If you buy your ticket in advance the price can come down to as little as £25. Money Saving Expert offers good tips on buying tickets and saving money and also a listing of booking sites.

While the UK is a small country, flights can be a good option for getting around. Flights from London to Manchester, Newcastle or Scotland can often be cheaper than the train. However, with airports on the outskirts of cities, there is the additional cost and time getting into the city from the airport. This travel method is a bit limited as smaller towns and cities won’t have their own airport.

If travelling in a group or with a family, car hire can be the most cost effective option. Petrol prices are high and this expense may tip the balance. However, car hire is generally cheap and weekend deals are available. Some cities are close to each other. Base yourself in one location and then go on day trips. Costs can be reduced by looking for deals such as Enterprise’s weekend car hire specials or look into their weekly rates if you need a car for a longer period.

M6 at dusk photo/Highway Agency (courtesy of Creative Commons)

Possibly the cheapest, but clearly the most exhausting, option of getting around the UK is by bicycle. You can’t ride on the motorways but there’s a huge network of smaller roads which can get you from Point A to B without too much of a detour. If you’re traveling via bike there’s a wide selection of places to stay including country bed & breakfasts or campsites. With cities not far from each other you can easily make it from one to another all in a day’s ride.  More information on cycling and hiring bikes can be found at Visit Britain.

Top tips:

  • Buy in advance
  • Compare costs
  • Hire a car if you are a larger group

Complete photo credits:
Natioal Express Bus Photo
Pendolino Train at Manchester Piccadilly
M6 Junction Photo


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