A short guide to getting around the UK

photo by Marcin Wichary

So you’ve traveled to the UkK for a holiday, and once you’ve gotten off your plane, you find yourself at the mercy of the local means of transport. Unless you plan on staying in one city for the whole duration of your stay, you can’t avoid making use of the public (or private) transport systems of the UK. And to make it easier for you, here’s a short guide to getting around the UK, which will teach you a trick or two about taking full advantage of the UK’s trains, buses, ferries or taxis.

Railway

The UK’s railway network covers some 34,000 kilometers and reaches into almost every nook and cranny of the country. Unless you are planning on visiting some very remote villages or perhaps some islands, it’s almost guaranteed that you can take the train. What you need to know about the train service in the UK is that it can be fickle – you can get excellent service in a modern train one day, and find rather poor conditions the next day. The ticket system can be very confusing, even to locals, so even if you can get your tickets online, you might avoid a lot of confusion if you buy them from the ticket offices at the train stations, and ask the staff for accurate information.

Buses

Bus networks also cover the whole country, but depending on the operator, you get various degrees of comfort or costs. Buses reach where trains doesn’t, and many remote rural areas are connected with the rest of the country through buses. The iconic red buses of London are unmistakable, but in other cities you will see many different kind of buses Fortunately, they all display their route number and destination, so there’s not much chance of getting on the wrong bus. Since in many cities there are multiple bus operators, it can be difficult to find a comprehensive time table of the routes, but the local tourist information office can provide you with information. Intercity buses are slower than trains and have more hectic schedules, but are generally cheaper and more comfortable even.

Taxi

Taxis are not the cheapest option for getting around (hence the bustle on the subway and buses), but if you can’t avoid it using them, they are pretty reliable. You can find two types of cabs in the UK: black cabs, which are metered, and minicabs (private taxis) which must be ordered on the phone.

Ferries

You can travel by boat to the UK from mainland Europe, but ferries and boats are also useful when you’re traveling within the country. For example, you can take the ferry to Northern Ireland and have a longer, but more scenic trip than by plane. The many isles of the UK can also (and sometimes, only) be accessed by boat.

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