Getting Around United Kingdom
Planning to travel to the UK or looking for cheap ways to get around when you arrive?
Our handy guide is filled with money-saving tips for those on a budget.
Arriving by Air
If you’re flying to the United Kingdom in the first instance, it pays to book ahead. Major airlines like British Airways and Etihad have regular flights to cities like London, Glasgow and Manchester.
Look for cheap flights or last minute deals if you’ve left your travel plans till later. Some of the larger airlines also offer points or loyalty deals for regular fliers – great news if you travel to Britain often.
If you’re travelling from Europe, budget airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir are a great alternative. Cheap travel is what you pay for, and that’s what you get. A no frills flight for much less.
Get to the UK by train
Travel from mainland Europe and you can take the Eurostar service from Brussels or Paris to London St. Pancras International.
The popular train service is not overly cheap but it’s less expensive than you may think. Alternatively, travel through Europe by high-speed train and cross the Channel by ferry before resuming your rail journey in the UK.
Driving in Britain
In the UK, we drive on the left.
You’ll need a valid drivers licence if you intend to rent a car and you should expect to pay a surcharge if you’re under 23. Roads in the United Kingdom are well maintained and motorways run all over the country.
The M25 circles London and gives drivers access to major A roads or other motorways like the M1 to the North and Scotland or the M4 to Bristol, the West and South Wales.
Now you’re here and ready to explore the UK
Once you’ve arrived in Britain, the fun really begins. The country has an extensive rail network and great motorways and roads that lead to almost everywhere. If you’re a driver, it’s well worth renting a car for your stay.
Local companies and famous car rental brands offer compact economy cars at competitive rates. Once you’ve picked up your rental car, you’re free to explore the United Kingdom at your own pace.
While we don’t expect you to cycle the length of the country, a bike is a great way to get around.
Plus, you can take your bike on the train and on some national bus routes so you’re not restricted to one place. Do check in the service provider’s guide before you set off.
London is likely to be the starting point for most cyclists who arrive in the UK. From there, you can take trains to major cities like Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, or Edinburgh.
Train travel in the United Kingdom
Whether you’re bringing your bike or whether you’re travelling on foot, a train is a great way to get from A to B. Follow our guide to rail travel and you’ll stay within your budget.
- Book early – buy tickets up to three months in advance to get the lowest prices.
Unlike hotels, there is no advantage in looking for last minute deals. It’s always much more expensive on the day.
- Be flexible – be willing to look at alternative routes or plan your trip in stages.
For example, if you want to get from Exeter to Inverness, a ticket covering the entire route in one go won’t be cheap. Do it a stage at a time and take advantage of cheaper local train services.
If you’re aiming for somewhere a little nearer such as London to Bournemouth, it’s worth checking whether it will be cheaper to travel to a station nearby such as Poole or Christchurch and take a local bus or train for the final part of the trip.
- Look at the alternatives – some train routes are incredibly popular. London to Edinburgh, Bristol to London, or Newcastle to York, for example.
If you can’t pick up cheap tickets well in advance, try an alternative like London to Berwick-upon-Tweed and take a bus for the final leg.
- Time it right – if you’re visiting at busy periods like Christmas, Easter or the summer holiday season, you’re likely to pay more for your rail travel.
That same London to Edinburgh fare can double at Christmas so travel a few weeks earlier or book from the end of September when tickets are first available.
See more of the country by coach
National Express and Megabus offer passengers a cheap alternative to train travel with dozens of routes that cover the UK.
Again, you should book as early as possible and be prepared to take a later or earlier bus to get the best deal. Buses are budget-friendly and, although you’ll be on the go for longer, you will get to see more of the countryside.
Local knowledge is everything
If you don’t know the area you’re visiting, use a guide.
Not only will you pick up tips that help you stay within your budget, you’ll learn about local events and attractions. Drivers might consider a guide of another type – a Sat Nav system is invaluable of you’re new to a certain area and will save you from becoming lost on country roads around Britain.
You can also ask locals for advice or recommendations. Most people are proud of their particular town or city and will be happy to share tips on everything from budget-friendly restaurants to the best ways to travel cheaply in the region.
Whether you’re planning a long holiday or a short break, a little common sense goes a long way. Plan ahead, purchase tickets early and be prepared to change your plans for the best results.