If you are planning to use UK public transport it’s worth noting that trains can be very expensive – although booking in advance can save you a huge amount.
If you’ll be spending your time in towns and cities, public transport is often a more efficient way to travel around. Many Londoners have no use for a car.
Trains in the UK are expensive and come in for a lot of criticism. Different operating companies run different lines, and pricing systems and punctuality vary. However, trains are still – usually – the quickest and most practical way to travel between cities. It’s almost always much cheaper to buy a return ticket (sometimes this will only cost 50p more than a single ticket), and purchasing in advance can entitle you to a lower fare. Occasionally some companies, like Virgin, who run trains northwards from London, have good special offers.
The National Rail enquiries website (see right) provides timetable information, and you can purchase tickets from the individual train companies.
Coach services are a cheaper, but slower, way to travel between UK towns and cities. The leading coach operator is National Express, whose network covers most towns and who also offer special airport services.
Good bus networks cover most UK towns and you will usually find a central bus station which is well-equipped with timetables and information. Prices are usually reasonable, although some towns are remarkably expensive. There are often good-value day tickets which are useful to tourists. You usually pay the driver when you get on the bus, but note that in some areas they will only accept the exact coins, and won’t give change. Some larger towns also have underground, light rail or tram services. Buses radiating from towns do serve rural areas, but they can be rare, sometimes only operating one day a week.
London has a vast public transport system, which all its residents rely upon, despite their grumbles. The tube, or underground, rail system is the usually the quickest way to travel, although it is an expensive option (investigate cheaper travelcards if you are planning several journeys). The network is complicated, but maps are displayed prominently to help you plan your journey (it’s a good idea to pick up a free map to carry around with you). When choosing platforms, it helps to know your direction of travel (e.g. northbound, eastbound).
Buses are a good way to see more of London when travelling around – as well as the famous old-fashioned Routemaster buses, there are also modern double-deckers and smaller vehicles. Buses display their destination and usually list a few of their intermediate stops; more information can be found at bus stops.