The English countryside is a beautiful place to explore, with vast pastures and plains or one of fantastic cities! But… understanding how to get around England can be confusing! Depending on your itinerary and how much you wish to spend you will have access to:
- England’s vast rail network
- Coaches which are cheap, reliable & comfortable
- Local public transport
- Car rentals
The best ways to get around England is by using England’s railway, coaches, local buses, renting a car and potentially flying.
That being said, looking at all of the travel options available is still an important part of trip planning. To make sure that you have a solid idea before starting your trip, this article is going to go through the advantages and challenges of each travel method.
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Flying to Britain
When coming into Britain (or more specifically, England) from another country, one will probably use one of the premier international airlines for European travel, such as Lufthansa or British Airways. Tickets to England will vary based on the time of year and location of departure.
For example, a flight from New York City to London usually sits at around $500 USD, while a flight from Mexico City is probably going to be more than three times as much money at the same airline and same timeframe.
The price difference here can be based on a number of factors, including distance traveled and demand of seats within a particular airport. Always check online ticket vendors or a local travel agency for current pricing. Here are some tips for getting started:
Plane Travel Tips
- Book the flight at least a month in advance. Plane tickets boost in cost when they are booked last minute, so be vigilant when booking.
- If possible, try to depart from a larger airport. Tickets from smaller airports are going to cost far more money due to lack of seating. While arriving at a large airport will most likely be a little more costly, departing from one help your budget.
- Travel in the low season. The most popular time to travel is in the summer months and around holidays. If you are planning on taking a trip to England, try to make the trip during the low season, which is usually between the months of September and April—excluding December, of course.
- Fly in the middle of the week. Booking a flight for a weekend date is, in general, going to cost a little more expensive due to demand.
Travelling Around England
Once you have arrived in England, you may want to visit populous areas other than London, like Manchester or Liverpool.
These trips can be long and a little exhausting. Usually, however, they are quicker than those through the country due to their focus on getting from one destination to the next. Traveling from city to city is probably going to take up a lot of time, so if this is your travel goal, you will most likely be spending multiple days on the trip.
The best way to get from city to city might depend on what kind of trip you are looking to have. It also may depend on what kind of traveler you are. Here are a couple of travel types when it comes to moving between hubs.
Catching Trains in England
If you are interested in taking it easy between cities, you may want to book a train ride. Rail systems in England can vary from loud and packed to still and quiet, depending on the distance of travel.
For longer distances, however, trains can be a comfortable and relaxing experience. They are a great way to take a breath between stressful city touring and still let you look at stretches of the country you’ve come to visit.
If you are going to be doing a lot of travel by train, getting a BritRail GB Pass is a good way to make sure that you’re not paying too much. This option is the best for travelers because it is exclusive to non-UK residents, making it much less busy. It can be an expensive option, but it may be worth it to you if the train is your travel vehicle of choice!
A little more luxurious about it, you can even take a steam train for a fun dining experience with a view. Into the Blue offers customers gourmet food and fun experiences. On a steam train, you also get the pleasure of enjoying a slow, smooth ride which allows you to enjoy even more countryside views.
Train Travel Tips
- Get a Railcard or BritRail Pass before arrival. Be prepared by getting one of these cards loaded and ready before you want to get on a train.
- Buy tickets early. This is going to be a theme it seems, but one of the best ways to cut down on costs and secure a spot on a train is to reserve your seat early. Advance tickets which are the cheapest come out 12 weeks before your travel date. For more flexibility, you can get off-peak tickets and finally anytime tickets will be the most expensive.
- Try using Megatrain. Using a service like Megatrain cuts down on cost and is a sure way to know the time that it will take to get to your wanted location.
- Prep your itinerary. By knowing what you want to do beforehand, there is going to be less room for error.
Travelling England by Coach
Coaches are buses that travel long distances, similar to the Greyhound bus of the U.S. They are a much more affordable option than a train and very often can include tours.
It’s a more affordable way to see the country from your window, riding a coach is a good way to do it. Coaches are a little slower than trains, which makes them perfect for getting a more extensive view of an area.
These tours can range of minimal to extensive, which gives you plenty of options. If a tour coach is something that you would be interested in, you can check out some of the most popular coach holidays.
There are more direct coaches that are still going to take much longer than a train but are a little quieter and relaxing as well. Megabus is a coach service that boasts many services like free Wi-Fi, charging stations and free luggage allowance.
A long-distance bus ride is probably going to be a little less comfortable than a train ride, however, and may require frequent stops. If this isn’t something that you’re interested in, you may want to consider something else.
Coaches can also be a problem for large groups, unless your group was to rent their own coach. When choosing not to rent an entire coach for a group, however, members of the group will very frequently not be able to sit next to each other. Sometimes they can even not find seats on the same bus, which can be a stressful experience.
Coach Travel Tips
- Use Megabus. This is the simplest service for taking a bus anywhere in England. With plenty of amenities and affordable prices, Megabus is the first service to check.
- Bring headphones. If you don’t want to have to worry about listening to the conversations of every other tourist on the bus, you might want to put in some headphones to enjoy the ride.
- Choose your seat, if possible. If available, seat choice before the ride is a great way to feel more comfortable for your entire journey.
Renting a Car
Create your own adventure by renting a car. This is perfect if you plan on getting outside of the main cities and exploring areas like the Cotswolds, Norfolk Coast and the English countryside.
This way, you can stop at any point to take photos, check out local sights, or just go explore the area. There are a few things to remember if renting a car sounds like the best option for you.
First of all, skip the rental cars if you plan is to stay in the major cities especially London! The cities have great transport options and will be way cheaper than having a rental car.
Secondly, rental cars are not exactly inexpensive in the U.K. The least expensive rentals are around $30/day. So, if it is a multi-day trip, that cost is going to add up quickly. Petrol (known as gasoline in the U.S.) is also not cheap. Though commonly measured by liters instead of gallons, when comparing the average price of a gallon of gas between the U.S. and the U.K., the latter costs more than twice as much as the former.
However, you can negotiate with some car companies by calling them so it’s worth a shot!
Rental Car Travel Tips
- Get a credit card with rental car insurance. You may not be aware of it, but there are actually a lot of credit cards that offer this option. You may even already have a card that does this!
- Fill the tank back up before you return the car. If you’ve never rented a car before, you may not know that this could help you! Many times, returning the car with a low tank can result in being charged more for “extra gas” on their end. While it may be simpler, it’s much cheaper to fill it up yourself.
- Drop off the car at the same location that you picked it up. It’s usually going to end up being more expensive to drop the car off at a second location than to just bring it back to the same place. This is especially recommended if you’re just using it to get around the city or if you’ll be going back to the city anyway.
- Pick out a car online beforehand. Just like how you’re going to want to buy any plane, bus, or train tickets in advance, renting a car in advance is going to ensure that you get the best deal as well as a better choice range.
- Practice driving on the left side of the road. If you’ve never driven on the left side of the road before, you will definitely want to get a little bit of practice before heading out on an adventure.
Psssttt… I’ve learnt the best secret the best secret when renting a car for a long period of time (over 28 days)! As a general rule (company dependent) you can get fixed pricing for the car, basic protection insurance, road tax at no extra cost and unlimated drivers! I’ve recently done this with Europcar and managed to get my rental cost from £1000 for 24 days to £530 for 28 days!
Visiting London may be a dream come true for you. If getting to finally see Big Ben in person is something that you’ve waited for seemingly your entire life, you might feel a sense of pride from taking a ride in a black cab.
Black cabs are most prominently found in the heart of English cities. They are black and are usually printed with large advertisements. Similarly, to the New York taxi, black cabs are a cultural symbol that represents the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
They are more expensive than using other modes of transport but they do spend years training to become black cab drivers!
If you’re a younger person (or young at heart), you may be familiar with ridesharing apps. Ridesharing apps are basically the taxi services of the future. There are definitely a few things that ridesharing apps are doing better than other services, but there are also definitely some downsides.
There are a few apps that are prominently used in London to consider. Each of them has its own pros and cons, depending on your needs.
Everyone who knows about ridesharing apps knows about Uber. Most people between the ages of 18 and 35 have probably ridden in an Uber before as well. This is the most popular ridesharing app to use, which also makes it the most popular to work for—especially in English cities like London.
By using Uber instead of a traditional taxi, you are not only possibly saving time, but you are supporting locals who may not otherwise have a job.
For many people, working for ridesharing apps like Uber mean having enough money just to pay the bills. Just with that in mind, using Uber is actually a pretty solid choice.
This app actually works with local taxi drivers while still providing the timely ride service that you’ve come to expect. You may be wondering why supporting taxi drivers is an important thing to consider.
Taxi drivers have actually been highly undervalued in most major cities, with many having to invest thousands of dollars into starting as a driver. To pay back the investment, driving must become their full-time career.
Ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft are already putting a strain on their earnings. With that in mind, if you can support your local taxi drivers, why wouldn’t you?
If you’d like to support local drivers but would rather not pay the exorbitant prices of an app like Uber, you can use Kabbee. This app offers the best of both worlds. With the low cost of taxi apps and the ability to pay far more people for the work, this is a great choice to make.
Not only is Kabbee cheaper than most ridesharing apps, but it is also a significant amount cheaper than the average taxicab. They are also known to have better customer service than other ridesharing apps.
One of the best things about Kabbee is that they give 30 minutes for the driver to wait without a fee. This means no rushing to catch your Uber before it leaves and no paying too much for a cab because you took too long.
Ridesharing Travel Tips
- Give feedback. For a majority of ridesharing apps, feedback is extremely important. For example, after every ride, Uber makes you give feedback to your driver. Giving feedback to your driver is a great way to thank them for your good experience. Be aware, however, that negatively rating someone can seriously affect their chance at continuing as a driver. Unless you would be happy with seeing that person fired, consider not giving harsh feedback.
- Check driver ratings before ordering. A good way to be sure that you’re getting a quality ride is to check the ratings prior to ordering a specific driver. This isn’t going to be available on all apps, but it’s a great resource on those that do include the feature!
- Never give your personal information. It’s common to have polite conversation with your driver. However, you should never be sharing any personal information. The most that your driver should know about you is where you are being picked up, where you are going, and what your name is. They may need to know your phone number if they are unable to find you, but anything more than that is a liability.
- Make sure to send your ETA to a friend or family member. While a majority of the rides from an app or a taxi service are going to be safe and easy, the danger is always a possibility. To be as safe as possible, it’s always a good idea to keep a friend or family member in the know about where you will be and when you should be there.
If you don’t want to stick out as a tourist, using local transport in the cities is probably the best way to go.
London has Transport for London (TFL) that offers the famous tube (underground), red double-decker buses, ferries and much more. There are a few ways to pay like an oyster card or contactless pay with your bank card.
Double-decker buses are iconic to English culture, specifically in London. These tickets are going to be more expensive than the average bus ticket in general, but it may be worth it for the experience!
Cities like Manchester and Birmingham have trams that are pretty affordable. For example, the Birmingham city hop single for an adult is £1.50 and £0.70 for a child.
Hire a Bike
For the more active traveler, you may want to consider biking around the city as a means of transportation. Bringing your own bike can be a little difficult, but thankfully there are hundreds of bike docks across cities in England. At these docks, bikes can be rented and then replaced.
While you’re not going to be able to get as far as you could with a car or on a bus, biking is a great way to get around. Biking as a means of travel is a great way to explore the city at your own pace while still getting in some exercise.
Bike Traveling Tips
- Dress for the weather. Whatever time of year your traveling, you’re going to want to be prepared for the weather conditions. Keep watch of the forecasts in London while packing for your trip. If you are traveling during the colder months, you will need to have the proper coverage. In the warmer months, make sure to wear light, breathable clothes.
- Stay hydrated. Even in colder times of the year, biking around a large city like London is going to require some extra hydration. Try to travel with a water bottle on hand at all times so that dehydration isn’t a factor in your trip.
- Keep a bike lock on hand. Even if you’re renting a bike, you’re going to need to protect it as you visit indoor areas. Bring a bike lock with you to make sure that you can keep the bike you’re using safe at all times.
When looking for ways to get around England during your trip, there is no shortage of choices to make. The great thing, though, is that with so many choices available you have endless possibilities to make the perfect trip a reality.
The most important thing when planning how you’re going to get around England during your trip is to consider what you want out of your vacation. Do you care more about the journey or the destination? Are you more interested in the scenery of the country or the iconography of the city? If you have enough time and funds, you may even be able to enjoy it all!
Whatever you decide, hopefully, the tips that were given in this article can help you navigate your trip. While you may wish that you could go back in time during your time in England, it’s obvious that we are living in the best time to travel.
Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.