Getting around United Kingdom
British Airways (www.ba.com) operates a shuttle service from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle among other cities. Other domestic operators include Flybe (www.flybe.com), easyJet (www.easyjet.com) and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com).
Most domestic flights take between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes.
Distances are measured in miles. There are trunk roads (‘A’ roads) linking all major towns and cities in the UK. Roads in rural areas (‘B’ roads) can be slow and winding, and in upland areas may become impassable in winter. Motorways radiate from London and there’s also a good east-west and north-south network in the north and the Midlands.
The M25 motorway circles London and connects at various junctions with the M1, M3, M4, M10, M11 and M40. The only motorway that leaves England is the M4 from London to South Wales.
Access to Scotland is by the A1/A1(M) or the A68 to Edinburgh, or the M6 to Carlisle followed by the A74 to Glasgow. Within Scotland, motorways link Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. In Northern Ireland, motorways run from Belfast to Dungannon and from Belfast to Antrim.
Side of road:
Available in towns and cities across the UK from all the major companies.
Widely available in towns and cities. You can pick them up at taxi ranks (often outside railway stations and in city centres), hail them in the street, or book them by phone.
Licensed taxi operators are generally metered; small supplements may be charged for weekends, bank holidays, excess baggage and late-night travel. In the larger cities, unlicensed operators offer a cheaper (but less efficient and knowledgeable) unmetered service with fares based loosely on elapsed clock mileage; these taxis are called mini-cabs and can be booked by telephone.
The UK’s quiet back roads make it a great country to explore by bike. The National Cycle Network (www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/national-cycle-network) is a countrywide network of safe, traffic-free paths and quiet, on-road cycling. Bike hire is available across the country, and bikeshare schemes are popping up in an increasing number of cities.
National Express (tel: +44 871 781 8181; www.nationalexpress.com) is the UK’s main coach operator, with reliable services across the country. Megabus (tel: +44 141 352 4444; www.megabus.com) is a low-cost alternative.
Speed limits are 48kph (30mph) in urban areas, 113kph (70mph) on motorways and dual carriageways, and 80kph (50mph) or 97kph (60mph) elsewhere as marked. Seat belts must be worn by the driver and front seat passenger. Where rear seat belts have been fitted, they must also be worn. It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. The minimum driving age is 17.
The AA (www.theaa.com) and RAC (www.rac.co.uk) are able to provide a full range of services to UK members touring the UK. These organisations can also assist people who are travelling from abroad with maps, tourist information and specially marked routes to major events or places of interest.
National driving licences are valid for one year. Drivers must have third-party insurance and vehicle registration documents.
Getting around towns and cities:
All cities and towns have bus services of varying efficiency and cost. Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Newcastle have underground railways. The urban areas of Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester are also well served by local railway trains. Manchester and Edinburgh have tram services.
The UK is served by an excellent network of railways. Intercity lines provide fast services between London and major cities, and there are services to the southeast and to major cities in the Midlands, the north and south Wales and between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Some rural areas are less well served (eg the north coast of the west country, parts of East Anglia, Northern Ireland, Northumberland and North Yorkshire, parts of inland Wales, and southern and northern Scotland), although local rail services are generally fairly comprehensive.
For information about UK train services and fares, contact National Rail Enquiries (tel: +44 3457 484 950; www.nationalrail.co.uk). It can be much cheaper to purchase rail tickets in advance.
BritRail: offers a range of passes giving unlimited travel. This is available to visitors from overseas and is not available in the UK; you must buy tickets in your home country, although you can collect them in the UK. Available from BritRail (www.britrail.com).
InterRail One-Country Pass: offers travel for three, four, six or eight days in one month within the UK. Travel is not allowed in the passenger’s country of residence. Travellers under 26 years receive a reduction. Children under 12 travel free when accompanied by an adult using an Adult Pass. Supplements are required for some high-speed services, seat reservations and couchettes. Available from Voyages-sncf.com (tel: +44 844 848 5848, in the UK; www.voyages-sncf.com).
Railcards: discount cards available to young people (aged 16 to 25), two named adults travelling together, senior travellers (aged 60 and over), families (up to four adults and four children) and disabled travellers, offering a third off rail fares. Valid for one year (www.railcard.co.uk).
Information on travel to the Channel Islands, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Scottish islands are given in the relevant sections for those countries.