Whether its lush green countryside, dramatics coasts, cute villages or bustling cities, you’ll find all you need on the different ways you can get around Britain.
Travelling around London
Britain’s busiest, most populated and diverse city is England’s capital: London. While lots of the central areas are easy to explore by foot, you will no doubt need some form of transport during your stay. If you know where you want go to, you can find the quickest routes for your journeys in and around London using Transport for London’s (TfL) handy journey planner.
Transport tickets and Oyster Cards
The cheapest way to get around is by using a Visitor Oyster Card, a pre-paid electronic card that can be used on buses, the tube, the tram and most rail services within London’s travel fare zones (zones 1 to 6). You can save time by ordering your card before you arrive.
One-day paper travelcards (which cover bus, tube and inner-city rail services) are also available from all London Underground stations and are a good choice for short breaks. To charge or ‘top up’ your Oyster Card (known locally as an oyster), visit travel information centres, newsagents showing the blue Oyster symbol, and all London Underground stations. You can also use the Oyster Card app.
Contactless bank cards, Apple Pay and Android Pay can also be used on London’s transport system – there are daily caps meaning you can take unlimited journeys in a day for a set price, though these caps change depending on which zones you travel through.
The London Underground
The legendary London Underground network, often just called the tube, has more than 270 stations, each marked with the famous London Underground roundel logo.
Tubes run daily, apart from Christmas Day, from around 5:30am until midnight. Some lines run throughout the night at weekends. There are also fewer services on Sundays and public holidays.
Each tube line is represented by a different colour. Colour-coded maps can be found at every tube station and maps of the central section of the network are displayed on each tube carriage.
If you get lost, flag down a TfL staff member for help or simply ask fellow passengers – most Londoners will be happy to help.
Find out more about travel on the London Underground.
The London Overground and suburban rail services
The London Overground and a number of traditional rail services also operate out of London’s major hubs, such as Waterloo, Liverpool Street and Victoria, and travel to more suburban areas of London, particularly parts of south London which aren’t reachable by tube.
Oyster Cards and contactless bank cards can be used on many services up to certain stations (within the London fare zones). To be sure check the stations you use operate within these zones before travelling.
London buses come in all shapes and sizes – from double-deckers to single-deckers and Routemaster buses (with doors at the front, centre and rear) and operate all over the city. Check out bus routes with TfL’s handy bus map.
London buses don’t take cash - instead you need to touch your Oyster Card or a contactless bank card against the reader when you board the bus, and a set cost will be deducted from the card, regardless of how long the journey takes. Paper travelcards can also be used on buses - just show this to the driver when you board.
London has the most extensive night bus system in the world, with a number of buses running 24- hours-a-day, meaning you can go clubbing into the small hours without worrying about getting home.
Cycling is an increasingly popular and green ways to get around London and with hundreds of cycle lanes throughout the city, it’s easy.
Santander Cycle can be hired (and dropped off) from docking stations throughout the city. Just turn up, pay and cycle away.
Folding bikes are allowed on all forms of public transport, while non-folded bikes can only be taken on some services at specific times.
The famous London black cabs (officially known as Hackney Carriages) are as much as an institution as big red buses. Black cabs are safe and reliable and drivers have to undergo strict tests to get a licence. All are wheelchair accessible and accept credit and debit card payments, and some are now electric, making travelling around London even greener.
There are fewer black cabs outside central London, but you will find that plenty of mini-cab companies or check out minicab apps such as Uber or Bolt.
While it’s possible to drive around London, it can sometimes end up being the most time-consuming and expensive way to travel. London is congested, and cars are charged for entering certain central areas. This is known as the Congestion Charge, which is charged per day, and payable online. It applies to drivers who use the congestion zone Monday to Friday between 7am and 6pm, although black cabs are exempt. Certain vehicles will also have to pay to drive within the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which is in force 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This zone covers a larger area of London than the Congestion Charge.
Travelling around other British towns and cities
Using public transport is an easy, economical way to travel around Britain’s cities and towns, and is a great way to experience local life.
In most UK cities, you can buy bus tickets directly from the driver when you board a bus. Large areas like the West Midlands and Greater Manchester also have their own regional travel cards which are valid on all public transport within their area.
Check local tourist websites for timetables and more information. Regional bus operators may also have their own apps, which can be downloaded via the main app stores.
City tram networks
Edinburgh, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham operate tram services – you can purchase tickets for the tram either from an on-board conductor or from ticket machines at tram stops. Get more information from local tourist offices and local tourist board’s websites.
Taxis and minicabs are available in cities and towns across Britain. Taxi ranks can be found just outside most busy train stations or you can phone for one in advance. Minicab apps, such as Uber or Bolt, also provide services in many of the major towns and cities.
Many city roads have cycle lanes and even dedicated traffic lights. Most destinations have somewhere you can hire bikes, and increasingly scooters.
The National Cycle Network, managed by Sustrans, also covers many different parts of Britain, providing signed routes and paths.
Travelling around Britain by train
Travelling by train is a green, scenic and relaxing way to discover Britain. The rail network here covers whole swathes of Britain, with more than 2,000 stations serving England, Scotland and Wales. It’s an easy and efficient was to travel, with different train companies serving different parts. You can plan your journey using websites like Trainline and before you know it you could be in Brighton or Scotland or almost anywhere else. Journey lengths aren’t too onerous either - hop on a train in London you can be in Scotland within four hours.
It’s easy to travel within regions and towns too. Plan your journey and buy tickets from large travel agents, online ticket providers, and at all railway stations.
Buying your ticket further in advance can save you money and sometimes it’s even cheaper to buy two separate singles than one return, so it pays to check this before booking. If you opt for a BritRail pass – exclusively for tourists – it offers unlimited journeys and various discounts, giving you the freedom to travel around at your own pace.
Travelling around Britain by car
What do you need to drive in Britain?
You’ll need a current valid driving licence, and if required, an international driving permit.
You must keep proof of ownership or a rental agreement in your vehicle, plus any insurance documents.
Find out more information on what you’ll need to drive in Britain.
How to hire a car in Britain
With lots of hire car comparison sites, make sure to do your research in advance to find the best price.
You’ll find major car rental company desks at airports and coastal ports as well as others conveniently located in city centres and major towns.
All rental companies should include insurance cover and breakdown cover with car rental, so check this when you book.
You’ll also need to have a credit card in the name of the main driver to hire a vehicle.
Electric vehicles are also available to hire at many large rental companies.
Electric vehicles and charging points
Driving electric vehicles makes travelling around Britain more sustainable. Most major car rental companies will hire them. There’s some advantages with parking not afforded to petrol or diesel powered cars too.
Britain has an extensive and growing network of electric vehicle (EV) charging points with more than 20,000 locations in operation and more being added all the time. Some charging points are free to use while others require payment using an app or a credit or debit card.
Use the Zap Map website or app to find your nearest charging points.
Fuelling stations in Britain
Most petrol stations are self-service and instructions at the pump are easy to follow.
You’ll often pay for your fuel at the counter or at the pump itself using a bank card.
Tips for driving in Britain
Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Speed is measured in miles per hour and distances on road signs are displayed in miles.
Most hire cars will include GPS or offer a satellite navigation system as an extra, but it’s also a good idea to keep a map handy.
Take a look at the Highway Code for an up-to-date guide to all the current British driving regulations and traffic signs.
It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving.
Travelling around Britain by coach
If you’re on a budget, travelling by coach is a great alternative to train or car, but journey times can be longer.
If you know where you want to go, plan ahead and book your coach in advance from major operators like National Express or Megabus. You can also take a coach tour of places of interest - lasting anything from a couple of hours to couple of weeks. Choose from seaside towns to chocolate-box villages, historic sites to buzzing cities. It’s a good idea to book coach excursions or longer coach trips before you arrive here.
Travelling around Britain by air
If you’re short on time, then major cities and some towns are well connected by airports. This is an expensive option and once you’ve factored in getting to and from the airports, not always the most time efficient.
You can catch domestic flights from major cities like London to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen in around 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Travelling around Britain by boat
Britain has thousands of miles of inland waterways and hundreds of islands scattered along its coastline, many of which can be explored by cruising in a canal boat or by hopping on a ferry.
You can hire canal and narrowboats, or take an organised boat tour. For more information of Britain’s canals, rivers and lakes, visit the Canal & River Trust website.
Ferries in Scotland sail to a myriad of destinations including the Isle of Skye, Stornaway and Lochboisdale in the Western Isles. Most of the ferry companies offer a variety of different ticket types including island-hop passes.
River ferries are an interesting alternative to the more usual forms of transport, like the ferry across the Mersey River between Liverpool and Birkenhead and the London river boats that run from Westminster to Greenwich and beyond. You can discover more about ferry routes and timetables by visiting local destination websites.