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The best ways to get around the UK

There isn’t a shortage of ways to get around in the UK, with public transport, car hire, ferries and flights all being viable options. But it does pay to do your research beforehand. For instance, booking a train ticket just a week in advance could save you hundreds of pounds.

Uber, licensed taxis, and ride sharing are easy options in the UK’s biggest cities, but they often aren’t available in smaller towns and can be expensive for longer distances.

Public transport links are also reliable in cities and between major destinations, but are infrequent in more rural areas. Having your own transport will mean that you can explore much further when visiting the UK.

Trains in the UK

There is a comprehensive train network interlinking the UK, but due to privatisation the service is often more expensive than its European equivalents (and less reliable). There are various train companies in the UK but all operate under National Rail.

The majority of trains are accessible, have facilities on board, and are dog friendly. It’s best to book your tickets in advance using a ticket booking service like the Trainline (saving on average 61% on a ticket). You can also sign up for planned strike action alerts that might affect your journey.

You no longer need an Oyster card to use the Tube (underground) or bus network in London, any contactless card or phone-pay can be used to check in and out between stops. Mapway is the official app for planning journeys on the TfL tube and can save a lot of time when it comes to disruptions.

Buses and coach travel in the UK

Local buses are reliable and frequent in built up areas, but are often sparse in the countryside.

For longer journeys, National Express run coaches up and down the country between many of the UKs cities and large towns. They are a reliable alternative to train travel, especially on longer journeys, but will not stop in smaller towns.

Driving in the UK

The UK is best suited to four wheels, but a large proportion of the population drives, so the roads can get busy. From the age of 17, Brits start driving on the left side of the road, giving way to the right on roundabouts (the opposite to drivers across the channel).

The speed limit is 70 mph on motorways, 60 mph on single-lane roads, 40 or 30 mph in built-up areas, and 20 mph near schools or pedestrian areas. The blood alcohol limit is 0.8 g/l (0.5 g/l in Scotland), and there are heavy fines for speeding and using your phone while driving.

Going Abroad is a useful road safety app covering the basic rules for all countries in Europe.

Toll roads

There are 23 toll roads in the UK, most are either pay online or pay by card/cash at the toll-booth. The two you are most likely to encounter are the M6 Toll in the West Midlands (£5.50 for a car), and the M25 Dartford River Crossing (£2.50 for a car). Interestingly, Scotland abolished all of its toll roads in 2008.

The RAC Route Planner is a useful way of getting traffic updates and checking for tolls before you set off.

Car hire

Hiring a car is the most straightforward option for those wanting to get out of the major cities and explore more scenic parts of the UK.

Avoid driving at peak times, watch out for variable speed limits, and take care not to enter bus/cycle lanes. Hirers usually have to be over 21 and have a credit card in their name.

If you are hiring a car, parking can be limited and expensive in major cities, it’s often better to use a ‘Park and Ride’ service in places like Cambridge, Chester, and Bath.

Transport costs in the UK

Train prices can vary hugely, travel off peak (outside of rush hours) and book in advance to save money. A BritRail Pass can save money if you are taking a lot of train journeys, a one month pass costs £568.

Buses in the UK are more reasonable, with many offering day passes and off season discounts like the Lake District’s £2 a ride scheme. A National Express coach from London to Liverpool will cost less than £10. Ferries from Liverpool to Belfast cost around £40.

Car rental prices start at around £25 per day for economy vehicles when booked through a comparison site like Discover Cars. Petrol averages around £1.46 p/l while diesel costs around £1.60 p/l.

For EV cars there are nearly 15,000 charging locations in the UK, you’ll find an Ecotricity charge point at nearly every motorway service; costing around 44p per kWh. Alternatively there are free charging stations at many larger supermarkets like Tesco.

Accessible travel in the UK

The vast majority of trains in the UK can accommodate wheelchairs, you can find a list of accessible stations online. All public transport in the UK has priority seating for travellers who are disabled, elderly, pregnant or for passengers carrying toddlers. Most companies use the Sunflower Lanyard scheme to assist travellers with non-visible disabilities.

Planning a trip to the UK? Read our UK travel guides

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Jo Williams

Author - Jo Williams

Jo Williams is a freelance writer with 10 years' experience working in travel and tourism. A Brit who got fed up with the 9 to 5 corporate life, she sold everything to become a full-time wanderer.

Jo has travelled to over 70 countries and worked throughout Europe for a major tour operator. She hopes to inspire you to work less and travel more.

Last Updated 13 June 2023

Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, UK

United Kingdom

Encompassing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island, the United Kingdom has a long and interesting history, several cosmopolitan cities and a range of enchanting landscapes.