Getting There and
The Easiest Way To Get Around!
Getting To the UK
If your journey isn't too great a distance, for example you are visiting from Europe, you might want to consider a variety of travel options. But if your journey is a long one, aeroplane fares are now so competitive that in terms of speed, comfort and cost you should probably just look at flights.
|Flying is the most obvious way to travel to the UK. Fares can vary dramatically so the best advice is to shop around and be flexible about dates and airlines. In particular students, young travellers and seniors should be able to get special deals and discounts.
The busiest and most popular airports are Heathrow and Gatwick, both in London. But if you are not visiting London you might try some of the other airports in the UK which handle international flights, such as Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow.
|You could always travel to the UK by ship , for example you could choose a transatlantic crossing on a big cruise ship. This would mean that you arrive in the UK in style and without the hassle of jet lag, but any long distance journey by ship will be very lengthy and, of course, very expensive compared to flying.
If you are not travelling from too far away, you might want to consider other options.
For example you can travel to the UK by bus from many European cities, which is a great low cost option if you won't be travelling too far. However, flights are now priced so competitively that if your journey is a long one by coach, you will probably want to choose the comfort and speed of flying.
There are also some hovercraft or SeaCat services that cross the Channel between Dover and Calais. These are very quick and can do the journey in less than an hour, cutting your travelling time considerably. They are also very competitively priced.
And of course, the
now gives you even more options. Drivers can take Le Shuttle which is another very speedy way to cross the English Channel. It is also quite competitively priced, being comparable to ferry fares, and there are often discounts and special offers available.
Meanwhile, foot passengers can take Eurostar trains from Paris, Brussels or Lille to London. Again, prices can be very competitive with regular discounts and promotions.
|Please note: If you are travelling by train, the rail system in the UK is quite independent from the rest of Europe and so some continental rail passes, for example Eurail, are not valid in Britain.
Getting around the UK
As you would imagine with such a small country, it is very easy to get around the UK.
There are lots of options to choose from so here is a brief guide to some of them.
Rail travel can be expensive, but there are various reduced fare options available. Make sure that when you book your ticket you ask for the cheapest option and bear in mind that if you book 7 days in advance you can make some substantial savings.
There are numerous ticket types available with different rules and restrictions for each. For example some tickets allow children aged 5-15 to travel at half price, but some require them to pay the full adult fare! So the best advice is to ask at the nearest train station.
There are lots of other good ways to save money on train tickets so here are some options you might want to consider: If you are visiting the UK from abroad and plan to do a lot of rail travel, you should consider a rail pass such as the BritRail pass. You need to buy this pass before you enter the UK or Europe so ask your travel agent for advice and costs.
Once you are in the UK, some other passes are available which give reduced fares - ask for details at any rail station. Examples are the Senior Citizens Rail Card for those over 60 years old, the Young Person's Railcard for 16-25 year olds and Family Railcards for those travelling with children.
It is advisable to reserve a seat in advance, especially for longer journeys, as many trains do get crowded. And if you are a smoker, check if there is a smoking carriage available as many trains do not allow smoking - at best there will probably only be one carriage set aside for smokers so seats get booked up quickly.
It is only fair to point out that the rail network has a dubious reputation in terms of reliability and efficiency - it is a standard joke that every autumn, leaves on the line disrupt whole networks! So if your journey is time critical (for example to an airport), make sure you allow plenty of extra time for delays.
But, despite the prices and the fact you might be delayed, rail travel is probably the most comfortable method of transport so it is definitely worth considering.
Apart from the national rail network, in London you will no doubt come across the Underground or 'Tube', as it is by far the quickest way to get around the city. Again, there are a variety of tickets available, but if you are planning to do a lot of travelling around London by tube, without doubt the cheapest option is a travelcard.
London's tube is divided up into zones (central London, for example, is zone 1) and travelcard prices vary according to how many zones you wish to travel in, as well as according to the length of time for which a ticket is valid. Most tourists will find that the best options will be One-day cards for zones 1 and 2 during the week, and Weekend cards for zones 1 and 2 at weekends.
The Easiest Way To Get Around!
Cars are a very convenient way to get around the UK. Road networks are extensive and so travelling around by car opens up whole new areas to visitors. And it also gives you the freedom to go where you want, when you want. But getting around by car is not without its drawbacks.
The most obvious point to make is that in the UK you will have to drive on the left. This in itself puts many foreign visitors off driving as there will inevitably be some hair-raising moments during the initial adjustment period!
It is also worth noting that the UK is a car loving country and so the roads are often very busy with traffic jams on the major motorways fairly commonplace. As a result you will probably have a much more interesting and enjoyable journey if you venture off the motorways onto secondary roads.
In addition, many town and city centres are increasingly congested and so cars are often actively discouraged from entering city centres. Parking can be limited and very expensive and one-way systems are often incomprehensible.So if you see a Park-and-Ride scheme (where you park on the outskirts of town and then catch a bus into the town center) in operation - use it.
And a word of warning: if you are thinking about taking a car into London - DON'T! Even natives who have been driving in the UK for 20 years will avoid driving in London at all costs!
Car rental rates can be expensive so shop around and you might find a bargain. Sometimes you can get a good deal if you arrange car hire before you arrive in the UK, but generally it will be a pricey way of getting around. And note that most cars in the UK have gears (a stick shift) so if you need an automatic, book in advance.
Another drawback is that fuel can be quite expensive in comparison to many other countries which makes driving expensive in itself. As a general rule, motorway service stations are the most expensive for petrol so avoid these. Cheapest fuel prices are usually found at supermarkets or suburban petrol stations.
Despite the drawbacks, driving is still an excellent way of seeing the UK. You can tailor your holiday to your exact requirements and discover towns and areas of the UK that you never knew existed.
If you do wish to drive in the UK you need to have a current driving licence and insurance. Foreign visitors will also need an international driving permit. And anyone intending to drive should try to buy a copy of the highway code which clearly explains the rules of British roads.
Quite simply, hitching is not a safe method of travel anywhere, especially for women travelling alone.
So the best advice is to try to find an alternative method of transport.
Rural bus services are also pretty extensive, but stops are often not marked, or are not very clear, and timetables can sometimes be hard to find out - so the best source of information is often a friendly local person. In addition, rural buses often stop running by late evening and sometimes do not run at all on Sundays. So you can't really rely on them as your only method of transport.
Long distance buses are more often called 'coaches' and National Express is the company you'll most likely come across. Over short distances regional buses are usually cheaper, so it is on longer journeys that coaches come into their own. Although often not the most comfortable way to travel, a coach is usually the cheapest way to get around the UK.
London in particular is famous for its 'black cab' taxis. When the yellow sign on top is lit up, the taxi is available and you can hail it from the street. But, although these are a great way to get around, and for many people are synonymous with London, they aren't particularly cheap.
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