Transport in the UK
A. While company operated tours, usually bus, remain the first choice for many, the number of more adventurous independent travellers is increasing. The UK, due to its historic links and proximity to mainland Europe, has long been the destination of choice for backpackers from Australasia. However, an increasing number of older travellers and families are also electing to travel independently; especially as getting around mainland Britain is relatively easy. Of a similar size to that of Japan and New Zealand, Britain has an extensive road and rail network which facilitates ease of travel. This, as with other activities, can be expensive, but prearrangement of transport prior to entering the UK can help to minimise costs.
B. The biggest bus network in the UK is the National Express; while regional bus companies often offer cheaper deals on shorter journeys, for longer journeys it is often the cheapest method of travel around the country. Bookings can be made by telephone, via the Internet or National Express ticketing offices found in most towns. London aside, where even residents prefer to travel on the underground or local bus rather than face the inevitable traffic congestion, Britain is a pleasant and relatively accessible country to explore by car. Car rental companies are numerous and, in the same way, cheaper bookings can be made over the Internet or through a travel agent prior to arrival. There are also associated drawbacks to having a car; while drivers have flexibility of itinerary and the convenience, they have to face the high cost of fuel and parking fees (the latter easily eating in to a budget if a number of urban locations are visited). However, journeys planned to take advantage of the country’s long secondary roads allow visitors the opportunity to enjoy Britain’s beautiful countryside and small towns, while also avoiding the regular traffic jams on major motorways.
C. The cheapest rail transport option is to purchase a rail pass. Often the best bargain passes need to be purchased before entering the UK or Europe and should be investigated by travellers intending to complete a high proportion of the journey by train; such deals cannot be obtained from within Europe. Britain’s privatised rail system has resulted in a variety of operators in different regions of the country. A long journey may require using multiple trains and train companies, yet this only requires purchasing one ticket. Although train travel is a comfortable and scenic experience, delayed rail services are a common occurrence in Britain. It is wise to allocate plenty of time for journeys with a deadline, such as catching a plane.
D. For many visitors to Britain, the entrance and exit point is London. The underground, known locally as the Tube, is the quickest way of getting around the city although parts of London are easily explored on foot. Travel cards available outside rush hour are the most cost effective tickets for travel. London’s black cabs, famous icons for most foreign visitors to the city, are in abundance. Although prohibitively expensive for regular use for most budgets, they can be a convenient way to travel with luggage or on occasions where a group of passengers are able to share the cost. The other form of transport that many also associate with London, the double-decker bus, is much more cost effective for all types of journeys around the city, the frequency of service making it a convenient way to travel.