Getting around Britain

Travelling about in British cities

Using public transport in Britain is an easy, economical way to travel and a great way to experience the local life. The larger cities tend to have the most bus services, and London, Newcastle and Glasgow have an underground system. Edinburgh, ManchesterNottingham and south London have tram networks. Taxis are available at nearly every train station. The best way to see many cities is on foot, but whatever transport you opt for, try to avoid the rush hours from 8-9.30am and 5-7pm.

Get to know the local buses

Buses come in all shapes and sizes in the UK. They include double-deckers, single-deckers, and in London, new Routemaster double-deckers, which have doors at the front, centre and rear. 

If you want to expericne the original open-backed London bus (called a 'Routemaster'), hop on London bus heritage route 15. It follows the best route for London sightseeing, taking in highlights such as the Tower of LondonTrafalgar Square and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Remember that you cannot pay with cash on any London bus; instead you must use a contactless credit or debit card or you can a Visitor Oyster Card, which you top-up with credit. When you get on the bus touch your Oyster card against the reader and the cost of your trip will be deducted from the card. You can also buy a one-day Travelcard. Both cards can be used on any form of London public transport within the London travel zones. You can buy tickets from Underground stations, travel information centres, newsagents showing the blue Oyster symbol, or online.

In most other UK cities you buy tickets from the driver when you board a bus, and large urban areas such as the West Midlands and Greater Manchester have their own regional travel cards, which are valid on all public transport within their area. Check local tourist offices for timetables and more details. 

Between 11pm-6am night services are provided in larger cities. London has the most extensive night bus system in the world, plus some tube lines run through the night too.

Driving in a different city 

Read our guide and tips for driving in the UK. Central London has a daily congestion charge of £11.50 payable online if you drive or park within the congestion zone Monday to Friday 7am-6pm. 

How to get a taxi 

Taxis are readily available: found at taxi ranks and train stations in towns and cities, or you can phone for a taxi.

The famous London black cabs are as much of an institution as big red buses and it's worth experiencing a ride in one. They are very safe and reliable to use as all drivers have to undergo strict tests. All are wheelchair-accessible and all accept credit and debit card payments. Read our fun guide on how to hail a London taxi.

Travelling on the London Underground

The legendary Underground network in London, known as the Tube, has more than 270 stations, each of which is marked with the famous London Underground roundel logo. London tube trains run every day, except Christmas Day, from about 5:30am until just after midnight and some lines now run 24 hours. Fewer trains run on Sundays and public holidays.

London’s tube lines are colour-coded and maps are posted at every tube station, while maps of the central section are displayed in each train. If you get lost, ask someone - you may be surprised to discover Londoners are friendly and helpful!

To get around many travellers use a Visitor Oyster Card, a prepaid electronic card that can bought online before travelling and be used on buses, the Tube and most rail services within London's travel fare zones. It's the cheapest way to make single journeys in London, plus gets you special discounts and offers at London’s top museum cafes, restaurants, theatre tickets and more. You can order your Visitor Oyster Card or paper Travelcard before you travel to the UK.

Find out more on travel on the London Underground.


Walking in cities

Once you get used to traffic driving on the left, Britain’s cities can be safely and enjoyably explored on foot.

There are 2 types of pedestrian crossing: striped zebra crossings and push-button crossings at traffic lights. At a zebra crossing the traffic should stop for you when you show intention to cross; while at push-button crossings, cars stop until the lights change in your favour. More and more cities and towns are creating traffic-free zones in the city centre for pedestrians.

Cycling around towns and cities 

Cycling is of course one of the greenest ways of getting around Britain's towns and cities. Even smaller towns have somewhere you can hire bikes (see for London, or for the rest of the UK). Many city roads have cycle lanes and their own traffic lights. You can also take your bike on trains.