Written by Zoe Stephens
The United Kingdom is a popular destination for many a traveller going through Europe, as well as a popular destination for foreign studies. Most hit up London – but if this is the only town you stop over at, you’re missing out!
People are often put off travelling throughout the UK by the extortionate prices of the public transport. It’s true, that it’s often cheaper to travel from the UK to another city in Europe than it is to travel from one city to the next. There was even a story about one university student wanting to retun home who found it cheaper to fly to Berlin, have a few nights there, then fly back to his home town, than it was to get a direct train.
Pretty bizarre, right?
Anyway, there are a few tips to stick by which will make your travel around the UK much more affordable, and sometimes actually cheap!
1. Train travel
Whatever you do, don’t buy your train ticket at the train station on the day of travel. There are many websites such as Virgin Trains and the TrainLine that can help you buy your tickets. If you’re flexible with your date and time of travel, you can also have a play around with dates and see what is cheapest for you.
2. Bus travel (mega bus 1 pound, national express)
There are few instances when it isn’t cheaper to travel by bus /but these do exist!). Depending on where you’re going and how long you’re going to have there, it may be worth getting the train to get those extra few hours in – but remember, the UK isn’t THAT big. There are few overnight buses (because we rarely need them) and all of the buses are generally super comfortable with power sockets, onboard entertainment etc.
There are two main companies to travel with. Megabus and National Express. Generally, Mega Bus is a bit cheaper – but neither covers all stations. Have a look see which ones suit you best, then compare the price of the bus ticket & length of the journey with that of the train. That extra couple of quid could get you a Greggs for lunch..!
Buses can also be used to get yourself around Europe, with Megabus also offering travel from the UK to major cities in Germany, France, and Belgium.
3. Car share app/Uber
Uber – everyone’s favourite. If you have to get taxis, this is your best bet. You may also find that local taxi services are cheaper than Uber. Do some research on the internet and BOOK your taxi. NEVER EVER get a black cab!!!!
If you are strapped for cash, get yourself on the road and hope for some good luck. Hitchiking isn’t as common in the UK as in a lot of places in Europe, but it isn’t illegal or frowned upon, and can definitely be done!
5. Buying commuter pases
If you’re going to be in the UK for a while, invest in a pass. These come in different shapes and forms.
In London: An Oyster card is an absolute must and will save you HEAPS of money. A ride (no matter how many stops on the metro) will cost you around 10GBP without an oyster card. The same ride may cost you as little as 2GBP with the card (or using a contactless credit/debit card).
In cities: If you’re going to be comuting to work or university, get yourself a commuters pass. These vary in type and price, but they’re there to save you money!
Every budget traveller’s favourite – yes, Couchsurfing is rife in the UK too! Plus, you get the added bonus of meeting the locals.
Every traveller’s favourite for budget accommodation, you won’t find a city in the UK without one. Grab yourself a dorm room for extra budgeting, and stay a bit further out of the town/not near a train station for those extra budget prices!
The key to all of the above: Buying in advance.
This is particularly true for train and bus travel. “Long distance” (as if anything in the UK is long distance) public transport i.e. Manchester to London (so not city specific buses) can all be bought online in advance, and this will save you mega dollar. But, you need to plan ahead. These tickets work on a system similar to that when you buy a flight; the more popular the train/bus, the more expensive it gets quicker. The more tickets sold = the higher the price. If you buy the tickets when they first come out, you could be looking at a very cheap deal.