Moving to the Uk to study and want to know how to get around? Then this article is for you! Transportation in the UK, from my experience living here as a student, is always on time and very complete, as it takes you pretty much anywhere. However, it can be a bit expensive, but I’m here to provide you tips on that as well 😉
To answer some of your questions, such as Is transport free for students in the UK? Most universities offer a free shuttle bus that takes you to campus, so you have to check this with your university.
💡 Movido’s Tip💡
When buying the ticket, be aware that there are different fares that depend on the time of the day, and these are:
- Super off-peak
If you don’t buy the tickets online, you can always buy them at the train station. Tickets bought in advance are cheaper, and there is also the option of buying an “open return” or an “Open single” that means that you can travel whatever time you want and with an open return you can make your return journey within a month of purchasing the ticket.
Coaches are larger buses for longer journeys and it is a good choice for students. It is a comfortable way of travelling, the network is very large and it is cheaper than taking the train. However, they take longer.
There are different companies for each of the different countries:
- National Express (England)
- Translink (Northern Island)
- CityLink (Scotland)
Mega bus also do cheap fares travelling within the UK or to Europe.
💡 Movido’s Tip💡
Transports within cities
Different cities have different ways of travelling. Below you can find information on transportation for 3 cities in the UK: London, Edinburgh, Manchester. Always check with your university if there is a free shuttle bus that takes you to the University Campus.
💡 Movido’s Tip💡
Download the app “City Mappers”! It is an app that tells you the best, quickest way to get to places whilst showing you the prices as well. It works in London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
There are several airports that you can travel to go to London and these are: Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, London City Airport, London Stansted and London Luton Airport.
The closer they get, the more the fares are more expensive.
This is the biggest airport (Has 5 terminals) and it is one with the most expensive fares as it is the closest to London. You can get the tube (Piccadilly line) straight into central London for the price of £5.30 in peak times (From 6:30AM to 9:30AM) or £3.30 off peak.
The tube is the most common way of travelling in London. It has stations that cover the entire city and there are trains coming every 2 minutes. It is a fast, practical way of travelling and there are some tube lines that work 24/7. Below is a map of the tube links:
The Oyster Card, London’s transport card that gives you access to the tube and buses, is useful when you don’t have contactless with your bank card. Otherwise, it is just easier to pay with your card or with Apple Pay. You can always top up your oyster card with cash in each tube station.
The tube’s fares depend on what zones you travel through. As you can see on the map, there are various zones (From 1-8). But to calculate how much you would spend on a specific journey go here.
There are monthly passes that give you free access to the tube and to the bus, but these only compensate if you travel everyday. The prices vary, because again they depend on the zones you travel to. You can check how much the prices are here. The transports in London also have a cap limit of spend per day. This means that you can only spend up to a certain amount in the tube, after reaching that limit, the journeys you do for that day are free. Check the cap limits for each zone here.
💡 Movido’s Tip💡
Associate your Oyster Card with the RailCard and pay as you go! If you get the 16-25 Railcard that I have mentioned above, you can then associate it with your oyster at any tube station and you get a 34% discount on your journeys.
Travelling by bus is another effective way of getting yourself to wherever you want. There are loads of routes and unlike where I come from (Lisbon) they are always on time and they come very often. Each journey costs £1.55 but gives you unlimited journeys made within the hour where you bought the first journey. Additionally, the cap limit on buses is £4.65. Pay attention to one thing: Cash is not accepted in buses, so for this you have to use an oyster card or your contactless card.
London has been trying to become more environmentally friendly, therefore, there are lots of cycle lanes across the city which makes it safe to bike your way around. If you don’t have a bike, you can get a yearly subscription of Santander’s Bikes. These are distributed all across the city and at various points! As a student, the yearly subscription costs £67.50. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, the minimum you can get is 24 hours per £2 being the first half an hour of each journey free. After 30 minutes, it adds £2 more. Go here for more information!
Taxi & Uber
This is probably the most expensive method of transportation in London. Your wallet will thank you if you avoid these, especially if you are not sharing a ride with any friends.
Manchester has its own airport, which covers more than 200 destinations, so it is an advantage for students travelling internationally!
As there are various companies competing with each other in Manchester, the price of tickets is normally low. StageCoach has the Magic 147 bus, which is a route that covers Manchester Piccadilly Rail Station (Centre of Manchester) with the university of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, Royal Northern College of Music and Central Manchester Hospitals. And the good thing is that this route is free for students of these universities! On other routes, the fare is £1.50.
However, Manchester has 3 entirely free bus routes! Below you can check its timings and where the route stops at.
To find out more about traveling by bus in Manchester, go here.
Cycling is always an option in Manchester. They have great cycle-roads, especially around universities. However, unlike London where you can rent a bike, here you have to get your own.
There are two main train stations in Manchester: Piccadilly and Victoria. These train stations can take you to other cities within the country.
The tram is another way of traveling through Manchester. Just like the tube in London, there are various zones (4) and the prices diverge for each one, but start at £1.40. You can check here all the prices, and below there is a map to see the different lines and zones:
Edinburgh has its own airport, which is great news for you as an international student! Here you can check their route map to see where they fly.
Using the bus is one practical way of travelling around town, as journeys cost £1.80. The bus company is called Lothian and they have a student deal that costs £510 for an annual transport card and £45 for a monthly one. Go here to buy it! The Ridacard, as they call it, also gives you access to tram journeys.
The tram takes you to the airport from the city centre and each journey costs £1.80. As previously said, tram rides are included in the RidaCard if you need it.
Just like in London, Edinburgh has its own Just Eat Cycles with 88 stations across town and which you can rent through an app! You can rent electric or pedal bikes and the prices vary. For an electric one, it is £1.50 for 3 minutes, and then it is £0.10 per minute. For a pedal bike, it is much cheaper, as it is £1.50 for 1 hour and then £0.05 per minute. For an annual pass, it costs £90 and you have free access to the first 3 minutes of the electric bike and for the first hour of the pedal bike.