Topics include Transportation, Things to Do, Dining Scene & more!
Some people find that travelling without a car in the UK is simple. All you need to do is use the UK's public transport site. Type in your starting point and destination and the site will tell you how to get there using anything but a private car. It's easy. However it's worth bearing in mind that if you use this site to navigate between suburbs, small towns or villages, it will probably suggest a complex journey involving multiple bus / train interconnections. If the journey involves more than 2-3 connections, it's likely to break down part-way through due to cancellations or delays (particularly on Sundays). When using the site, it's safer to choose a longer journey that involves fewer connections, and if you plan to meet someone at the other end always take a mobile phone with you in case you get stuck along the way.
The site doesn't give prices; it just gives you the options and the timetables. In general, buses will be the least expensive option, then trains, then taxis. However, if you get your train tickets in advance, you can get some fabulous deals. For more info on trains, see the Inside Page on Train Travel. Note that many town bus services in the UK only accept cash and will not give change if you don't have the exact fare, so keep a good supply of coins with you and if possible check fares by contacting the operating company first.
Extra advice for www.traveline.org.uk is the following: You'll find that the country is divided into sections. If you are travelling from, say, the south-east to the south-west, you may want to check your route options in both the south-east section and the south-west section.
It is strongly recommended that visitors use public transport. Rail travel, on the main inter-city routes is in general, very clean, very easy and on time. The roads, on the other hand, are crowded and parking is usually very difficult. Motorways can get horrendously crowded, especially around the big cities, and long tailbacks are common. Trains are much more relaxing. If you need a taxi from a station to take you on the final leg of your journey, traintaxi lists all the taxi services that serve railway stations.
Other people find that public transport in the UK has suffered for many years from a poor image, not completely unrooted in truth, that it is unreliable and over-priced. Buses and trains in the UK are often compared to those of Britain's European neighbours, and come out worse on practically every parameter. Bus passenger numbers have fallen to well below what they were in the 1970s, although rail use has been steadily rising for years; car use has increased leading to the above congestion problems. The UK now has the most congested roads in Europe.
Since the UK is the most densely populated country in Europe, and fourth in the world, it does seem common sense that public transport should play a more significant role in the transport network, than it does in other European countries. This is not the case at the moment.
Things are changing however. Trams have recently made a comeback in bigger cities such as Sheffield and Manchester, and in London bus services have improved a lot in the last few years. Cambridgeshire has a 'Guided Busway' between Cambridge, Huntingdon and St.Ives. Visitors from North America may enjoy the novelty of not using a car, but those from other European countries, Japan, Singapore, or Australia may well be quite shocked the first time they board a bus in Britain.
Another option, for those who want to leave their car at home, is cycling. Here again, the situation in Britain compares poorly with its European neighbours, but cycle lanes are prevalent in the major cities of the UK. Cycling is popular in Britain, but it has become more of a past-time than a method of getting from A to B. Increasing traffic volumes have made many main roads, which were once safe for cycling, off-limits to all but the bravest cyclists.
Quieter country lanes are still popular as places to cycle for pleasure or for exercise (or both!), but you find people at the weekend driving their bikes into the countryside, cycling around the lanes, and driving home again! Cycles are also one of the primary targets for thieves, so make sure you secure your bike with a proper lock.
The final option is walking. This is really what most older towns in Britain were intended for. Walking is the most practical way to get around any medium-sized town, and even in London it is usually quicker to walk for trips of up to about a mile than navigate the Tube. Many areas of countryside fill with hillwalkers and strollers at the weekends, and there is a very extensive and well-maintained network of footpaths across the country.
If you want to walk in towns or cities, you might find a street atlas a good bet. A to Z produce good atlases for most major cities and their surroundings. For walking in the countryside the definitive maps are produced by Ordnance Survey, their Landranger or Explorer series maps are invaluable. Local Tourist Information Centres (most towns have one somewhere, marked with a small letter "i" in italics) usually have walking maps or detailed maps covering a smaller area than the Ordnance Survey ones.
Forewarned is forearmed when making your way through the Byzantine complexity of Britain's public transport system. You need all the information you can get and there are several web sites often run by enthusiasts who see it as their public duty to try to breathe life into the ailing network. At these web sites you can find not only basic timetables but also tips and tricks on how to get the most out of the system, what to do if things go wrong (which they have a tendency to).
First is virtually a complete encyclopaedia of train travel, The Man in Seat 61, which covers European train travel in great depth as well.
Also worth checking for very cheap coach (long-haul bus) travel is Megabus which is cheaper than National Express for inter-city journeys
If you need a taxi to/from a station this site, Train Taxi will give you contact details of taxi companies serving any station
There are occasionally promotions which offer massive savings on normal fares. A site worth looking at is National Rail Promotions to see if anything is being promoted on the journey you want to make. Don't rely on ticket office staff to tell you about these promotions, or to tell you the cheapest fare for a journey, they are not obliged to say, unless you specifically ask.
There are lots of tips and tricks for saving money on cars and public transport at this site. It's intended for people living in the UK but many of the ideas could be useful for tourists as well.