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Travel in the UK

Couple cycling past the Radcliffe Camera building in Oxford

Studying in the UK is the perfect chance to explore its beautiful countryside, towns and cities. Have a look at our Explore the UK city and region guides for ideas, or for more information, see Visit Britain and Discover Northern Ireland.

Luckily, because the UK is small, it is very easy to get around by public transport.

  • Trains: Train fares can be expensive, but there are discounts for advance bookings online – try National Rail or Translink. For regular journeys, consider a season ticket to save money. If you're aged 16–25 or a full-time student, you may be eligible for a ‘16–25 Railcard’ to save a third on journeys.

  • Underground: In London, regular travellers on the Underground (the Tube) can save money with an Oyster card. Add credit when you need it (pay as you go) or buy a weekly, monthly or annual travel card. You can also get a Student Oyster Card or add a 16–25 Railcard to your Oyster card, to get further discounts. Find out more at Transport for London.

  • Buses: You can buy a ticket from the driver when you board (except on some buses in London – here you can buy tickets in advance, use a travel card or Oyster card). For regular journeys, consider a season ticket to save money.

  • Coaches are buses that cover longer distances. To travel by coach, you may need to book in advance. If aged 16–26 and a full-time student, you can buy a Coachcard from National Express to save up to 30%. Citylink is the main coach service provider in Scotland – register with My Citylink to save 20% on online bookings. For Northern Ireland, try Translink.

  • Domestic flights: There are 24 commercial international airports in the UK, but you can travel to many more destinations by taking internal flights. Check online or ask your travel agent.

Arriving in the UK

Your school, college or university can give you information about local transport options, and might be able to help you to arrange your trip from the airport when you first arrive in the UK.

Airports' websites also give information about onward transport options when you arrive. See for example: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Cars and taxis

  • Taxis are easy to find in all major cities and towns. They are convenient but can be expensive. To stay safe, use a taxi licensed by a local authority. Find out more in the Creating confidence guide to UK student safety.

  • Driving a car: Before you can drive in the UK, you need a valid driving licence and insurance. The car must be registered and taxed. If your car is over three years old, you must get it tested annually with an MOT (Ministry of Transport) test to check it is still safe and road-worthy.

The Highway Code sets out the rules for driving in the UK. If you take a driving test in the UK you will be asked questions about these rules. If you have an international driving licence you should review this code before driving in the UK.

Visit the UK Council for International Student Affairs website for more information on driving.

Cycling

Cycling is a great way to save money and keep fit, but make sure you stay safe:

  • On the road, you must obey all traffic signs and signals. You can only cycle on the pavement or in bus lanes if there are special signs allowing you to do so. For all road safety rules, read the Highway Code.

  • You can do cycling safety courses too – look out for courses near you. Many universities have cycling clubs, cycle buddy schemes, and run workshops on bike safety and maintenance. Have a look on your university and students' union websites.

  • Wearing a helmet is not compulsory, but for your own safety it is advisable. At night, use front white and red rear lights (in some towns, bicycle lights are compulsory after dark) and wear bright, reflective clothes.

In London, the cycle hire scheme allows you to rent a bike for up to 24 hours. There are hundreds of docking stations across the city, so this is an easy way to get around – you can hire a bike on the spot with a credit or debit card (or register for a key if you plan to cycle regularly), and return it at any other docking station.

Some universities have subsidised cycle hire schemes, which enable you to rent a bicycle at low cost, with equipment and repairs included. Ask at your institution.

Find out more in the essential guide to cycling in the UK.
 

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