Transport Guides for students
Learning to navigate a new public transport system in any country is tricky. Fortunately, travelling between towns and cities can often be quick and easy throughout the UK.
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Tips on staying safe on public transport
Public transport is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get around London. That said, crime sometimes takes place on public transport, so we want to share some tips to keep you safe on your travels.
Free TFL and Citymapper apps are great for telling you everything you need to know about your journey. It can be necessary to look at your phone to track your journey, if you do this please take your phone out somewhere where it is harder for an opportunistic thief to take it. When planning your journey check the last train, tube and bus times.
When on any form of public transport, tube, train and bus, check where the nearest exits, fire exists and alarms are in case you need to get off for whatever reason.
If you travelling by train and tube, try to avoid sitting in an empty carriage. If you are travelling by bus late at night it is always best to sit near the driver.
A licenced cab should always have a registered licence ID number on the back of the vehicle just above the registration number plate. Try to keep a local taxi/cab firm number with you in case you need to call them or download a well-known cab service such as Uber. Before you get into the vehicle, ask who they have turned up for just to double check.
It can get very busy on trains, buses and tubes, which would provide a thief with an easier opportunity to take something if your valuables are on show.
If you are sat somewhere and feel uncomfortable move away if you can. An example might be if you see someone behaving in a loud, aggressive or intoxicated manner. If you are on the tube you could exit at the next stop and find another carriage where you feel safer or you can alert a member of staff at the station if you feel someone needs to intervene
If you see anything which seems out of place on public transport, for example a bag which does not appear to belong to anyone, please let a member of staff at the station know. It may be nothing, but it is better to be cautious. You will not be wasting anyone’s time by raising concerns you have.
In the rare event that you become a victim of sexual harassment on public transport or you witness someone else who appear to be victim to harassment, you can text 61016 or call Police on 101. Provide details of what happened, where and when. If you would like support please go to Report+Support.
best transport guides for students in the UK
There’s a really efficient rail network across Britain. Anyone in full-time study qualifies for a 16-25 Railcard, which saves you a third on most journeys you make. It costs £30 a year, which should make it worthwhile, even if you only make occasional journeys.
You should also try and book trains as early as possible, as tickets bought in advance are usually heavily discounted. The Trainline will help you find you the cheapest deals available, but you can dodge the £1 booking fee by buying direct from the operator of the line you’re travelling on.
Travelling by bus is usually great value, especially as a student. You can get lots of discounts with your weekly, monthly or annual passes, which will save you money throughout the year. In London, you’ll need an Oyster card or contactless bank card to register your bus fares but across the rest of the UK, tickets are normally bought on the bus.
Watch out for SMS numbers and QR codes on bus stops, which will help you access timetables to find out when your bus is arriving. Download apps like UK Bus Checker to get real-time journey information from your local service, as well as schedules and apps CityMapper help you plan your bus route and fares in advance.
Coaches are a good choice for students, especially for long distance journeys. While slower than most trains, coaches are usually significantly cheaper than most other modes of transport. The two main providers in England are National Express, where comfortable seating and free Wi-Fi are the norm, and Megabus, which is usually a slightly more basic service.
Both offer students a discount: an annual £12 Young Persons Coachcard will save you a third on all journeys with National Express, while an NUS card will see your Megabus ticket price reduced by 10% (NUS Extra card holders save an additional 10%). As with trains, book in advance and compare prices to get the best deals.
There are 24 commercial airports in the UK, which makes it easy to take short, internal flights, often with regional carriers. Flying can often be one of the more expensive options but for long long trips around the country, such as London to Edinburgh, it is the most time efficient mode of transport. Prices on budget airlines can be reasonable and journey times can be much quicker than trains. London to Edinburgh can take more than five hours on a train, but is just over one hour by plane.
External flights are available to most major airports around the world – use comparison site Skyscanner to find the cheapest tickets.
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In all cities around the country, you should be able to flag down a taxi easily if you’re in a hurry. They are a convenient way to travel, but depending on the city and the traffic on the day, they can be expensive. Unless you are splitting the costs with other students, your wallet will thank you for not using them regularly. Tipping drivers is customary, but not essential.
Private hire taxis (booked in advance) are generally better value, so save the number of a local service on your phone in case you get stranded on a night out. Check if the popular taxi app Uber or Ola is available in your new city as it is often the cheapest and most convenient way to travel by taxi.
Stay safe by ensuring any vehicle you get into displays a license from the local council.
If you want to drive in the UK, you’ll need to first pass your driving test and get taxed and insured. Cars over three years old also need to pass an Ministry of Transport (MOT) test annually, to make sure it is still safe to drive.
Students who have passed their test abroad, or who are taking their test in the UK, should familiarise themselves with the Highway Code, which contains all the laws and rules for driving safely in Britain.
While the freedom of driving is appealing, the expense of running a vehicle (and high insurance costs for young people in the UK) puts many students off car ownership while at university. If you are heading for London, consider setting up a Zipcar account, which will allow you to hire cars by the hour, at just a few pounds with fuel included.
If you can put up with the British weather, cycling can be a cheap and effective way to travel.
You’ll need to stay off the pavements, and adhere to all road signs and traffic lights. Wearing a helmet is recommended, but not compulsory. A full set of safety rules can be found in the Highway Code.
There’s bike shops in most towns that sell and repair bikes. Increasingly, universities to offer cycle hire schemes to their students at a low cost – check with your institution. Check out our article on the Top 10 Bike-Friendly Student Cities to find out the two UK cities that make the hotlist!