Travelling by bus and coach in the UK

Buses and coaches aren’t the most glamorous forms of transport, but they’re a very useful option for young people, and often cheaper than the alternatives.  Buses are generally for short, local journeys and coaches for longer distances.

You’ll probably have a local bus company providing services in your area, though the frequency and usefulness of services will depend on where you live; towns are generally better served than more rural areas.

There are too many local companies to list here, but most have useful websites where you can check timetables and fares before your journey.

Ticket prices vary; most bus companies offer half-fares if you’re under 16, though you may need proof of age (you may be able to get a “proof of age” card through the bus company). You may be able to get day, weekly, or monthly passes which work out cheaper than individual tickets. If possible, check before you travel so you don’t have to spend too much time discussing the options with the driver while everyone else is waiting.

Wherever you’re going, make sure you know how you’re going to get back and check the time of the last bus home.

Coaches are a cheap form of long-distance transport around the UK. The main national companies are:

  • National Express which has the most comprehensive network around the UK.
  • Megabus which doesn’t cover as many destinations, but offers some very low fares
  • Scottish Citylink (connecting cities in Scotland, the north of England and London)
  • Goldline (which connects cities in Northern Ireland and Dublin)

These companies have very informative websites where you can check journey times, bus stops on the journey, and book tickets. Generally, you buy tickets in advance for a particular service at a particular time.

If you travel frequently with National Express, you can buy a young person’s coachcard to save more money.

There are also other coach companies serving other popular cities, for example the Oxford Tube and the OxfordX90 connecting Oxford and London.

As well as generally being cheaper than trains, coaches offer other advantages:

  • you book your ticket in advance, and know that you will have a seat on the coach, as well as space for your luggage
  • if you’re changing coaches in London, you won’t have to worry about tube travel, as all London coach journeys start and stop at Victoria Coach Station
  • if you’re changing in other cities or town, the coach station is normally next to or part of the local bus station so you don’t have to walk far for onwards connections.

The disadvantages of coach travel are:

  • journey times can be affected by traffic problems
  • you might be affected by travel sickness.

If you have a disability which requires assistance, you should generally tell the relevant coach company in advance and check that they are able to make any necessary arrangements. You can find more information for disabled passengers on National Express here, on Megabus here, on Scottish Citylink here and on Goldline here.