Getting Around England
Despite the its small size, there are domestic flights available from London to most if not all of the major regional cities around England. Manchester and Birmingham International Airport are two of the biggest regional airports outside London.
Driving around England by car is one of the best ways to get around and see the country if you are travelling outside the major cities. The road network is extensive, and even the smallest of villages is accessible via lanes and small highways whilst motorways and trunk roads connect larger towns and cities. The M1 and M6 motorways connect London to the north, whilst the M4 motorway connects London to the East, into Wales. The M25 is an orbital ring road around the outskirts of London.
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Road quality is good, with towns and cities clearly signposted and street lamps and cat's eyes lit up at night. Major cities may experience congestion at peak commuter times or because of road works.
Roads are classified into motorways, A roads (which may be single or dual carriageway), B roads, and local roads. Motorways are not generally tolled, although the M6 motorway does have a toll in place. Some bridges and tunnels are also tolled.
Cars are available for hire in most major towns and cities from the major providers.
Taxis in England come in two forms - private hire vehicles known as minicabs, or Hackney carriages (also called black cabs). Minicabs differ in shapes and sizes but must be ordered beforehand and cannot be flagged down in the street. Fares are at the discretion of the taxi firm but a price is usually negotiated beforehand. Black cabs are the only taxis allowed to pick up fares on the street or from designated ranks. Journeys are metered, with fares set by the local authority. If the taxi light is on, this means the taxi is available and can be flagged down. Uber operates in most major cities.
Cycling has always been popular as a pasttime in England but more and more people are using bikes as a method of transport, with London in particular seeing an increase in urban cyclists. As a method of getting around cities, cycling can often be a quicker option than taking a car or public transport. It is possible to travel long distance by bike but cyclists must stick to local routes and paths rather than major arterial roads.
There is a good coach network linking the major towns and cities across England. National Express (tel: 0871 781 8181; www.nationalexpress.com) and Megabus (tel: +44 141 352 4444; http://uk.megabus.com) are two popular services.
The speed limit for cars is 112kph (70mph) for motorways and dual carriageways, 96kph (60mph) for single carriageways, and 48 kph (30mph) in built up areas. Seatbelts are compulsory, and it is illegal to use a mobile phone or similar device when driving. The blood alcohol limit for drivers is 0.08%.
If you break down, pull over to side of the road (or the hard shoulder if on the motorway) and put on hazard warning lights. If on the motorway you can call the Highways Agency from the emergency roadside phones that are spaced at intervals of 1.6km (1 mile). Alternatively, do call your car hire provider; many will have 24 hour breakdown cover. The AA (tel: 08457 887 766; www.theaa.com) and RAC (tel: 0800 828 282; www.rac.co.uk) are two well known providers of breakdown cover.
Drivers over 17 years, with a full and valid licence are free to drive in the UK for 12 months from the time of last entry into the UK.
All towns and cities have bus and taxi services. In addition, a few cities have trams, whilst Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester and the cities in South Yorkshire and Newcastle have suburban rail services. Newcastle also has an underground metro.
London has a comprehensive public transport system, which is run by Transport for London (Tfl) (www.tfl.gov.uk). The London Underground (colloquially, ‘the tube') is the world’s oldest subway system, and in conjunction with the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) covers most of central London. Information on timetables and help with planning journeys around in London can be found on the Transport for London website and mobile app.
There is also an extensive network of buses, as well as overground rail services branching out to the suburbs. Leisure and commuter boat services on the River Thames are run by a variety of private companies whilst taxis can be hailed in the street or ordered by phone.
Travelling by train in the UK is a popular way to see the country but the system can be confusing and it's expensive. Different private operators are responsible for different routes (usually categorised by region), making negotiating smooth passage throughout the country tricky for nationals and travellers alike. The official information source for UK rail journeys is National Rail (tel: +44 207 278 5240; www.nationalrail.co.uk) where fare information and timetables are easy to find. Tickets can be purchased here, directly at the train operator’s website or at the station but buying fares on the same day of travel almost always works out more expensive. In general, the further in advance you buy tickets, the cheaper the fare, but look out for concessionary fares for under-25s, seniors and on group travel.
A new high speed rail line, Crossrail (www.crossrail.co.uk) is being planned for 2025 and will halve journey times from London to Birmingham to 41 minutes. Sections will start operating in 2018.
BritRail (www.britrail.com) offers a variety of rail passes which allow travel around various regions of the UK. It is only available to non-UK residents for purchase. Tickets can be purchased up to six months in advance.
England has a large network of rivers and canals but these are used for leisure travel rather than a purposeful means of getting around. The Environment Agency (www.environment-agency.gov.uk) gives comprehensive advice to those wishing to sail the UK’s waterways.