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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > United Kingdom > Northern Ireland > Belfast

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Getting around Belfast

Public transport

Transport in Belfast is efficient. The city has a good bus service (rather confusingly called The Metro) operated by Translink (tel: +44 28 9066 6630; www.translink.co.uk). The service runs approximately every 10 minutes throughout the day, and there is a less frequent night service.

You can buy single tickets or day passes directly from the driver. Alternatively, you can save money by loading trips onto a Smartlink Multi-Journey Card or by buying a dayLink card, which offers unlimited travel for one, five or 10 days. Weekly and monthly smartcards are also available. Smartcards are sold at Translink sales outlets throughout the city.

The Belfast Visitor Pass allows unlimited bus and rail travel for one, two or three consecutive days, as well as discounts on visitor attractions. You can buy it at the Belfast Welcome Centre.

There are five bus stations scattered throughout the city; the main one is the Europa Bus Centre located at Glengall Street, off Great Victoria Street.

Taxis

In Belfast taxis operate from taxi ranks. One of the main taxi ranks in Belfast city centre is in front of City Hall, Adelaide Street. There are two types of Belfast taxis: the London-style black cabs, and standard saloon cars which bear the name of the taxi company on the car roof. All taxis display a yellow disc on the car windscreen and are required to display coloured licence plates (black taxis display yellow plates and private taxis green plates). Never take a taxi without coloured plates. It is common practice to tip about 10% of the total fare.

Recommended operators include Value Cabs (tel: +44 28 9080 9080), fonaCAB (tel: +44 28 9033 3333) and Belfast Cabs (tel: +44 28 9024 2700).

Driving

Belfast is a relatively straightforward city to drive in, although the city is so compact and well served by public transport that most visitors will have no need of a car. If you do decide to drive, there are plenty of car parks in the city centre (charges apply). To pay for off-street car parks or on-street metered parking, you can either pay with coins or register with Parkmobile (www.parkmobile.co.uk) and pay using your mobile phone or online. Parking on Sundays is usually free.

Car hire

Regulations about the age of the person hiring the car tend to differ between hire companies, but generally drivers must be over 21 years old and have held a licence for a minimum of one year. A deposit must be paid with a credit card. Insurance is compulsory and is included in the cost of the car hire.

Car hire firms in Belfast include Avis (tel: +44 808 284 0014; www.avis.co.uk) and Budget (tel: +44 28 9023 0700; www.budget.ie).

Bicycle hire

Belfast is a cycle-friendly city with two major cycle routes: the Comber Greenway, which runs for 11km (7 miles) to Stranford Lough, and the Lagan and Lough Cycleway, which offers 33km (21 miles) of tarmacked pleasure. Cycle lanes are slowly being introduced as the city now has its own bicycle-sharing scheme called Belfast Bikes (tel: +44 34 3357 1551; www.belfastbikes.co.uk). There are 300 bicycles spread out across the city in 30 docking stations, and are available to hire daily between 6am and midnight. Before hiring a bike, you must register either online or at a docking station. The first 30 minutes are free. 

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Tara Lodge

Located in the heart of the Queens Quarter, near the vivacious Botanic Avenue, this stylish 4-star hotel offers affordable luxury. With 34 rooms to choose from, all come with comfy beds, white and gold furnishings and large bathrooms. The breakfasts are pretty decent too.

Ten Square Hotel

Located just steps from City Hall, this 22-room boutique hotel is set within a Grade I listed building. Offering sophisticated interiors, with baroque touches and colonial finishes, its sleeping quarters stick to the modern. Cubist art and chaise longue make rooms unique, while its renowned restaurant is worth booking too.

Ravenhill House

This beautifully restored Victorian guesthouse, near leafy Ormeau Park, is a 10-minute bus ride from the city centre. With only five guest bedrooms, it exudes a homely, intimate ambience. Each room has handcrafted furniture and there is a library of books and music, plus Wi-Fi and award-winning organic breakfasts.

Malmaison Belfast

Occupying a handsome converted mid-19th-century seed warehouse in the Cathedral Quarter, Malmaison is a stylish boutique hotel that combines period features (iron pillars, beams and stone-carved gargoyles) with its trademark contemporary style (Bordello-style bedrooms with mood lighting). Expect long, heavy velvet drapes, red and purple over-sized suede chairs, and a sleek bar.

The Merchant Hotel

One of the city's most luxurious stays is the sumptuous Merchant Hotel built in 1860 as the Italianate headquarters of The Ulster Bank. Located in the Cathedral Quarter, the Grade 1 listed property features classically styled interiors, sculptures and antiques throughout. The pièce de résistance is the stunning Great Room Restaurant where meals, including traditional afternoon teas, are served beneath its grand dome.

The Old Rectory

Originally a Church of Ireland rectory, built in 1896, this charming guesthouse is a 10-minute bus ride to Queen's University and the city centre. It features award-winning, locally sourced, organic breakfasts and serves a light supper and complimentary Irish whiskey every night. Free Wi-Fi and internet access are also available.