The ULTIMATE GUIDE to public transport in the UK

Being an expat in the UK can be stressful, especially when it comes to using the public transportation. Here’s everything you need to know about how to get around the UK and some tricks I’ve learned as an expat living in England!

First off, the public transport in the UK is incredible, so make use of it when you can. It’s an extremely convenient way to get around and I know so many people who live without a car (myself included!).

Trains in the UK

What you should know about getting the train in the UK:

  • Depending on the part of the UK you’re in, you may have a different train provider – here in the South East where I live, we have Southeastern Rail
  • You can buy tickets at the station either from a person (if they’re there) or from a kiosk
  • Trains are a GREAT way to get around the UK but they can get expensive which is why you should definitely make use of a UK Railcard. These cards can get you discounts on train tickets and it really starts to add up over the course of a year!
  • It’s not uncommon to take the train just a town or two over, which is basically unheard of in Canada or America. As an expat in England, I often take the train for a 10 minute journey to meet up with friends for a cafe visit or a pint at the pub

How I use the train:

  1. I buy my tickets either on my phone or on my laptop
  2. I collect my tickets from the station (just need your payment card and the code from Trainline)
  3. Kiosk prints them off and I’m good to go!
  4. Some stations are now using QR code readers and you don’t need a printed ticket, but there’s aren’t everywhere just yet. Make sure to check both stations (the one you leave from and the one you’re going to) whether they have a QR code reader or if you’ll need printed tickets
How to use public transport in the UK

Using British Buses

Catching the bus is another great way to get around the UK, especially for shorter distances or commute to/from work. Here’s the most important things you should know about the UK buses:

  • I took the bus to and from work for years and it worked out fine!
  • Back then, the buses in my area were cash only, which meant I had to pay for my ticket on the train with coins and I hated it
  • Lately, more bus companies have move towards contactless payment and even payment through their own apps which makes buying bus tickets much more convenient
  • Check your local area for which bus provider you have – for where I live, we use Arriva as the bus company but your part of the UK may be different

Taxi or Uber

If you can spend a bit more on travel, or you find yourself in a situation where you can’t get the train or a bus, taxis or Ubers may be helpful!

  • I’ve had success with both Taxies and Ubers in the UK but it’ll depend where you are
  • If you live in a small village or town, getting a local Uber could be tricker – but you can still call for a taxi
  • I always keep an few taxi numbers saved in my phone just in case, but I prefer Uber because you pay the price of the journey up-front and electronically whereas it can be a bit of a guess with a taxi
  • Some taxis are still cash only so make sure to check with them before you start your journey

Bike Rentals

Bike rentals have become more and more popular in the UK lately and it might be something fun to try!

  • You’ll see stacks or rows of bikes available to hire, especially in big cities
  • You can pay to release a bike and then return it when you’re finished
  • Obviously not the most ideal way to get around the UK (especially in bad weather) but it could be fun to get to know your area of the UK when you have some free time!

Public Transport in London

Public transport in London is one of the best systems in the world and it deserves its own section.

  • 99.9% of transport in London is contactless, which is incredible and makes travelling very easy
  • Lots of people use Oyster cards or Visitor Oyster cards when visiting London on holiday, but realistically if you’re living in the UK as an expat, using your own UK bank contactless payment card makes more sense
  • Oyster cards are smart cards that you can load money onto to use for public transport
  • To use the public buses in London, all you have to do is touch your Oyster or contactless card on the big yellow card reader when you board the bus – there’s no need to do it when you get off the bus as fares are fixed
  • There are many bus services that operate round the clock, meaning you can still get home after a night out on public transport (but make sure to check before you leave it too late!)
  • Tube stations will have a tap in/tap out barrier
  • If you work in London and need to commute in and around the city, make sure to check with your employer if they offer any help towards transport costs

The public transport in the UK is truly wonderful but it can be overwhelming at first, especially as an introverted expat. However with time and some practice, you’ll be catching the trains and buses without any stress or anxiety.