Bus & coach travel in Great Britain

Considering the relatively short distances in the UK and the savings against train travel, most travellers choose bus or coach travel as their main travel option.

Scheduled bus & coach services

National Express is the most comprehensive coach operator with services to over 1200 destinations in England, Scotland and Wales. There are a number of other bus companies such as ArrivaFirstGreen LineMegabusScottish Citylink and Stagecoach which provide comprehensive services in a specific region or along a particular route.

Arriva

Arriva operates local bus services throughout Great Britain. In most cases these are just town and city routes but there are some useful bus routes that connect towns and villages over a larger rural area. There are several bus passes available that give you unlimited travel within a specified area. These include:

MULTI-JOURNEY SAVER TICKETS

There are day and weekly tickets for most towns and cities served by Arriva. The day and weekly tickets that cover a wider area are the best deal for most travellers, these include the following tickets:

Midlands Saver

Covers the Midlands area from Stropshire to the East Midlands including Strewsbury, Ironbridge, Telford, Stafford, Tamworth, Birmingham, Derby, Leicester and Nottingham.
Midlands Saver Zone Map
Day Saver ticket £6; Weekly Saver ticket £25

North East Saver

North east England including Darlington, Durham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Teeside.
Day Saver ticket £7.50; Weekly Saver ticket £26.50

North West Saver

Covers the north east cities including Chester, Liverpool, Manchester, Wigan and Bolton.
North West Area Map
Day Saver ticket £4.80

North West & Wales Saver

Covers North Wales and the north west cities (basically the area from Aberystwyth to Bolton) including Caernarfon, Bangor, Llandudno, Chester, Liverpool and Manchester.
North West & Wales Area Map
Day Saver ticket £ 6.50; Weekly Saver ticket £19

Shires & Essex All Zones Explorer

Western and northern home counties including Reading, High Wycombe, Oxford, Luton and Stevenage.
Shires & Essex All Zones Map
Day Explorer ticket £8.50; Weekly Explorer ticket £26

Yorkshire Saver

Covers West Yorkshire and parts of South and North Yorkshire. It includes the Leeds-Bradford area plus Doncaster, Selby, Goole and York, but is not valid on Dales Bus services.
Yorkshire Zone Map
Day Saver ticket £5.40; Weekly Explorer ticket £20

First

First operate local bus services in over 40 towns and cities across the UK. They also run buses in rural areas including connecting services between towns and cities. There are a number of regional day tickets that are a good value way to get around using First buses. Weekly passes are also available. FirstDay tickets include:

FirstDay (South West)

One day unlimited travel on all First buses in Devon and Cornwall plus many First buses in Dorset and Somerset. Cost £7.70

Freedom Travelpass (Bristol, Bath and Weston-super-Mare)

One day unlimited travel on First Great Western train services between Bristol and Bath and First buses in Bristol, Bath, northeast Somerset and south Gloucestershire. £13.50 peak; £12.30 off peak

FirstDay Explorer (Berkshire-Thames) & Green FirstDay (Berkshire-Thames)

One day unlimited travel on First buses in Berkshire and the Thames Valley including Reading, Bracknell, Slough, Windsor and Heathrow. The Green FirstDay ticket is similar to the FirstDay Explorer except it is also accepted on express bus services between Slough and London (with stops in Hammersmith, High Street Kensington and Victoria Station), but it is not valid for travel in London before 9.30am. FirstDay Explorer £8; Green FirstDay £9.50

FirstDay (Hampshire)

One day unlimited travel on First buses in Hampshire. Cost £5.90

FirstDay Explorer (Dorset)

One day unlimited travel on most First bus services between Exeter and Bournemouth. Cost £7.70

FirstDay (Staffordshire & South Cheshire)

One day unlimited travel on First bus services in Staffordshire and South Cheshire. £5

FirstDay (Norfolk & Suffolk)

One day unlimited travel on First buses in Norfolk and Suffolk including travel in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Kings Lynn, Ipswitch and Bury St Edmonds. Cost £14

FirstDay Peak Explorer

One day unlimited travel on the following First bus services in the Peak District 215, 218, 240 and 272. Cost £6.50

FirstDay (South Yorkshire)

One day unlimited travel on First bus services in South Yorkshire. Cost £5

First Day (West Yorkshire) & MetroDay (West Yorkshire)

First Day pass gives you one day unlimited travel on First buses in West Yorkshire. MetroDay gives you one day unlimited travel in West Yorkshire on all bus operators. First Day £4.60; MetroDay £5.40

FirstDay (Pembrokeshire)

One day unlimited travel on First bus services around Haverfordwest and Pembrokeshire, Wales. Cost £5.50

FirstDay (South & West Wales)

One day unlimited travel on First local bus services in South Wales (except Shuttle services). Cost £6.70

Green Line

Green Line operate coach services between London and the Home Counties. The most useful service for most travellers is route 757, which runs between London and Luton Airport.

Megabus

Megabus have an ever-improving network of cheap bus routes across the UK. Pricing is with a yield-management model – like low-cost airlines – with fares starting at £1 (plus a 50p booking fee), but even the more expensive tickets usually work out cheaper than National Express. Megabus is the cheapest way to travel around England and Scotland, as long as you book in advance to secure the cheapest tickets.

National Express

National Express is the only complete national bus network with services to over 1200 destinations in England, Scotland and Wales (although Megabus are closing the gap in regard to network coverage). They serve most towns and villages and have particularly good service between the major cities.

16-26 COACHCARD

The 16-26 Coachcard gives discounts of up to 30% off National Express bus travel in the UK. The card costs £10 and is available to anyone aged between 16 and 26.

BRIT XPLORER PASS

The Brit Xplorer pass is good for unlimited travel on the National Express network, but it is not available to British passport holders. The pass is valid for seven, 14 or 28 consecutive days of travel. It is a simple pass to use, as you don’t need to book your travel, you need to turn up at the coach terminal and show your pass to the driver. If there is space on the bus you can hop on board. This pass is only available to international travellers.

Validity
Price
7 days (Hobo)£79
14 days (Footloose)£139
28 days (Rolling Stone)£219

FUN FARES

National Express’s Fun Fares are limited seats available at just £5 (plus a 50p booking fee) on selected routes. Fun Fares are only available online and as availability is limited it is best to book in advance to get these low cheap tickets.

Oxford Tube

The Oxford Tube is an express coach service that runs between London and Oxford, 24 hours a day. Services are frequent with departures up to once every ten minutes (less frequent at night).

Fares are £14 (£11 students) one way, £17 (£13 students) for a same day/next day return and £20 (£15 students) for a three month return fare.

Scottish Citylink

Scottish Citylink (tel 08705 505050) provides an extensive bus network in Scotland with service to over 200 towns and cities.

SCOTTISH CITYLINK EXPLORER PASS

This good value pass can be used for coach travel in Scotland on Scottish Citylink. This pass also gives you discounts on Caledonian Macbrayne and Northlink ferries allowing you to visit the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland islands. It also gives you discounts at over 200 Scottish.

Validity
Price
3 travel days in 5 days£41
5 travel days in 10 days£62
8 travel days in 16 days£93

SUPER SINGLES

Like Megabus, Scottish Citylink also offers £1 tickets, but only on a limited range of routes (notably the Glasgow–Edinburgh route). However they also have Super Single fares at £5 and under on many of their other routes. Only a limited number of these tickets are available so you’ll need to book your travel online through the Scottish Citylink website, in advance to secure the cheapest tickets.

Stagecoach

Stagecoach operates a very extensive network of local buses although it can take a while to get around with a network comprised mostly of local routes.

Like Arriva and First buses, Stagecoach is best for exploring a specific geographic area. Stagecoach operates buses in the following regions: the southeast coast; Cheltenham, Oxford and the Cotswolds; northwest England including the Lake District; Ayrshire, Scotland and northeast Scotland.

DAY TICKETS

There is a day ticket for each of the the regions where Stagecoach operate. These are a very good value for exploring an area for a day or two.

Most towns and cities covered by Stagecoach offer day tickets but the best deal for travellers are day tickets that cover a larger area such as an entire county. These tickets are covered in detail under the Local Transport section of each destination.

EXPLORER TICKETS

The Explorer ticket is brilliant value allowing travel on Stagecoach as well as some other local bus operators. Most Explorer tickets are valid for one day but some regions also have three, four and seven-day Explorer tickets.

Goldrider

The Goldrider ticket gives you unlimited travel on Stagecoach buses outside London.

There are also Goldrider tickets that give unlimited travel on Stagecoach buses within a wide area (usually within a specified county).

Alternative/backpacker transport

There are several small bus companies catering specifically to the backpacker. Some of them run good flexible transport options, but stopping directly at the hostel door rather than the central bus station. These can be a good way to get around and because they are minibuses filled with other backpackers they can be good fun, most backpacker bus operators have stopped running flexible hop-on hop-off trips to concentrate on running tours.

SHAGGY SHEEP

Shaggy Sheep run hop on hop off trips around Wales. The trips visit the main spots in Wales including the Wye Valley, Brecon Beacons, Cardiff, the Pembrokeshire Coast, Aberystwyth, Snowdonia and Caernarfon. The main drawback is that it is a weekly service, which means a long wait for the next bus.
Fare £79
Departs London
Overnight stops Cardiff, Carmarthen, Machynlleth

There used to be several other companies running hop-on hop-off backpacker trips around Great Britain including Haggis, MacBackpackers and Roadtrip. Unfortunately these companies now run structured tours rather than offer an independent travel option. There are some cases when this sort of travel option is the best way to get around especially in remote areas with poor public transport. However if you have the option of choosing a tour or the more independent hop-on hop-off option, choose the hop-on hop-off or opt for a regular scheduled bus instead.