We wouldn’t blame you if you got to London and never wanted to leave, there’s so much to see and do, and you could easily spend weeks exploring every corner of the city. But venturing out is an excellent way to escape the busy bubble of the city and experience a different side of the UK. This article covers the various ways you can travel around the UK, from taking the train cross-country and renting a car to organising a guided tour and taking a flight (if you really have to). From the quaint villages in The Cotswolds to the castles and curios of Windsor, here’s our article on how to travel from London to other parts of the UK.
London day trips by train
One of the most popular and easiest ways to travel from London to other parts of the UK is by train. Almost any day trip from the city can be made by rail, thanks to the country’s railway infrastructure that spans the entire length of the UK. Some routes from London to parts of the UK require you to change trains at certain stations, but many routes also go directly to your destination.
Pros of travelling by train
- Train travel is one of the most reliable and quickest ways to travel around the country
- It’s the best way to beat any traffic
- You can sit back, relax and rest throughout your entire journey
- Sometimes there’s a snack trolley
Cons of travelling by train
- Trains can be expensive; some routes have set rates that stay the same, so it’s fine to grab tickets right before your journey commences. But you’ll want to book any train journey over one hour well in advance if you want to reap the best price.
- Cancellations and delays can throw your travel plans off-piste and make your travel time significantly longer
Popular journeys from London by train
You can get a direct high-speed train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh in four and a half hours or a 45-minute train to Cambridge from King’s Cross or Liverpool Street. Other popular routes include Brighton in one hour from Victoria or Blackfriars, Bath in one hour and a half from London Paddington and Cornwall in around five hours from Paddington.
How to book UK train tickets
Many people use Trainline and Omio to plan and book their journeys, both of which have user-friendly apps which make it even easier to plan your route, check timetables and cancellations, and book tickets.
Image Courtesy of National Express
London day trips by coach
If you’re looking to cut back on spending, another popular and cheaper way to travel from London to other parts of the UK is by coach. National Express and Megabus are the most well-known companies that regularly run from the capital. They cover towns and cities all over the country, including the four major airports (it’s the cheapest way to get from the airport but will take longer than the train due to London traffic). For example, you can jump on a Megabus or National Express coach from London Victoria Coach Station and be in Manchester in around five hours. The best bit? It’ll only cost you around ten pounds, whereas a train ticket can be five or six times the price.
Pros of travelling by coach
- Coaches go to small rural towns and villages that trains might not cover, and there’s also the option to choose an overnight coach for long-distance journeys – something that trains in the UK don’t offer
- Coaches tend to stop at service stations along the way so you can stretch your legs, use the toilet and stock up on snacks
- Coaches run regularly throughout the day, so you have plenty of times to choose from
- They’re typically much cheaper than trains
Cons of travelling by coach
- If there’s traffic, this can add a significant amount of time to your journey, sometimes hours, depending on the situation
- Coaches tend to be less comfortable than trains (less leg room depending on where you sit)
Popular journeys from London by coach bus
You can travel to pretty much any city via coach, including Oxford, another quaint English city you can get to in around an hour and a half. There’s also The Cotswolds; head to Bourton-on-the-water, Chipping Norton or Stow-on-the-Wold in the heart of the English countryside for an authentic glimpse at quintessential British life, surrounded by rolling pastures, pretty stone villages and meandering rivers. It’ll take around three hours to reach some of these destinations, depending on which one you decide to visit.
How to book UK coach tickets
You can book tickets easily on the National Express or Megabus websites, which are both easy enough to navigate. National Express also has a user-friendly app which makes it easy to book tickets, check timetables and track your coach in real time. To easily see all of your options though, use Omio.
Pictured above are the Dover’s White Cliffs
London day trips by guided tour
Another way to travel to other parts of the UK from London is to take an organised day trip to other parts of the country via an experiences marketplace, like Viator. They have thousands of experiences listed on their site and make it easy to visit some of the top attractions outside the city without organising a thing.
Pros of guided tours
- These kinds of organised trips usually come with a knowledgeable guide who knows about the destination you’re visiting
- Many trips come with lunch stop-offs and general insider tips
- You don’t have to plan anything
Cons of guided tours
- You’ll have much less freedom than if you planned the trip yourself
- You’ll very much stand out as a tourist as you’ll be roaming around in a big group
Popular journeys from London by guided tour
You can enjoy all kinds of tours on Viator, including a visit to the historic Stonehenge and Windsor Castle, Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and the beautiful White Cliffs of Dover.
How to book UK guided tours from London
The Viator website is the leading marketplace for travel experiences and has more than 300,00 unique activities, tours and experiences listed on their site, covering all kinds of topics and destinations. It’s easy to browse and book on their website, or they have an app which makes it straightforward to book and manage your trips on the go, get notifications regarding your trip and cancel for free (up to 24 hours in advance).
London day trips by car
You can also hire a car if you want ultimate flexibility and freedom, but it’s a less popular choice due to how busy and stressful London roads can be. However, nothing beats cruising through English country roads on a warm summer’s day with your favourite playlist blasting through the speakers. England is relatively small compared to some countries, which means you can reach many cities and towns by car.
Pros of travelling by car
- The freedom to stop off anywhere along the way
- An excellent way to see much more of the country
- A reliable mode of transport if you don’t hit any traffic
Cons of travelling by car
- Driving in London is different to driving anywhere else in the UK; there are increased charges and emissions legislations that you’ll need to be aware of, including specific laws that aren’t in place in other parts of the country
- The UK drives on the other side of the road to most nationalities
- You’re probably not familiar with UK driving laws
- Traffic can get really bad at certain times and journeys, like bank holiday weekends and weekday rush hours (6am-10am and 4pm-8pm)
You can drive to Cornwall in around five hours (if you don’t hit any traffic) and feel like you’re on a beach holiday, depending on the weather, of course. Margate is also reachable in one hour 40 minutes, otherwise known as Shoreditch-on-sea, thanks to its quirky cafés, incredible art scene and hipster vibe. You can also get to Bristol in a little over two hours and the Cotswolds in under two.
How to book a car
Several companies offer car rental services throughout the city, including Turo, a car rental marketplace where you can book any car you want, wherever you want, from local hosts. There’s also Zipcar, Hiyacar and Enterprise, all of which have cars available to book all over the city.
Take a flight (if you have to)
The least sustainable and (probably) most expensive way to travel from London to other parts of the UK is to take a flight. Although it’s tempting to hop on a flight to cut back on the time spent travelling, you will undoubtedly end up missing out on spectacular scenery. Also, once you’ve calculated the time spent getting to and from the airport, alongside the time spent in the airport, it most likely doesn’t end up being much shorter than if you were to take the train or drive.
Pros of travelling by flight
- Flying to Ireland, Northern Ireland, or Scotland is significantly quicker than driving or taking the train (and a boat)
Cons of travelling by flight
- It’s awful for the environment (taking the train is the best eco-friendly, traffic-proof way to travel between destinations)
- You have to go through the entire airport check-in security process at least two hours in advance
- Can be expensive and have big delays
Most people opt for train travel or driving when travelling between cities in the UK, but you can fly to Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland if you’re strapped for time and need to get there quickly. Otherwise, some ferries can take cars across to Ireland, and a train to Edinburgh, Scotland, takes around 4.5 hours but offers breathtaking scenery along the way.
How to book a flight from London
Use Google Flights or Skyscanner to search for the cheapest and quickest flights, but you can also go directly through airline websites.