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Travelling Within the UK

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 28 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Uk Travel Visitor Passport

After arriving in the UK many visitors wish to travel within the country.

The UK is relatively small and is fairly comprehensively served by a public transport network including trains, buses, the Underground in London (known as the Tube) and trams. The system of fares for public transport can be confusing and the cost of a ticket can vary significantly depending on the time of travel and when the ticket is purchased. Some forms of transport are prone to delays or to disruption because of strikes or (especially at weekends) engineering work. It is always worth checking that a service is in operation before setting out.

Travel Documents

A passport is not generally required for travel within the UK. However, airlines usually insist that travellers present a valid form of identification before getting on a domestic flight. This could be a passport - but other forms of ID are accepted (see below). Citizens of the UK and Ireland do not require a passport for travel between countries within the UK or to the Channel Islands.

Airlines / Airports in the UK

There is, officially, no requirement to see a passport or photo identification for travel on purely domestic flights within the UK. However, it may make sense to carry photo identification if it is available. To collect e-tickets at the ticket desk, the credit card used to purchase the tickets will be needed. If the person who bought the e-ticket is not travelling, the email itinerary receipt should be obtained from them because it will be needed at check-in together with an acceptable form of identification. Valid forms of identification include a:
  • UK Driving Licence.
  • Executive Club membership card.
  • E-ticket access card.
  • Passport / National ID card.
  • Company works card / ID.
If travelling on a route that allows you to print your own boarding pass at home, photographic ID will be required – whether or not the boarding pass is actually printed. Children under the age of 16 do not require identification to travel within the UK. Check with the airline before travelling for further or specific information.

Book tickets as far in advance as possible to get the cheapest fares. Air travel within the UK can be an expensive way of getting around.

Train Travel in the UK

Britain's rail network is run by over 20 different private companies. Together they form National Rail - with co-ordinated fares, ticketing and travel information. The National Rail website provides timetable and ticket information for all routes. Tickets can be bought in advance by phone or online directly from the rail company, from the National Rail website - or through one of several commercial online train ticket retailers which sell tickets for any train journey in Britain.

It is usually possible to make a reservation from around 12 weeks before departure. By booking early the cheapest fares are more likely to be available. Fares also vary in price according to the day and time of the journey. For example, travelling on Tuesday at lunchtime will usually be cheaper than a Friday or Sunday afternoon. Advance fares are only valid on the specific train booked - no refunds are allowed and only limited changes to travel plans are permitted. For flexibility, an ‘Off-Peak’ or ‘Anytime’ fare may be a good option but will usually not be valid during morning and / or evening rush hours.

Driving / Renting a Car in the UK

Driving can be one of the best ways to explore an area and Britain boasts some exceptional scenery. However, road systems in the UK can sometimes be confusing so it always makes sense to have an up-to-date map. To rent a car in the UK with an overseas license, one generally needs to present a passport together with the driver’s license as well as a credit or debit card for payment.

Most vehicles in the UK have a manual transmission. Automatic transmission vehicles may be available but are usually more expensive to rent. Most car rental companies offer a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). The CDW should cover any and all damage that may happen to your vehicle, whether or not it is your fault. However, a "deductible" may be payable for damage. Some travellers may be able to use insurance offered by their credit card companies as a cheaper alternative. If there is an accident, the cost of any damage done may be charged to the credit card until the insurance claim is settled.

Check the rental car thoroughly and have any existing damage recorded by the hire company before driving away. Good luck at the roundabouts!

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