Home Living in the UK Transport UK transport: trains, metro, buses, and taxis
Last update on March 20, 2020

Overview of various UK public transportation in the UK, from travelling by bus, coach, rail, or taxi.

Buses and coach travel in the UK

Depending on where you live, you can buy a variety of different types of bus and coach tickets. These may include single journey tickets, one-day, weekly or monthly tickets as well as student or over-60 passes.

Finding your local bus or coach service

You can find your nearest bus or coach service when you plan your journey using the online journey planner.

Avoiding a penalty fare in London

In central London you must buy your tickets from machines at bus stops before you board the bus. If you do not buy a valid ticket, you could be charged a penalty fare or have your contact details taken down for a possible fine.

The Transport for London (TfL) website has information of all public transport services in central London.

Trains in the UK

There are 22 train operating companies providing rail services in the UK. The onboard services they provide – such as baby changing, cycle space and catering – vary from service to service. Check with the train company you wish to use or visit the National Rail website for more information on their services.

Buying tickets

There are a variety of ticket options available, depending on when and where you want to travel.

There are four categories of ticket fares across the network:

  • Anytime
  • Off peak
  • Super Off peak
  • Advance

By booking in advance or travelling outside of peak hours you can get significant savings. Travelling at peak times will likely cost the most.

Always buy your tickets before you board the train – even if the queues are long and you’re going to miss your train. If you board the train without a valid ticket you may be liable for a penalty fare. The only exceptions are the following:

  • There is no means to buy them at the station of departure
  • There is a notice stating that you can buy tickets on the train
  • You get express permission by station staff

If you have a railcard you will need to show it when you buy your ticket and carry it with you throughout your journey.

Delays and cancellations

If you decide not to travel because your train was cancelled, delayed, or you did not get your reserved seat, you can get an immediate refund. Simply take your ticket to the ticket office where you bought it.

Taxis and private hire vehicles in the UK

Taxis are licensed to be hired immediately – you can get one at a rank, hail one in the street, or by pre-booking. Private hire vehicles (PHVs, also called minicabs) can only collect passengers who have pre-booked with a licensed operator.

Taxis in the UK

Taxis are purpose-built vehicles that have a plate on the rear showing their taxi licence number. All London taxis are accessible to disabled customers. You can book a taxi over the phone using the ‘One number’ service. The number to call is 0871 871 8710.

Private hire vehicles in the UK

PHVs in London are licensed by TfL under the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998. They must have special discs on their windscreen and rear window showing their licence status.

Taxis and private hire vehicles in London

Taxis and PHVs are licensed annually by Transport for London (TfL). TfL also makes sure all vehicles meet safety and accessibility standards. Marshalled ranks operate only in certain areas and at certain times of night, usually only at weekends. Both taxis and PHVs have a maximum of eight passenger seats.

Taxis and PHVs outside London

Outside London, local authorities (district/borough councils or unitary authorities) are responsible for licensing taxis and PHVs. Licensing authorities have some say in terms of setting local licensing rules and standards.You can usually find numbers for taxis in local directories like the yellow pages.

Safety tips while travelling

It is a good idea to do the following:

  • Make a note of the number plate and driver’s licence number and text them to someone as an extra precaution
  • If you have a camera phone you could also take a picture of the vehicle
  • Always sit in the back of the vehicle
  • Carry your mobile phone in your hand so it is easily accessible