Kris Rao is an official provider of services to meet student welfare needs at Reading University. He has produced a range of informational leaflets and booklets for the international students who study there.
TRAVELLING TO THE UK
The quickest way to get to the UK is by air. Major airports in the UK with good international connections are London Airports, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. You are likely to find cheap flights to London Airports. These have good train and bus connections to cities in the south of England. However, if the fares are reasonable then it might be quicker and cheaper to fly directly to the airport nearest to your university. This will save you the hassle of travelling by coach or train from major airports to your destination.
List of UK airports with airlines operating
Aberdeen: Air France, British Airways, Easyjet, KLM, Lufthansa, SAS.
Belfast: Aer Lingus, BMI, British Airways, Easyjet.
Birmingham: Aer Lingus, Air France, Air Malta, Air Slovakia, Alitalia, Bmibaby, BMI, British Airways, British European, Continental, Cyprus Airways, Czech Airlines, Emirates, First Choice Airways, Gulf Air, KLM, Lufthansa, MyTravel Lite, PIA, Ryanair, SAS-Scandinavian, Slovak Airlines, SN Brussels Airlines, Swiss, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan Airways.
Bristol: Air France, British Airways, British European, Easyjet, KLM, Ryanair.
Cardiff: Aer Lingus, British Airways, KLM, Span Air, Tryolean.
East Midlands: BMI, British Airways, Lufthansa.
Edinburgh: Air France, BMI, British Airways, Easyjet, KLM, Lufthansa, Ryanair, SAS.
Glasgow: Air France, Continental, Easyjet, Emirates, Iceland Air, KLM, Lufthansa, Ryanair.
Leeds Bradford: Austrian, BMI, British European, KLM, Ryanair, Tyrolean.
Liverpool: Air Europa, BMI, Easyjet, Ryanair.
London (City): Aer Lingus, Air France, British European, KLM, Lufthansa, Sabena, Swiss.
London (Gatwick): Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Afriqiyah Airways, Air Europa, Air France, Air Gabon, Air Malta, Air Seychelles, Air Transat, Air VIA Bulgarian Airways, Air Zimbabwe, Alitalia, American Trans Air, Antinea Airlines, Arkia, Azerbaijan Airlines, Balkan Bulgarian, BASE Airlines, Belavia, Braathens ASA, British Airways, Brymon, BWA, CSA Air, Cameroon Airlines, Continental, Croatia Airlines, Cubana, Cyprus Airways, Delta Air Lines, Easyjet, El Al, Emirates, Estonian Air, Etihad Airways, Finnair, First Choice Airways, FlyBE, Futura, Helvetic, Icelandic, Maersk Air.
London (Heathrow): Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, Air Algerie, Air Canada, Air China, Air France, Air India, Air Jamaica, Air Malta, Air Mauritius, Air Namibia, Air New Zealand, Alitalia, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, Arkia, Austrian Airlines, Avianca, Balkan Bulgarian, Biman Bangladesh, British Airways, BWIA West Indies Airways, Cathay Pacific, Croatia Airlines, Cyprus Airways, Czech Airlines, Egyptair, El Al, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, Finnair, Gulf Air, Hellas, Iberia, Icelandair, Iran Air, Istanbul Airlines, Japan Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM, PIA, Portugalia, Saudi Arabian, SN Brussels, Swiss, Syrian Arab, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic.
London (Luton): Easyjet, Monarch, Ryanair.
London (Stansted): Air Berlin, Basiq Air, CSA Czech Airlines, El Al, Germanwings, Iceland Express, Lux Air, Ryanair.
Manchester: Aer Lingus, Air Baltic, Air Canada, Air France, Air Jamaica, Air Malta, Alitalia, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, BWIA West Indies Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Continental, Croatia Airlines, Cyprus Airways, Cyprus Turkish Airlines, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Excel Airways, Finnair, First Choice Airways, FlyBE, Iberia, KLM, LOT, Lufthansa, Luxair, Malaysia Airlines, Monarch, My Travel, Olympic, PIA, Qatar Airways, Ryanair, SAS-Scandinavian, Singapore Airlines, SN Brussels, Swiss, Syrian Arab.
Newcastle: Air France, BMI, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa.
Southampton: Air Europa, Air France, BA, British European, Ryanair.
Eurostar (www.eurostar.com or 08705 186 186) operates daily services between Paris, Lille, Brussels and London Waterloo. A journey from Paris to London takes around three hours, while a journey from Brussels to London takes around 3 1/2 hours. Standard Fares for an APEX return are £49. Eurostar offers flexible student and youth fares. From London Waterloo there are excellent onward connections to Wales, South East England, and the Midlands.
EuroBus and Eurolines operate daily services to London Victoria Coach Station from 46 cities across Europe. From London Victoria there are excellent onward bus and train connections to other destinations around Britain. Fares are often as low as £30 for a return between Paris and London. However, the journey between London and Paris takes around ten hours, London and Frankfurt 19 hours and longer if you are travelling from an east European or Mediterranean country. Further details can be obtained online at www.eurolines.com or www.busabout.com.
Regular ferry services operate between Dover and Calais; Folkestone and Boulogne; Portsmouth and Cherbourg or Le Havre; Plymouth and Santander; Newcastle and Stavanger or Bergen; Harwich and Esberj; Harwich and Hook of Holland; Harwich and Hamburg; Fishguard and Rosslare Europort; and Holyhead and Dublin or Dun Laoghaire. Ferries vary according to day and time of departure.
GETTING AROUND THE UK
Travel within Britain itself is relatively straightforward and there is a wide variety of options from cars and coaches to planes and trains.
Traveline is a national travel information service offering impartial information on local buses, coaches and trains. You can contact them by phone on 0870 608 2 608 or online at www.traveline.org.uk
There is a vast network of roads in Britain, servicing all parts of the country. Further details on buying or hiring a car can be found on pages 70 and 71.
Hitchhiking is not very popular in the UK and not many motorists stop to pick up hitchhikers. You should avoid hitchhiking if you are travelling alone.
Probably the quickest way to travel around the UK is by train. Britain has an extensive network of trains. Although the fares are not cheap, train travel is a lot quicker than car or coach. Train services in the UK are operated by 25 different companies. Details of timetables, routes and fares can obtained from the National Rail helpline on 0845 7 48 49 50 or online at www.nationalrail.co.uk
Trains have two service classes: First and Standard. First Class tickets usually cost double the Standard Class. Long distance trains have buffet cars serving alcoholic drinks, refreshments and hot food. It is not necessary to book tickets in advance or to make a seat reservation unless you want the cheaper Super Advance or APEX tickets.
UK train fares are complex and can confuse even regular travellers. The most expensive tickets (without any restrictions) are First Class, followed by Standard Open. These tickets have no time or day restrictions. Saver fares are slightly cheaper, have restrictions and can generally be used at any time of day.
Super Saver fares are available on selected routes and can be used for travel only at off-peak times and days (usually Sunday to Thursday after 9.30am). There may be additional restrictions at Christmas or during other holiday seasons – check with National Rail before travelling.
Super Advance fares must be booked in advance (usually no later than 6.00pm on the day before the journey) and are limited in number. These tickets are valid on selected journeys only. The date and train details are shown on the ticket.
APEX fares are the cheapest but have a lot of restrictions. You’ll need to book them at least seven days before your journey and like Super Advance they are valid for travel only on the date and train shown on the ticket. Seat reservations are compulsory for Super Advance and APEX tickets.
Travelling by bus or coach is the cheapest way to travel around Britain. The major coach operators in Britain are:
- National Express (www.nationalexpress.com or 08705 80 80 80)
- Stagecoach (www.stagecoachbus.com)
- Scottish Citylink (www.citylink.co.uk or 08705 50 50 50).
They link all the major cities and towns in the UK. All coaches in the UK are single class, non smoking, most have on-board toilets and some offer refreshment services. National Express offer unlimited travel passes to non-UK passport holders starting from £79 for seven days. You’ll need to present your passport or ID card when buying your ticket. Megabus (www.megabus.com or 0900 160 0900) is another low-cost bus service that offers limited service around the UK. Similar to no frill airlines, Megabus prices start from £1 for a trip from Oxford to London.
The quickest way to travel around Britain is by air. Major airlines operating flights within the UK are:
- British Airways (www.ba.com or 0870 850 9850)
- British Midland International (www.flybmi.com or 0870 6007 555)
- British European (www.fiybe.com or 0871 700 0535)
- Easyjet (www.easyjet.com)
- Ryanair (www.ryanair.com).
British Airways, the largest airline, offers a UK Airpass starting from £49 per trip. British Midland, the second largest scheduled airline, offers The Discover Europe Airpass, which can be used for scheduled flights in Britain and the rest of Europe. Both airlines serve almost all the major cities in the UK. These passes can be bought from STA Travel or other travel agents in the UK.
Ryanair and Easyjet are no frills airlines offering extremely low fares to destinations in the UK and Europe. Fares from London to Glasgow on Easyjet or Ryanair can start from as low as £1 (excluding taxes) each way. However, you should not expect certain levels of service (such as a free in-flight snack) from these airlines.
In the UK, vehicles are driven on the left-hand side of the road and anyone wanting to drive must have a valid licence. Driving regulations are contained in the Highway Code which can be bought in bookshops and petrol stations. The book costs around £2. You can also download it from the internet at www.highwaycode.gov.uk
Legally, you will only be able to use a foreign licence for the first 12 months of your stay, after which you must take a British driving test to obtain a British driving licence. Ask for form DlOO at your post office for more information about how to get a licence, or download the form from the internet at www.dvla.gov.uk.
EEA nationals and nationals of the following countries are able to exchange their licence for a British Licence without taking a driving test: Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.
You must be resident for at least six months in the UK before you can apply for a licence.
Learning to drive a car in the UK is very expensive and can cost around £1,500 (including lessons and test fees). There are plenty of driving schools in every town and their details are listed in Yellow Pages. Details about taking a driving test in the UK can be found online at www.dsa.gov.uk
Buying a car
A good place to look if you are planning to buy a second-hand car is the Auto Trader magazine or on the internet at www.autotrader.co.uk. Auto Trader has listings of cars and motorcycles in and near your area. Exchange and Mart is another magazine that advertises available cars in your area. To get an idea about what you should be paying for a second-hand car look at Parkers Car Price Guide (www.parkers.co.uk) which has listings of car prices according to their mileage and age.
Car advertisements can be found in your local newspapers and also on Students’ Union notice-boards. Look around for as many cars as possible before buying. The Office of Fair Trading’s booklet Guide to Buying a Used Car can also advise you on what to look for when buying a second-hand car. The booklet is available free of charge at your local council office or at your student advice centre. You can also find it on the internet at www.oft.gov.uk
By law, your car must be taxed, insured and have a Ministry of Transport (MOT) certificate. An MOT is a test of your vehicle’s road-worthiness and is available at any approved MOT garage or centre. Tax discs are available from any post office and cost from about £100 per year depending upon your car engine-size. Leaflet VI00 available at all post offices explains everything about registering, licensing, testing and insuring your vehicle. Vehicle insurance is available from a wide number of insurance companies. Further details about registering a car and driving a foreign registered car in the UK can be found online at www.dvla.gov.uk
Hiring a car
The main rental companies operating in the UK are:
- Avis (www.avis.co.uk or 0870 60 60 100).
- Hertz (www.hertz.co.uk or 08708 448844).
- Budget (www.budget.co.uk or 0870 156 56 56).
- Sixt (www.e-sixt.co.uk or 0870 156 75 67).
- National (www.national.co.uk or 0870 400 4502).
- Thrifty Car Rental (www.thrifty.co.uk or 01494 751 600).
You should expect to pay around £35 a day rental for a compact car on weekdays. Weekend rentals are cheaper and cost around £60 for a weekend (3 days). Easyrentacar (www.easyrentacar.com) based in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester rents a compact car for as little as £6 per day.
Many rental companies don’t hire to those under 23 or 25 years of age. Most car rental companies also require a credit card as a guarantee and some also insist on a valid EU licence. Before renting a car, check whether the price includes unlimited mileage, liability insurance and 24-hour roadside assistance. Some of the car rental companies offer a delivery and collection service to your door (for which there may be an extra charge). Several local companies also offer car rentals – check your local Yellow Pages for further information.
Bicycles are a popular transport option for students. New bicycles cost from around £100 up to £1,000, but second-hand bikes can be bought from £20 upwards. Halfords is one of the main dealers in new bicycles. For second-hand bikes look out for adverts in your local newspaper and on the Students’ Union notice-boards. Second-hand bicycle shops are also listed in Yellow Pages.
If you buy a bike it is essential to buy a good lock, (preferably a D Lock) and to keep the bike locked at all times. Your local police can also stamp your bike with a security code so that if it is stolen it will be easily identifiable. It is also advisable to buy a bicycle helmet. Bike accidents are frequent and can result in serious head injuries. Helmets cost from around £16. Rules for cyclists can be found in the Highway Code which can be bought for around £2 in bookshops and petrol stations. You can also download it from the net at www.highwaycode.gov.uk
Taxis are expensive in the UK and the rates vary around the country (with London and the South East being the most expensive). You should expect to pay around £5 for a short ride of less than a mile in London or other major cities in the South East. There are two types of taxi operating around the UK. Black cabs are licensed to pick up passengers in cities and towns. They have a standard meter inside and the fares are set by the local council. Up to five people can share these taxis.
Mini-cabs or private hire vehicles are normal cars with a Local Authority licence plate. They have to be pre-booked by telephone or at a local cab office. Check the fare before you travel as these taxis don’t have a meter. Usually up to four people can share a mini cab although six to eight seater taxis are also available.
The only student travel agency currently available is STA Travel (www.statravel.co.uk or 08701 60 60 70). It has over 50 university and high street branches in the UK and specialises in selling discounted flight tickets, accommodation, visas, insurance, travel passes, European Rail tickets, and European overland tours for students and young people. The benefit of booking through STA Travel is the flexibility which many online sites and other travel agents do not offer. Most of the tickets purchased through STA Travel can be changed without any additional charges.
Other high street travel agents that offer competitive fares are Trailfinders (www.trailfinders.com), Flight Centre, Flight Bookers (www.ebookers.com), Thomas Cook (www.thomascook.co.uk), Going Places and First Choice. The travel sections of weekend papers also have listings of air fares and travel agents. Check their advertisements and phone around for the best prices. Before booking tickets or paying money do make sure that the travel agent is a member of ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) or IATA (International Air Transport Association). These organisations offer protection if the travel agent or airline goes out of business.
Most of the airlines have now started selling student tickets directly through their websites. For example, KLM (www.klmuk.com) and Swiss Airlines (www.swiss.com) offer cheap fares to students travelling worldwide. Other online agents that offer competitive prices are: