How to explore Britain by bus

National Express coach bus travel in Britain

Travelling around Britain by bus can be a good option: they are generally very cheap (especially compared to the train), they service destinations that trains don’t, and you don’t need to drive. Note that long-distance buses are called coaches in Britain.

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Commercial operators offer cheap service to main cities across Britain. The main operators in order of importance are:

National Express

  • Britain’s largest coach operator
  • Runs to and between the main towns and cities in England and Wales as well as major airports
  • Has very cheap advance purchase fares
  • Read our step-by-step guide to booking National Express tickets

Scottish Citylink

  • Largest coach operator in Scotland
  • Scottish Citylink links up with National Express
  • Serves large cities and towns across Scotland
  • Fares are affordable
  • Sells the Explorer Pass, which offers unlimited bus travel for a set amount of days with a longer calendar period, eg 3 days travel over 5 days for £49. It can be a good deal if you’re going to ride the bus a lot in Scotland.


  •  Serves large cities across Britain
  • Is known for its very cheap £1.50 advance-purchase fares

Regional and local buses provide essential service to metropolitan areas, small towns, rural regions and places where there is no train service. For example, with a little planning, you can use buses to explore the villages along the Welsh coast. Often publicly funded, these bus services tend to have set fares that are affordable (but not incredibly cheap). Note, however, that schedules in rural areas may be designed for school children, which means there may be no service on weekends or over summer.

TIP: For long-distance coaches (eg National Express), the earlier you buy your ticket, the cheaper it will likely be. But for government-run regional and local buses outside of London, the fares are fixed and you pay the driver.

Wherever you need to get to in the UK, you can find all your travel and booking options on Rome2rio

Popular bus routes around Britain:

London to Heathrow Airport
Stansted Airport to London
London to Luton Airport
London to Edinburgh
London to Bath
Leeds to Sheffield
Manchester to Birmingham
Edinburgh to Glasgow
Aberdeen to Edinburgh
York to Leeds
Manchester to Newcastle
Cheltenham to Bristol
Portsmouth to London

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