How to use trains, coaches, buses and taxis in the UK…
Hello! My name is Raphael, and I am a second-year medical student at Cardiff. I am from England, New Zealand and Japan (少しだけ日本語できますので、日本人の留学生がいたらどうぞ話しかけてください！). In my free time, I like to play music with my friends, play basketball, or ride my bicycle. My favourite places to go in Cardiff are: Roath Lake, Bute Park, Lidl, the Health Library, Metchy’s Café, and The Table Café.
How is the public transport where you come from? I have grown up in Japan, where the public transport is extremely clean and safe, and always precisely on time. However, it is also rather expensive. Some of my friends come from Tamil Nadu in India, and they tell me that the public transport there is much cheaper but also can be fast and dangerous! How do you get around your home town?
In the UK, students will often use public transport to get between towns, because many students don’t own cars. If you are travelling within the UK, you can use trains or coaches easily, and if you’re travelling within a city you can use buses or taxis. The transport here isn’t always on time, but is reasonably safe and reliable. However, it depends on what you’re used to! Please be aware that at the moment, everyone is required to wear face covering while they are on any forms of public transport.
Using the train
The UK has 20 different private train companies, but they work together as “National Rail”, which means that they use the same stations, and the ticket you buy will get you on any operator you need. The best place to check train times and ticket prices is www.nationalrail.co.uk. You can buy tickets from any operator’s website, like www.tfwrail.co.uk; these sites do not charge a booking fee.
It is usually cheapest to buy a ticket several weeks before when you want to travel. These are called “Advance” tickets. However, if you buy an advance ticket, you can only use it at the specified time, so don’t miss your train! (I have done this before!) It is also cheaper to travel at “offpeak” (less busy) times: after 10.30am on Monday to Friday (except 3-7pm around London), and weekends. Getting a return ticket is cheaper than two single tickets. Each ticket usually has a seat reservation; be careful you don’t sit in someone else’s reserved seat, as this is something that British people do not like.
Cardiff has some local stations, like Cathays Station and Queen Street Station, which will take you to Cardiff Central Station. From Cardiff Central, you are able to get a train to London in 2 hours. You can also travel to Cardiff Rhoose Airport in 45 minutes.
You can travel between cities in the UK using coaches. This is often cheaper than using the trains, but it can take longer. Some of the major coach companies are National Express and Megabus. There is a National Express coach station behind Sophia Gardens, and a Megabus stop conveniently on Park Place, next to the Sir Martin Evans University building. Like using the train, it is cheapest to book coach tickets in advance. In the UK, you are required to wear a seatbelt while travelling on the coach.
Using local buses in Cardiff
Cardiff Bus run bus services that cover most of Cardiff. You can travel to the city centre, or other parts of town, very easily. You will have to pay for a ticket when boarding the bus, either by paying the exact fare in cash, or using a contactless card. When the bus approaches the stop where you want to get off, you will need to press a “stop” button to let the bus driver know that you need to get off. There are bus stops all across the student part of town: type “bus stop near me” into Google to find where your closest one is. Using the bus can be slow and unreliable time-wise, but is very handy for getting across town to shops like IKEA or Costco, or for carrying shopping home from the city centre.
If you are living in “University Halls” Halls of Residence, there is a bus service run by the University that takes you to Park Place and the Main Campus. This is free if you are a resident of University Halls.
Getting a taxi
Using a taxi is probably the quickest and most convenient way to travel across town. However, it can be quite expensive, so consider using the bus if you are not in a hurry! Many students use Uber as a taxi service.
The University has a partnership with a company called DragonTaxis. In an emergency, you can call for a safe, free taxi using the number 02920 333 333 and telling them your name and student ID. You will not be charged straight away for the ride, but the bill will be sent to you later.