Britain has a comprehensive bus (short-haul, multistop public transportation) and coach (more direct, plusher long-distance buses) network that offers an inexpensive way of seeing England. National Express is the major coach operator, and Victoria Coach Station, near Victoria Station in central London, is its hub in the region. The company serves more than 1,000 destinations within Britain (and, via Eurolines, 500 more in continental Europe). There are 2,000 ticket agents nationwide, including offices at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airport coach stations.
Green Line is the second-largest national service, serving airports and major tourist towns. A budget option for long-distance travel, Megabus has double-decker buses that serve cities across Britain, with seats that turn into bunk beds on routes to Scotland. In London, Megabus departs from Victoria Coach Station as well as other stops, while Green Line buses also stop at Baker Street and Hyde Park Corner.
Bus tickets can be much less than the price of a train ticket (even lower if you take advantage of special deals). For example, an Oxford Tube bus ticket from London to Oxford is £9, whereas a rush-hour train ticket may be £34.50. Buses are also just as comfortable as trains. However, buses often take twice as long to reach their destinations. The Oxford Tube has onboard Wi-Fi. All bus services forbid smoking.
Double-decker buses, run by private companies, offer local bus service in cities and regions. Check with the local bus station or tourist information center for routes and schedules. Most companies offer daylong or weeklong unlimited-travel tickets, and those in popular tourist areas operate special scenic tours in summer. The top deck of a double-decker bus is a great place from which to view the countryside.
Discounts and Deals
National Express's Young Persons’ CoachCard for students age 16 to 26 costs £12.50 annually and gets you 10% to 30% discounts off many fares. Most companies also offer a discount for children under 15. A Senior CoachCard for the over-60s cuts many fares by a third. Apex tickets (advance-purchase tickets) save money on standard fares, and traveling midweek is cheaper than over weekends and holidays.
Fares and Schedules
You can find schedules online, pick them up from tourist information offices, or get them by phone from the bus companies. Fares vary based on how close to the time of travel you book—Megabus tickets, for example, are cheaper if ordered in advance online.
Tickets for National Express can be bought from the Victoria, Heathrow, and Gatwick coach stations; by phone; online; or from most British travel agencies and post offices. Reservations are advised. Tickets for Megabus must be purchased online or by phone (avoid calling, as there’s a surcharge).
Most companies accept credit cards for advance purchases, but some companies require cash for onboard transactions.
Book in advance, as buses on busy routes fill up quickly. With most companies (National Express, Megabus, Green Line), advance payment means you receive an email receipt and your name is placed on a list given to the driver.