Getting there & away
London is a global transport hub, so you can easily fly to England from just about anywhere in the world. In recent years, the massive growth of budget (‘no-frills’) airlines has increased the number of routes – and reduced the fares – between England and other countries in Europe.
Your other main option for travel between England and mainland Europe is ferry, either port-to-port or combined with a long-distance bus trip – this type of travel has less environmental impact than flying, although journeys can be long and financial savings not huge compared with budget airfares. International trains are much more comfortable, and another ‘green’ option; the Channel Tunnel allows direct rail services between England, France and Belgium, with onward connections to many other European destinations.
Getting from England to Scotland and Wales is easy. The bus and train systems are fully integrated and in most cases you won’t even know you’ve crossed the border. Passports are not required – although some Scots and Welsh may think they should be!
Flights, tours and rail tickets can be booked by accessing www.lonelyplanet.com/travel_services.
The main ferry routes between England and Ireland include Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire. Between England and mainland Europe, ferry routes include Dover to Calais or Boulogne (France), Harwich to Hook of Holland (Netherlands), Hull to Zeebrugge (Belgium) and Rotterdam (Netherlands), Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao (Spain), and Newcastle to Bergen (Norway) or Gothenburg (Sweden). There are many more.
Competition from Eurotunnel and budget airlines has forced ferry operators to discount heavily and offer flexible fares, meaning great bargains at quiet times of day or year. For example, the short cross-channel routes such as Dover to Calais or Boulogne can be as low as £20 for a car plus up to five passengers, although around £50 is more likely. If you’re a foot passenger, or cycling, there’s often less need to book ahead, and cheap fares on the short crossings start from about £10 each way.
Some ferry operators take only online bookings; others charge a supplement (up to £20) for booking by phone. Main operators include the following.
Brittany Ferries (www.brittany-ferries.com)
DFDS Seaways (0871 522 9955; www.dfds.co.uk)
Irish Ferries (08705 171717; www.irishferries.com)
Norfolkline (08701 450603; www.irishferries.com)
P&O Ferries (08716 645 645; www.poferries.com)
Speedferries (0871 222 7456; www.speedferries.com)
Stena Line (www.stenaline.com)
Transmanche (0800 917 1201; www.transmancheferries.com)
Another very handy option is www.ferrybooker.com, a single site covering all sea-ferry routes and operators, plus Eurotunnel.
You can easily get between England and other European countries via long-distance bus or coach. The international network Eurolines (www.eurolines.com) connects a huge number of destinations; the website is full of information on routes and options, and you can buy tickets online via one of the national operators. Services to/from England are operated by National Express (www.nationalexpress.com) and some sample journey times to/from London are: Amsterdam 12 hours; Paris eight or nine hours; Dublin 12 hours; Barcelona 24 hours. If you book early, and can be flexible with timings (ie travel when few other people want to) you can get some very good deals – some branded as ‘fun fares’ and ‘promo fares’. For example, London to Paris or Amsterdam one-way starts at just £18, although paying nearer £25 is more usual. It’s still worth checking the budget airlines, though. You may pay a similar fare and knock a large chunk off the journey time.
CHANNEL TUNNEL SERVICES
The Channel Tunnel makes direct train travel between England and continental Europe a fast and enjoyable option. High-speed Eurostar (08705 186 186; www.eurostar.com) passenger services hurtle at least 10 times daily between London and Paris (the journey takes 2½ hours) or Brussels (two hours). You can buy tickets from travel agencies, major train stations or direct from the Eurostar website. The normal single fare between London and Paris/Brussels is around £150, but if you buy in advance and travel at a less busy period, deals drop to around £90 return or less. You can also buy ‘through fare’ tickets from many cities in England – for example York to Paris, or Manchester to Brussels. You can also get very good train and hotel combination deals – bizarrely sometimes cheaper than train fare only.
If you’ve got a car, use Eurotunnel (08705 353535; www.eurotunnel.com). At Folkestone in England or Calais in France, you drive onto a train, go through the tunnel, and drive off at the other end. The trains run about four times an hour from 6am to 10pm, then hourly. Loading and unloading is one hour; the journey takes 35 minutes. You can book in advance direct with Eurotunnel or pay on the spot (cash or credit card). The standard one-way cost for a car (and passengers) is £90-150 depending on the time of day (less busy times are cheaper), and promotional fares often bring the cost nearer to £50.
TRAIN & FERRY CONNECTIONS
As well as Eurostar, many ‘normal’ trains run between England and mainland Europe. You buy one ticket, but get off the train at the port, walk onto a ferry, then get another train on the other side. Routes include Amsterdam–London (via Hook of Holland and Harwich). Travelling between Ireland and England, the main train-ferry-train route is Dublin to London, via Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead. Ferries also run between Rosslare and Fishguard or Pembroke (Wales), with train connections on either side.
London’s main airports for international flights are Heathrow and Gatwick. Luton and Stansted deal largely with charter and budget European flights, and London City Airport specialises in business flights.
Some planes on European and long-haul routes go direct to major regional airports like Manchester, while smaller regional airports such as Southampton and Birmingham are served by flights to and from continental Europe and Ireland.
Some 15 miles west of central London, Heathrow (LHR; 0870 000 0123; www.heathrowairport.com) is the world’s busiest airport, often chaotic and crowded, with five terminals. Check which terminal your flight departs from.
In northern England, the airport for England’s second city, Manchester (MAN; 08712 710 711; www.manchesterairport.co.uk) is increasingly busy with direct flights to/from Europe, the Gulf states, South Asia and beyond.
Most of the world’s major airlines have services to England from many parts of the world, and budget airlines fly between England and other European countries. Charter flights are another option; you can buy seat-only deals on the planes that carry tourists between, for example, England and numerous Mediterranean resorts. The best deals are usually available online, and to save going to every airline’s site individually, it’s worth using an internet travel agency or price comparison site; these include the following:
Travelocity Travel (www.travelocity.com)
Because London is one of the world’s main air travel hubs, there’s competition between the airlines, and that means competitive fares. You can purchase your airline ticket from a travel agency (in person, by telephone or on the internet), or direct from the airline (the best deals are often available online only). It always pays to shop around. Internet travel agencies work well if you’re doing a straightforward trip, but for anything even slightly complex there’s no substitute for a real-live travel agent who knows the system, the options, the special deals and so on.
Australia & New Zealand
The route to England from the southern hemisphere is very popular, with a wide range of fares from about AUD$1500 to AUD$3000 return. From New Zealand it’s often best to go via Australia. Round-the-world tickets can sometimes work out cheaper than a straightforward return.
You can fly between England and pretty much every capital city in Europe (and many other cities too), using national airlines such as Air France, Lufthansa and so on, or budget airlines such as Ryanair, easyJet and Virgin Express.
There are numerous flights each day between the capitals Dublin and London, and many more between other cities in Ireland and England. If you book early and avoid the busy periods (such as Friday afternoon and evening), fares on budget airlines can be just a few pounds or euros.
Canada & the USA
There’s a continuous price war on the world’s busiest transcontinental route. Return fares from the east coast to London range from US$300 to US$600. From the west coast, fares are about US$100 higher.