Wales in detail

Flights & getting there

Aside from ferries from Ireland and a small range of international flights to Cardiff airport, the bulk of visitors to Wales arrive by train, car or coach from neighbouring England. Flights, cars and tours can be booked online at lonelyplanet.com/bookings.

Air

Although Cardiff has an international airport, most overseas visitors fly into London. Five international airports service the UK's capital but Heathrow is by far the biggest, serving most of the world's major airlines. It is also the closest to Wales. Other options include Manchester, which is handy for North Wales, and Bristol and Birmingham, both close to the Welsh border.

Many of the airlines directly servicing Wales are budget operators, which means you might get a good deal if you're coming from one of the handful of destinations that they fly from.

Airports & Airlines

Cardiff Airport is 12 miles southwest of Cardiff, past Barry. Aside from summer-only services and charters, these are the airlines flying into Cardiff and the destinations they serve:

Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com) Dublin.

Citywing (www.citywing.com) Anglesey.

Eastern Airways (www.easternairways.com) Aberdeen and Newcastle.

Flybe (www.flybe.com) London City, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Jersey, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Milan and Faro.

KLM (www.klm.com) Amsterdam.

Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) Tenerife-South.

Thomson Airways (www.thomson.co.uk) Málaga, Alicante, Gran Canaria, Tenerife-South and Lanzarote.

Vueling (www.vueling.com) Málaga and Alicante.

Departure Tax

Departure tax is included in the price of a ticket.

Land

The entire eastern edge of Wales shares a land border with England and aside from the odd 'Welcome to...' sign, you'd barely notice you were crossing between the two.

Bus

Buses between England and Wales are generally slower, cheaper and more flexible than trains. Local buses zip across the border from Gloucester, Hereford and Ludlow.

National Express operates services to Wales' major cities and tourist towns from some major English cities.

Megabus offers one-way fares from London to Cardiff (via Newport) from as little as £5.

Bus Travel from England to Wales

FromToCost (£)Time (hr)
LondonCardifffrom 5
LondonChepstowfrom 123
LondonSwanseafrom 75
LondonTenbyfrom 18
LondonAberystwyth387
LondonCaernarfon4010¼
LondonBangor39
BirminghamMonmouth20

Car & Motorcycle

From London, getting to Wales is a simple matter of heading west on the M4 motorway (which passes Heathrow airport) and sitting on it until you cross the impressive bridge over the River Severn.

There's a toll for cars passing into Wales of £6.60; motorcycles are free. There's a second bridge a little further north on the M48 leading to Chepstow, which has the same toll. There's no charge for crossing in the other direction, from Wales into England.

Train

Trains in the UK are privatised and expensive, and the fare structure is bewildering. In general, the cheapest tickets are those bought well in advance. Timetables and fares are available from http://thetrainline.com.

All rail connections from Continental Europe to Wales pass through the Channel Tunnel to London. The high-speed passenger service Eurostar links London St Pancras International with Paris or Brussels. Book early to secure the best fares. Cheaper rail connections can be had by crossing the Channel by ferry.

Fast train services run to Cardiff from Bristol, Birmingham and London Paddington. Direct trains from London Paddington also stop in Newport and Swansea. Trains from London Euston head all the way to Llandudno Junction, Bangor and Holyhead in the far north.

From Manchester, there are trains to Llandudno Junction, Fishguard Harbour and Abergavenny. Frequent services shunt across the border between Gloucester and Chepstow.

Main lines heading through the centre of Wales:

Cambrian Line (www.thecambrianline.co.uk) Birmingham to Aberystwyth through Shrewsbury, Welshpool, Newtown and Machynlleth.

Heart of Wales Line (www.heart-of-wales.co.uk) A scenic route through the heart of Mid-Wales from Shrewsbury to Swansea via Knighton, Llandrindod Wells, Llanwrtyd Wells, Llandovery and Llandeilo.

Major Train Connections from England to Wales

FromToCost (£)Time (hr)
London PaddingtonCardifffrom 402
London PaddingtonSwansea473
London EustonBangor91
London EustonHolyhead955
GloucesterChepstow10½
BirminghamMachynlleth21
BirminghamAberystwyth303
ManchesterAbergavennyfrom 253
ManchesterFishguard Harbour30

Sea

Ferries from Ireland operate from Dublin to Holyhead (1¾ to 3½ hours) and from Rosslare to Pembroke Dock (four hours) and Fishguard (3½ hours). The main ferry companies are Irish Ferries and Stena Line.

Fares vary considerably depending on the season, day, time and length of stay. Typical one-way fares start at £31 for a foot passenger and £79 for a car and driver. Bikes can be transported for £10. It's worth keeping an eye out for promotional fares that can reduce the cost considerably.

Ferries to England

There's a wide array of ferry services to England from Continental Europe, including services from Denmark to Harwich; from the Netherlands to Hull and Harwich; from Belgium to Hull; from Spain to Portsmouth; and from France to Dover, Newhaven, Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth. For details check out www.directferries.co.uk or www.ferrybooker.com.

All of these port towns are linked into the train network, allowing you to get to Wales with two or three connecting trains.

SailRail

A little-known option for travelling between the UK and Ireland, SailRail is an absolute bargain. The combined train and ferry service connects all UK and Irish train stations, and by comparison to airlines' restrictive fare rules, it's incredibly flexible. You can make changes to your booking, get a partial refund for some types of unused tickets and you can even rock up to a train station and buy your ticket on the day. And the best bit? Tickets cost from just £33 one way, children aged five to 15 pay half-price and under fives go free (but must have a reservation for the ferry). It's worth checking the main rail routes before booking to avoid unnecessary connections.

Check the following websites for details:

  • Arriva Trains Wales (www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/sailrail)
  • Irish Ferries (www.irishferries.com/uk-en/offers/sail-rail)
  • Stena Lina (www.stenaline.ie/ferries-to-britain/rail-sail)