Bus Travel

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Bus Travel

Arriving and Departing

National Express is the biggest British coach operator and the nearest equivalent to Greyhound. It's not as fast as traveling by train, but it's comfortable (with washroom facilities on board). Services depart mainly from Victoria Coach station, a well-signposted short walk behind the Victoria mainline rail station. The departures point is on the corner of Buckingham Palace Road; this is also the main information point. The arrivals point is opposite at Elizabeth Bridge. National Express buses travel to all large and midsize cities in southern England and the midlands. Scotland and the north are not as well served. The station is extremely busy around holidays and weekends. Arrive at least 30 minutes before departure so you can find the correct exit gate. Smoking is not permitted on board.

Another bus company, Megabus, has been packing in the budget travelers in recent years, since it offers cross-country fares for as little as £1 per person. The company's single- and double-decker buses serve an extensive array of cities across Great Britain with a cheerful budget attitude. In London, buses for all destinations depart from the Green Line bus stand at Victoria station. Megabus does not accommodate wheelchairs, and the company strictly limits luggage to one piece per person checked, and one piece of hand luggage.

Greyhound itself recently launched a low-cost bus service connecting London Victoria with several destinations on England's south coast, as well as Cardiff and Swansea in Wales.

Green Line serves the counties surrounding London, as well as airports. Bus stops (there's no central bus station) are on Buckingham Palace Road, between the Victoria mainline station and Victoria Coach station.

Tickets on some long-distance routes are cheaper if purchased in advance, and traveling midweek is cheaper than over weekends and at holiday periods.

Getting Around London

Private, as opposed to municipal, buses are known as coaches. Although London is famous for its double-decker buses, long articulated buses (locally known as "bendy buses") replaced the oldest buses—the beloved rattletrap Routemasters, which had the jump-on/off back platforms, under the previous mayor. However, these proved both unpopular and money-losing and are being phased out, to be replaced by a redesigned Routemaster in the near future. Two Routemaster "heritage" routes keep the old familiar double-decker buses working, however: the No. 9 travels through Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, and Knightsbridge, and the No. 15 travels from Trafalgar Square down Fleet Street and on to St. Paul's Cathedral.

Bus stops are clearly indicated; signs at bus stops feature a red TfL symbol on a plain white background. You must flag the bus down at some stops. Each numbered route is listed on the main stop, and buses have a large number on the front with their end destination. Not all buses run the full route at all times; check with the driver to be sure. You can pick up a free bus guide at a TfL Travel Information Centre (at Euston, Liverpool Street, Piccadilly Circus, King's Cross, and Victoria Tube stations; and at Heathrow Airport).

Buses are a good way of seeing the town, particularly if you plan to hop on and off to cover many sights, but don't take a bus if you're in a hurry, as traffic can really slow them down. To get off, press the red "Stop" buttons mounted on poles near the doors. You will usually see a "Bus Stopping" sign light up. Expect to get very squashed during rush hour, from 8 am to 9:30 am and 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm.

Night buses, denoted by an "N" before their route numbers, run from midnight to 5 am on a more restricted route than day buses. However, some night bus routes should be approached with caution and the top deck avoided. All night buses run by request stop, so flag them down if you're waiting or push the button if you want to alight.

All journeys cost £2, and there are no transfers. If you plan to make a number of journeys in one day, consider buying a Travelcard, good for both Tube and bus travel. Also consider getting a prepaid Oyster card, as single journeys are just over a pound using a prepaid card. Travelcards are also available in one-, three-, or seven-day combinations. Visitor Oyster cards cost £2 and can be topped up. They are available from ticket desks at Gatwick and Stansted airports or at any Tube station and are transferable if you have money left over. Traveling without a valid ticket makes you liable for a fine (£20). Buses are supposed to swing by most stops every five or six minutes, but in reality, you can often expect to wait a bit longer, although those in the center of town are quite reliable.

In central London, if you don't have a prepaid Travel- or Oyster card, you must pay before you board the bus. Automated ticket machines are set up at these bus stops, which are clearly marked with a yellow sign "Buy Tickets Before Boarding." Otherwise, you can buy tickets at most central London Tube stations as well as at newsagents and shops that display the sign "Buy Your TravelCards & Bus Passes Here." Outside the central zone, payment may be made to the driver as you board (exact change is best so as to avoid incurring the driver's wrath).

Bus Information

easyBus (www.easybus.co.uk.)

Green Line (0844/801–7261. www.greenline.co.uk.)

Megabus (0900/160–0900. www.megabus.com.)

National Express (08717/818–178. www.nationalexpress.com.)

Transport for London (0343/222–1234. www.tfl.gov.uk.)

Victoria Coach Station (0843/222–1234.)

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