The U.K. is an ideal starting point for travel in Europe and it may be cheaper than you think to see some famous sights. Whether you want to travel by plane, train or automobile, it is fairly easy to plan an exciting vacation somewhere new. This information has been put together to help you get started and give you some guidance on where to look but it is still worth checking the internet and local travel shops for any other possible bargains!
Remember: If you have a visa for the UK you will probably need a visa to visit other countries in the European Union (this is called a Schengen Visa), so make sure you start to plan early (2-3 months previous) and visit the International Student Support Service for help and advice. More information can be found on the Schengen Visa page
Important Safety Information
Before you travel – make sure visit Travel in Europe for important information on making sure you stay safe as well as what to do should you lose your bag and/or ID when travelling abroad.
Travelling by plane
Finding a Flight
These days it’s possible to get flights around the UK and Europe very cheaply. There is an airport in Cardiff and also Bristol, although the cheapest flights often fly from London Stansted or Luton.
Several budget airlines operate out of the UK and some of these airlines are listed below, though not all travel from all airports in the UK and you must take a look at each one to see where they fly to and from. It is worth subscribing to the mailing list of low cost airlines, as they will then email you with any special offers and events, some of which only last one or two days.
- http://www.flybe.com/ – Flybe has one of its hubs in Cardiff
- http://www.easyjet.com – Easyjet flies from Bristol, Luton, Stansted and Gatwick
- http://www.cityjet.com – Cityjet flies to selected locations from across the UK
- http://www.flybmi.com – BMI has an extensive network across the UK
- http://www.ryanair.com – Ryanair has hubs in Bristol, Stansted and Luton
- http://www.thomsonfly.com – Thomson Fly has a hub in Cardiff
- http://www.wizzair.com – Wizzair has a hub in Luton and Bristol
- http://www.monarch.co.uk – Monarch flies from Birmingham and London amongst others
When booking your flights you must be aware that even though sometimes offers say that flights are very cheap (sometimes even 1p) there is an extra charge for airline taxes which is normally between £15-£25 to be added to each flight. Even so, if you look around and are lucky, it is still possible to sometimes get return flights for less than £40.
You should also note that the best deals are found online and you will be expected to pay for your flights immediately with a credit or debit card. Though you can book over the telephone, you will still have to pay using a card (and it may be a premium rate number so be careful to check). If you plan on doing a lot of travelling and your bank or building society has not provided you with a debit card, you might like to think about asking them if they have a different account that offers that facility or changing your bank to one that does. Otherwise, you need to ask a friend or relative to give you their card details. If it is not possible for you to pay by debit or credit card, then you must visit a travel agent who will make the booking for you. There are several agents to be found in Cardiff or Pontypridd.
Additional Luggage Charges
Some airlines also charge you for any luggage that you will not be carrying as hand baggage. It is better to organise this at the time of booking as you will have to pay a higher price. (For example: at the moment some airlines are charging £10-15 per suitcase at the time of booking and double the price at the airport).
If you do decide that you are going to travel from a UK airport, you will need to think about how you are going to get there and whether you will be able to arrive at a time convenient for your flight.
To the airport by car
If you have a car then remember to always pre-book your parking if you can. It is more expensive to pay when you arrive. All airports have links to parking on their websites. You might like to try these sites as well, as they offer discounted airport parking:
- http://www.aph.com/ (Airport Parking and Hotels)
To Cardiff airport by public transport
If you do not have your own transport, the easiest way to travel to Cardiff airport is to get a bus from Cardiff central station. Cardiff Bus service X91 operates between Cardiff (Central Station) and Cardiff International Airport hourly on Monday to Saturday daytime and every two hours during the daytime on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. It costs around £6 for a single ticket. You can check the bus times by calling Traveline on 0870 608 2 608. If your flight from Cardiff is very late at night or early in the morning, you may have to get a taxi or ask a friend to drive you. There are now also hourly train connections from Cardiff and Trefforest to Rhoose (Cardiff International Airport). A shuttle bus operates between the railway station and the airport.
To Bristol airport by public transport
Bristol Airport offers the Bristol International Flyer shuttle bus. It connects from Bristol Temple Meads train station and Bristol bus station to the airport. It takes 30minutes and you just pay on boarding. You can check the timetable via the Bristol airport website. Buses run infrequently through the night so make sure you check that there is a bus which fits in with your flights. It is very easy to get a bus or coach to Bristol, just ask at a station or check the times and fares online through Traveline on 0870 608 2 608 or http://www.nationalrail.co.uk
To other Airports by public transport
If you are travelling from other airports across the UK then it is best to check the individual airport websites for advice on travelling. National Express operates connecting coach services between Cardiff and most airports, so check their routes, times and prices
Cardiff is also on the Megabus network, with a coach service running between Cardiff and central London. Fares start from £1 each way and have a £1.50 booking fee, so check their website for details of routes and fares and to make a booking. (You will need a debit card to book this service.)
From central London to the London airports
It is possible to catch a National Express connecting bus between London Central and the London airports. (check for current prices) You may prefer to travel by other means to central London and then connect to the airport from there.
Some travel agents sell National Express tickets so you don’t have book online (the nearest one to the University is in the Post Office, Mill Street, Pontypridd CF37 2SN) and they will give your ticket there and then.
When choosing your flights abroad, don’t forget to take into consideration the time and money you would need to travel to the airport. A flight from London might be £25 cheaper than one from Cardiff but it could cost you twice as much and a lot of time and effort to get there. A small amount of money saved on a flight is often not worth the difference in UK travel costs, so make sure you have a good idea of the total cost of travelling before booking anything.
Travelling by Coach
Some people prefer not to fly but to travel by train or coach. This obviously takes longer but you do get to see more of the countries through which you are travelling.
As well as offering UK travelling, National Express also offer travel across Europe through their Eurolines subsidiary. They offer routes to many different countries so make sure you check where they travel to.
It is important to remember that to travel by coach to another country can take a very long time, and journeys can take from between 16 and 39 hours. Although there are breaks on the journey and toilet facilities on board, some people do not find sitting for such extended periods of time comfortable. Remember to take some games, music, books (or a friend) to entertain yourself.
When checking for prices, click the ‘FUNFARES’ option from the homepage above. This will allow you to look for special cheaper prices on fares. Not all routes have a funfare option and most tend to leave from London. However, it may be that it is cheaper for you to book a funfare from London and travel there to pick up the coach than it is for you to pay for the journey from Cardiff to your destination.
If you want to travel around Europe by coach and taking in more than one country, then you could have a look at the Busabout website. This company offers flexible trips around Europe and further abroad. You choose which path (or loop) you would like to follow and pay according to this. They also offer organised adventure trips and accommodation.
Travelling by train
If you would like to travel by train then you can travel through the channel tunnel and into mainland Europe via Eurostar. The train leaves from London and arrives in Paris (France) 2hrs 35mins later or Brussels (Belgium) 2hrs 20mins later or Lyon (4hrs 41 mins). Prices start from £72 return to Paris, but if you want to travel on the weekend it could work out much more expensive, so make sure you check your time and date of travel carefully.
Eurostar often have special deals so that you can use your ticket to get reductions off restaurants, activities or shows in cities. Check the ‘Latest Deals’ section from the homepage above to make sure you get the most for your money.
It is possible for you to buy a single train ticket that allows you to travel in several countries in and around Europe. There are different companies that will sell you tickets to do this and you should look at each one carefully to decide which one is best for you – it depends on how long you want to travel for and how many places you want to visit. The three best known companies are listed for you here:
- Inter Rail – offer a variety of passes which can be used in 30 countries across Europe. Fares for these cyhange depending on age and duration of your stay.
- Eurail do similar passes but their quotes are in $ so you may need a currency converter to estimate the price.
- Rail Europe – again a very similar company to the others.
If you visit STA Travel, you are able to find links to most of the coach and train companies that offer special passes. As STA Travel deal exclusively with students they can sometimes get the best deals for you, not just on this type of travel but for flights and accommodation as well.
Organised coach and rail trips
If you would like to join an organised coach or rail trip, with accommodation included, then you might like to visit a local travel agent or check in the local paper for trips going from your area.
You can find organised trips online as well. Here are a few companies to start you off…
Most of the budget airlines mentioned about will give you the option of searching for hotels from their databases and may give you a reduction if you have flights booked with them as well, so it’s worth checking those out.
If you are travelling alone or in a small group, you may be interested in staying in a hostel. A hostel is like a hotel but where people share dorms (short for dormitories). The larger the number of people sharing a dorm, the cheaper the price. Most hostels offer all male or female dorms, but have mixed sex options available too. Staying in a hostel can be great fun as you get to meet lots of different people. They are normally very safety conscious places and precautions are taken to ensure that patrons sleep without worry. If you are travelling in a group you may be able to get a whole dorm to yourselves depending on how many of you there are. Although often quite basic and with shared bathroom facitities, a hostel can be a great way of keeping your budget down.
A great site when looking for accommodation in Europe (and across the world) is http://www.hostelworld.com. From here you can find hotels, apartments, hostels or campsites and reserve your room for a small deposit (you will need a debit or credit card to do this). You then pay the balance on arrival. The hostelworld website offers free pocket guides to many cities that can be printed out and taken with you. These include places to eat, places to visit and tips on saving money, so have a look at one of these before buying one.
In the International Zone In H027 we have a selection of Lonely Planet Guides to Europe, the USA and the UK. You are welcome to come and have a look at these and some are available to borrow for a few weeks, just ask one of the IISA team for details.
It is essential you get travel insurance to cover you on your trip to Europe. This should cover delays and medical emergencies on your journey, as well as the cost of replacing any belongings that may be lost while you are travelling.
You can buy travel insurance from the Post Office, any major travel agent, or from one of many online companies such as:
It is useful to approach several insurers to compare the different premiums on offer. You can compare many different online premiums using the MoneySuperMarket price comparison website.
Although we have put this information together for you, we will not be able to help you individually with your travel plans- you will need to go and see a travel agent if you need further assistance. However, we can offer some assistance in checking your application for a travel visa. You will need to check our Schengen Visa page to find out how to apply for the correct visa for each country.
Your visa could take up to 8 weeks to come through so make sure you make your appointment well in advance.
Important Safety Information
Before you leave – make sure visit the “Travel in Europe” site at :https://www.ukcisa.org.uk/Information—Advice/Studying—living-in-the-UK/Travel-in-Europe before you travel for important information on making sure you stay safe as well as the information you need should you lose your bag and/or ID when travelling abroad.