UK and Ireland: Flights, car hire and transport


Flights to Britain and Ireland, airport guides, key destinations, transport, car hire, road rules and more.


Flight time from Australia: 17.5+ hours

  • You can now fly direct from Perth to London with Qantas.
  • Flights from other Australian cities are done in two legs, usually connecting in Asia or the Middle East.
  • The route is serviced by many airlines, including Qantas, British Airways, Virgin, Singapore Airlines, KLM, Garuda Indonesia, China Southern and Philippine Airlines.
  • Most international flights arrive at London Heathrow or London Gatwick, both these airports are quite a long way from central London. It's worth looking around for a flight that gets you closest to where you're staying, as the cost of a taxi could outweigh the money you save on a cheaper flight.
  • Most Australians won't need a visa to enter the UK or Ireland as a tourist (read more about visa rules), but depending on when you arrive you may experience long queues at immigration, especially at Heathrow. You may be quizzed about the purpose of your visit, or you may simply be waved through.
Warning: If you're flying via the UAE, Singapore, Brunei or any other country with strict drug laws, be sure to check that any medication you're carrying (such as strong painkillers, cold and flu tablets and ADHD medication) aren't illegal. In rare cases, airline passengers have been jailed when caught with medications that were classed as narcotics. If you're concerned, check with your airline or with the embassy of the country you'll be transiting through.

Air Passenger Duty is included in the cost of flights to and from the UK (excluding long-haul flights departing from airports in Northern Ireland). It is calculated by flight distance. There is no duty on flights in and out of Ireland.

Should you book directly with the airline or through a comparison site? See our tips on booking cheap flights.

England
Airport Distance from city
London Heathrow (LHR) 32km west of central London
London Gatwick (LGW) 45km south of central London
London Luton (LTN) 56km north-west of central London
London Stansted (STN) 64km north-east of central London
London City Airport (LCY) 9km east of central London
Manchester Airport (MAN) 15km south of CBD
Birmingham Airport (BHX) 15km south-east of CBD
Bristol Airport (BRS) 12km south-west of CBD
Newcastle Airport (NCL) 10km south-east of CBD
Scotland
Airport Distance from city
Edinburgh Airport (EDI) 15km west of CBD
Glasgow Airport (GLA) 15km west of CBD
Aberdeen Airport (ABZ) 8km north-west of CBD
Wales
Airport Distance from city
Cardiff Airport (CWL) 20km west of CBD
Ireland
Airport Distance from city
Belfast Airport (Northern Ireland) (BFS) 19km north-west of CBD
Dublin Airport (DUB) 9km north of CBD
Cork Airport (ORK) 6.5km south of CBD
Shannon Airport (SNN) 24km north of Ennis, 25km west of Limerick, 85km south of Galway
  • Airport code: LHR
  • 32km west of CBD.
  • The Heathrow Express train is the fastest way into central London. Departing from Terminals 2, 3 and 5 (shuttle available from Terminal 4), trains run every 15 minutes and take 15 minutes to reach Paddington station.
  • The slower TFL Rail service runs between Heathrow and Paddington station (replacing the old Heathrow Connext service). Trains depart every 30 minutes from Terminals 2, 3 and 4, with a free transfer train available from Terminal 5 (four trains per hour, with a six-minute journey time). The trip takes between 31 and 49 minutes.
  • Buses and coaches run to central London, other airports, some hotels, and stations on the national rail network.
  • Taxis leave from outside every terminal. Minicabs or private drivers can be pre-booked (a good idea if you need child seats).
  • Car hire companies Hertz, Avis, Europcar, National, Alamo, Enterprise, Budget and Sixt all operate out of Heathrow.
  • Airport website: heathrowairport.com

  • Airport code: LGW
  • 45km south of CBD.
  • Trains leave from the South Terminal and can be reached from the North Terminal by free shuttle.
  • The Gatwick Express train is the fastest way into central London. It leaves up to four times an hour and takes 30+ minutes to reach Victoria station.
  • Thameslink trains run to London Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon, St Pancras International and Luton Airport.
  • Southern trains runs to London Victoria and Brighton, among others.
  • Other train services can take you to destinations outside of London, including Brighton, Southampton and Reading.
  • Most buses leave from the South Terminal forecourt. Some also pick up passengers at the North Terminal.
  • Easybus runs to Earls Court/West Brompton and London Victoria coach station.
  • National Express runs to many locations including central London.
  • Taxis are available from both terminals.
  • Car hire companies operating out of Gatwick include Hertz, Avis, Europcar, Sixt, National, Alamo, Enterprise and Budget.
  • Airport website: gatwickairport.com

Taxis and rideshares

  • Metered taxis are common in all towns and cities. Go to taxi.uk.cabnumbers.com to find the number for a taxi service in your area.
  • Taxis can also be booked via apps such as Uber, MyTaxi or Gett.
  • Uber operates in both the UK and Ireland, however in Ireland you can only use the app to book taxis or limousines, not private drivers.

Trains

  • Britain's train services are run by many different private companies. Check nationalrail.co.uk for all timetables and fares, or once you know which company operates your train, check their website for a better price. You can also compare rates at thetrainline.com/farefinder.
  • The National Rail website is integrated with Ireland's rail and ferry network, so you can book a full journey from London to Dublin, for example, on the one ticket. For train fares within Ireland, go to irishrail.ie. Trains and buses in Northern Ireland are operated by translink.co.uk.
  • Trains and buses in Northern Ireland are operated by translink.co.uk.
  • Ireland's ticket types are fairly straightforward, but UK fares fluctuate greatly with different rates for fixed 'advance' tickets, semi-flexible 'off-peak' tickets, and fully flexible 'anytime' tickets, as well as first or second class seats. Generally, the earlier you book, the better price you'll get.
  • If you're planning on doing a lot of rail travel, consider a BritRail pass. It's only available to tourists, so must be purchased before you arrive in the UK.
  • For trains from London to Paris and mainland Europe, book at eurostar.com.

Tip: If you're in the UK for a while, a Railcard can save you 34% on most train tickets. The cards are available for over-60s, under-25s, families with children, people travelling in pairs and people with disabilities. They can be bought online at railcard.co.uk, but you must have a UK address for the card to be mailed to. Alternatively, they're available at stations, some UK travel agents, and Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Manchester Airports.

Buses and coaches

  • Buses and coaches are generally cheaper than trains, but they're also slower.
  • National Express (nationalexpress.com) is the main UK operator, offering discount Coachcards for under-26s, over-60s, families and people with disabilities.
  • Megabus (megabus.com) is another major operator with budget fares, and there are plenty of smaller local companies.
  • Bus Éireann (buseireann.ie) is Ireland's main operator. It has a range of passes available for travellers, including rail-bus combos.

Tip: During busy periods a bus may be a better option than a train. Buses can't oversell tickets, so you'll always be guaranteed a seat.

Domestic flights

  • Flying is an option if you have limited time for longer trips like London to Edinburgh or Dublin.
  • Carriers include British Airways, Virgin, EasyJet, RyanAir and more. You can book via their websites, or compare fares and book using sites like skyscanner.com and kayak.com.
  • And of course, flying to continental Europe is generally a cheaper and easier option than catching a ferry these days.

Ferries

  • Ferries connect the UK with Ireland and continental Europe (including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway and Sweden). 
  • Ticket prices can often be drastically cheaper than flying.
  • Hiring a car is a great way to see the region, particularly if you're planning to visit rural areas where public transport may not be convenient.
  • If you've been in the UK for less than 12 months, there's no need to get an international driving permit, you can drive on your Australian licence.
  • Many well-known companies operate in the UK and Ireland, including Avis, Thrifty, Hertz and Europcar.

Tip: It is possible to take a hire car by ferry between the UK and Ireland, but most companies will charge a substantial premium. It's usually cheaper to hire two separate cars.

  • Driving in London is not recommended as parking is scarce and traffic moves at a snail's pace, plus you'll be charged a congestion toll for entering the city.
  • Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road.
  • Mobile phones can only be used hands-free.
  • Where seat belts are fitted, they must be worn.
  • Car horns are banned in residential areas between 11:30pm and 7:00am, except in an emergency.
  • Priority is marked at most junctions - there is no general rule as to who should give way.
  • In the UK, children under 12 years' old, or under 135cm, must use an appropriate child seat.
  • Ireland has different rules regarding child seats, in accordance with the EU's child safety protection laws. All children under 150cms in height or 36kgs (79lbs) in weight must use a child restraint system.
  • The blood alcohol limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is .08%.
  • The blood alcohol limit in Scotland and Ireland is .05%.

Tip: Country roads can be very narrow in places. Drive slowly and be prepared to compromise with other drivers and back up if necessary.

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