Journals from England Fall, (University of Nottingham)
2009-11-30 Buses, trains, and planes, oh my!
Tim and Dave catch up on their beauty sleep after a day of sightseeing in Birmingham and eating chocolate at Cadbury World in nearby Bournville.
30 Nov. 2009
I realized a few days ago that I will be back in Oregon in less than two months. I still can't believe it. I feel like I'm just now settling in to life in England; I know how to get around town, I don't feel lost any more, and I'm slowly ridding myself of American phrases and vocabulary whilst adopting the British versions.
Last week, the Linfield group and a few of our English friends celebrated Thanksgiving at T.G.I. Friday's, which was really fun and festive, but it did make me feel a bit homesick. Somehow an overpriced American diner (and dinner) can't quite compare with the comfort foods of home... Also I've been craving Taco Bell incessantly over the past few weeks. But anyway, Thanksgiving was excellent, and we got the idea from last year's Linfield group, so I guess that makes it a tradition now. If you're on this trip next year, keep the tradition alive!
This blog entry is about travelling... without a car! Yes, I know this is something most of us Americans are not accustomed to, but I happen to think it's much nicer to let someone else do the steering so you can enjoy a nice nap or catch up on some reading. Since you can't get your license in the UK until you turn 18, and since fuel and insurance are quite expensive here, most students don't have their own cars. This is much different from Linfield, where you can always find someone to give you a ride if you don't have a car of your own. Consequently, mass transit here is usually pretty good. Here is a rough overview.
Buses: The University of Nottingham is on the outskirts of the city centre. It is about a 2-mile walk into town, so most people just use the bus instead. There are two main bus companies that operate in town, Trent Barton and NCT. Their websites are www.trentbuses.co.uk and www.nctx.co.uk. Bus fares are 1.50-1.60 pounds for a single, or 3.00-3.40 pounds for a return (round-trip) or a day pass. NCT is the cheaper bus line, so that's the one I usually go with, although sometimes the Trent Barton buses take me closer to my destination, so I occasionally use those. The bus drivers are usually pretty friendly, and if you are ever lost you should just ask a bus driver for help and he will steer you in the right direction.
Taxis: A taxi from the university to the city centre costs 7-10 pounds. This is a good choice only if you are traveling in a group of 4-5, or if you are by yourself and don't feel comfortable riding a bus alone late at night. If you have a group of 5, this is about the same price per person as the buses, but you always have to deal with people who don't have change immediately and must pay someone back later. The people during orientation week will provide you with several numbers for taxis, as there are a few competing companies.
Trains: If you are leaving the city for a day or weekend trip, a train is the most common way of getting around. You can also use a coach (think English version of Greyhound), but since I haven't used those here I won't be mentioning them. Train tickets are extravagantly cheaper when you buy them in advance (preferably two weeks in advance, although one week in advance is not bad either). One of the first things you should do in town is go to the train station (or go online) and purchase a Youth Rail Card for about 26 pounds. This gives you 1/3 off of all train travel, and you will make this up in savings with only a few journeys out of town. Two good Websites to use for train travel (you can buy tickets, look up timetables, etc.) are www.nationalrail.co.uk and www.qjump.co.uk.
Planes: Opportunities abound for cheap airfare in the UK. Ryan Air and Easy Jet are the two main discount airlines. They often offer flights for 5-10 pounds, although when taxes are added the total can be anywhere from 30 to 70 pounds. I've used Ryan Air to fly from East Midlands Airport (Just outside Nottingham) to Dublin, and I will be flying to Rome in less than two weeks. There is a bus called SkyLink that will take you from the city centre to the airport for a very reasonable price. They are definitely bare-bones airlines, but they get you from point A to point B, and Ryan Air is the most traveled airline in the UK. One thing to keep in mind is that these airlines usually only allow for one carry-on item (with strict size limits), and if you want to check in a bag there is a fee of 15 pounds and the maximum weight is 10 kilos (about 22 pounds). For airfares and more information, go to www.ryanair.com, www.easyjet.com, or www.skyscanner.net.
Well, that's all the travel information I have for you. I have been to a lot of cities since arriving here, and for winter break I will be ambling through Europe. If there is one thing I can stress about studying abroad, it's that you need to travel as much as you can! There's so much to see in the UK it would be a waste not to visit lots of cities when you are only a few hours away from most destinations.