Traveling in Scotland
There are so many beautiful places to visit in Scotland that you’ll want to travel around as much as you possibly can! Honestly, the variety of things to do in Scotland is amazing. To truly experience it, you have to get out and about.
Now, I’ve lived in several different countries, some of which I didn’t speak the local language. I do a lot of solo traveling, so I don’t usually have someone there to help me out. So trust me when I say that I understand being intimidated by travel options in foreign countries!
If you’re planning a trip to Scotland, you’ll have to know about the transportation options. Whether you’re thinking about a multi-leg journey or picking a home base and taking day trips, we’ve got tips to make the planning process go as smoothly as possible for you.
The first thing to know is that Scotland has quite reliable public transport. Most of mainland Scotland is easily accessible by train, and there are plenty of buses and coaches to fill in the gaps. The only places where we had any trouble getting around were in the extreme north and in the islands, but even then we managed. The locals are super friendly and willing to help you out!
Don’t know where to go? Check out our Scotland posts to see if a place strikes your fancy!
Travel Planning Websites for Scotland:
There are a few websites that will get you wherever you need to go in Scotland.
- Scotrail Scotrail is the national train service in Scotland. On their site, you can find trains, departure times, stations, and ticket prices. You can also book your tickets directly on the site.
- Traveline This is a great website for planning multi-leg journeys. You type in your starting point, your ending point, and it’ll show you the right combination of trains, buses, and trams to get there.
- Lothian Buses If you’re starting in Edinburgh, changes are you’ll use the city buses. This is the bus company that operates in Edinburgh and its immediate suburbs. It’s the cheapest and easiest way to get around town. Thrifty travelers will also appreciate the multiple options for getting from the airport to town and back. Bonus points: They’ve got an awesome app, which helps you find the right routes and stops! By far the easiest city bus system I’ve ever had to navigate.
- First Group This is the bus system that operates in the Greater Glasgow area. The website will help you find the route you need and the best ticket to buy. Like the Lothian Buses in Edinburgh, First Group has an app and accepts mobile tickets. This is also the bus company that services Glasgow Airport.
Pro Tips for Traveling in Scotland:
This is a list of all of our best tips for traveling in Scotland. Everything I wish I knew when planning that first trip!
For the Buses:
- If you’ll be out and about in Edinburgh, purchase a day pass from the bus driver. These cost £4.50, and are good all day.
- Bus tickets can be purchased either on the Lothian Bus app or from the bus driver. You can use the Lothian Bus app to pay with a mobile ticket – this is the best option if you’re using a credit card to budget.
- British people love their change. Don’t be afraid to pay for things using coins, even the small ones! Bus fare is a great way to clear out your change purse if you need to lighten the load.
- No matter which bus you’re taking, have exact change ready when you board! Bus drivers usually do not have change, since all fares are dropped in a lockbox which they cannot access.
- If you have bills but need coins for the bus, shopkeepers and cashiers are happy to trade. When asking someone to break a bill for you, be sure to mention that it’s for bus fare. Then, they’ll make sure they give you the right denominations of change for the bus.
For the Trains:
- Prices for train tickets are defined, in part, by the time of departure. Tickets for peak hours will be more expensive. Peak hours are Monday through Friday, 6 AM to 9:15 AM and 4:42 PM to 6:11 PM.
- On Scotrail, you have three options for return tickets: Normal, Anytime Day Return, or Off-Peak Day Return. The normal return tickets are good for long journeys, where you won’t be returning the same day. The other two allow you the option of returning on the same day. Off-Peak Day Returns can be used at any time, provided you are not traveling during peak hours (see point above). Anytime Day Returns allow you to travel at any time, including peak hours.
- If you’re traveling by train, book the Off-Peak Day Return whenever possible. This will be the cheapest option, and is valid for travel at any time of day except peak hours. Weekends are fair game.
- Train tickets can be purchased ahead of time, from the cashier at the train station, or from the ticket vending machines. For short rides, pre-booking is not usually necessary. However, if you’re in for a longer ride, it might be a good idea to book early.
- No matter what type of transport you choose, keep your ticket with you until you arrive at your destination! That is both your proof of purchase and your receipt, and the ticket checker will absolutely come by.
Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below! Happy traveling!