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15 tips for surviving public transport in Scotland

surviving transport scotlandHappy Travel Tuesday!

I still have a vivid memory of standing at a crossing in St Andrews my first week of living in Britain and looking right and then left and then right again, until I decided to just make a run for it. While that worked for me at the beginning of my expat life here I decided that I would share my best tips on surviving the roads in Scotland.


1 || Yellow means go for cars
For some reason that still escapes me, yellow comes just before green in traffic lights, so car drivers often start driving at the amber light. As a pedestrian, I would highly recommend being very careful when that happens. It personally baffles me because I checked and the British highway code explicitly says ‘When the amber light is flashing, you MUST give way to any pedestrians on the crossing.’ (Rule 196).

2 || Zebras give the right of way
Zebra crossing (because they love a good animal named crossing here) is a simple crossing with zebra like lines on the ground – they are easily noticeable. You have right of way on those. Pelican crossings are the ones with traffic light – but please see #1.

3 || Pavement rules
So pavements in Scotland aren’t very big, that’s just a general reality. However, when you find yourself having two or three meters of pavement, that usually mean it’s also considered a bicycle path, so be careful.


4 || Singles and Returns
My first time using a bus in St Andrews, I asked for a one-way ticket and the bus driver looked at me like he couldn’t understand what that meant and then asked me ‘single or return?’ That’s what they are referred to here, get with the terminology.

5 || Food and drinks
In most buses, you aren’t allowed to bring in hot beverages or hot food. I made that mistake and had to throw the whole thing away.

6 || Day passes
Like many other places, there are day passes available for bus transport. Edinburgh is one of them, Glasgow has it for the tube too, and regional bus systems often offer something as well. In Fife, there is a deal for three passengers to travel for the day at a reduced price. Always good to be aware of these.

7 || Bus drivers
So…..this is awkward, but let’s just be frank, bus drivers (not all, but most) in Scotland are rude. That’s just a reality, Scotland doesn’t do customer service well and bus drivers are included in that. However, you may meet the rare nice driver who will advise you on where to get off, not yell at you for using a £20 bill to pay for a £2 fare, or simply not close the doors and drive away when you’ve reached the bus stop.

8 || Exact fares
Be weary that some buses only take exact fare so if it’s £1.50 don’t put a fiver in cause you’re not getting your change back!


9 || Be aware of train times
Like anywhere else in the world, peak tickets are more expensive than off-peak. However, be aware that peak times is different for every line. Some lines will be okay to travel at 5pm and others won’t. Weekend is always off peak.

10 || Ticket prices
Buying a day return will often be less expensive than buying a single, so it is worth doing day trips if you can. If you can’t, but you know your itinerary, buying tickets well in advance will definitely reduce the costs.

11 || Break down
So – this isn’t completely legit, but I still recommend it if you’re having to buy last minute train tickets (and it definitely applies to England too), breaking down your journey often lowers the price of the ticket. Let’s say buying a ticket from London to Darlington and then Darlington to Edinburgh – though you need to make sure you are allowed on the train at anytime so you don’t have to change trains.


12 || Book in advance
If you are bringing a car on the ferry, I would definitely book in advance. You don’t want to arrive one morning and realise you’re in the standby lane and can’t continue your holiday.

13 || Rail and sail
On some routes, you are able to purchase join tickets which allow you to train and then take a ferry to your destination. Details here


14 || Cycle paths
Be aware that there are not many cycle paths around and most cyclists will use the normal roads. This is a very ancient country, so there are rarely space by the side of the road to cycle, so cyclist and drivers must share the road.

15 || Hire for the day
If you don’t have a bike but fancy a tour of a city, often there are schemes available. Stirling and Glasgow offer Nextbike (like the London Santander Cycles or ‘Boris bikes’) and other towns like Largs and Linlithgow offer Bike & Go.

Now please go, visit Scotland, enjoy it and don’t get killed by a bus because you looked the wrong way!xx

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