Public transport strategy Glasgow/Edinburgh as a tourist
May 9, 2022 8:45 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I are looking forward soon to 10 days in the UK, 7 of which will be in Scotland. Is there anything roughly equivalent to London's travelcard in Glasgow, Edinburgh, or the greater area? How can I get the most out of our transport budget?

We'll be staying in Govanhill in Glasgow and Central Edinburgh, as a scouting trip for a planned move next year. We'd like to explore buses, trams, subway, trains. What are the most economical options for a wide amount of public transport use for two persons over a week's time in Central Scotland?

(Already planning on the Two Together Railpass and then Travelcard for 3 days in London.)
posted by droomoord to Travel & Transportation around Scotland (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Edinburgh has a great bus service - look up Lothian Buses. Sorry, am on my phone so no links, but they have a very good bus/tram tracker app, and a separate ticketing app. But you can also just tap with a contactless bank card each time you get on and the cost of your daily journeys will be capped at the cost of a day ticket (about £4.50 off the top of my head). For that reason you need a separate card for each person. You can also buy singles (£1.80 anywhere in the city) or day tickets with cash but no change is given. The tram’s not going to be much help unless you’re heading to the airport, it mostly goes through residential/office areas.

Glasgow, I’m afraid, is truly the wild west when it comes to bus travel. I think it’s mostly First Bus and I regularly hear Glaswegians lamenting how unpredictable they are in regularity, cost and anything else you could reasonably expect of a bus service. The Glasgow subway is handy if you’re near it but pretty small (just one fairly central circular line) and inexplicably closes at something like 6pm on Sundays. Glasgow also has a pretty decent suburban railway service with trains going in/out of either Queen Street or Central, so always worth checking whether there’s a station near where you want to travel. IIRC Glasgow taxis are not bad value. I recall a visitor to the city for the Commonwealth Games in 2014 exclaiming how it was literally impossible to make a taxi meter go over £10 in Glasgow no matter how hard you tried, which is not quite true, but they always seem decent value to me.

There are no wider regional ticketing schemes/cards for things like buses across the central belt. Best way to travel between the two cities is by train (go via Queen Street, not Central, at the Glasgow end - quicker with more comfortable trains, no difference in price). You can also go more cheaply by bus but you’ll only save a few quid, it takes longer and is less pleasant. They do go quite late at night though so a good option if you need to travel later than the trains run.
posted by penguin pie at 9:35 AM on May 9, 2022

Best answer: Scotrail offers Plusbus tickets, you may find this helpful.
posted by Ardnamurchan at 9:37 AM on May 9, 2022

Best answer: There’s a Central Scotland Rover ticket too for trains in the area (plus the Glasgow subway)
posted by corvine at 11:50 AM on May 9, 2022

Best answer: As a resident of Glasgow I am deeply embarrassed by our total lack of an integrated public transport system. Govanhill is a great place to live though!

If you happen to be here in May and can arrange for your rail travel to happen at off-peak times Scotrail is running a 50% off sale which could be helpful.
posted by Lluvia at 3:28 PM on May 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just to add to my answer above - Edinburgh does have the Ridacard, which is the nearest thing to London's Oyster/travelcards - a plastic card with your picture on, that you buy in advance and then can use on buses and trams. It's kinda aimed at residents but I don't think there's really any issue with buying one as a tourist and using your accommodation address. It's £20 for a week, though, so depending how long you're here might not be any better value than just using a bank card for a series of rides. The easiest way to get one will be to go into the Lothian Buses TravelHub on Waverley Bridge (close to the railway station) when you arrive - they'll take your picture for you when you buy it if you do it in person like that.
posted by penguin pie at 3:30 PM on May 9, 2022

Response by poster: Thank you all so much. I am grateful for the London travelcard because I'm not going to spend enough time there to go through the transport fluency gauntlet. Makes sense to my life plans to go ahead and heartily commit to as much familiarity with getting around in Glasgow as I can during this trip because it'll be how we manage, living there. (Coming from North Carolina, I am very excited about the public transport system that Glasgow DOES have, as such options are perfectly dismal around here.)

I do have one outstanding question tho, might non-UK bank cards work for these things?
posted by droomoord at 4:27 PM on May 9, 2022

If it's Visa or Mastercard, and is set up for contactless payment, it should work - but check before you travel what charges or currency exchange costs you might incur. A prepaid sterling debit card might be useful for you.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:59 AM on May 10, 2022

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