Travel and Transport
Oxford is only 57 miles from London and there are many ways to travel; by train, car or bus. Oxford is a city in the South East region of England.
Getting to Oxford
While Oxford has an airport of its own at Kidlington, it is used mainly for private and charter aircraft and has very few scheduled domestic or international flights. The nearest commercial airports to Oxford are those around London, to the south-east, or Birmingham, to the north. Most foreign travelers prefer the London based airports Heathrow and Gatwick. Heathrow is the closer of the two to Oxford, and road access from both Heathrow and Gatwick is via the M25 (heading north and west respectively).
The Oxford Bus Company runs several airport bus services from the central Gloucester Green bus station (the coach stops along the High Street, outside Oxford Brookes University and in Headington, as well as other stops once the bus has left Oxford).
The Heathrow Express runs every half an hour from 4am to 10pm and hourly from midnight to 4am (Cost - £25 approx. Duration - 90 minutes)
The Gatwick Express runs hourly from 5.15am to 8.15pm and every two hours from 10pm to 4am. (Cost - £32. Duration - 2 hours)
The National Express Bus Company also runs less frequent airport bus services to Luton Airport and to Stansted Airport. For these airports it is best to check the websites and Gloucester Green timetables.
See under, More Bus Routes, to find out how NUS student card holders can save money when travelling on National Express or benefit from a Young Persons Coachcard.
Birmingham Airport is smaller and has fewer destinations than the London airports, but it is definitely the closest to Oxford in terms of public transport travel time.
Birmingham International Airport has its own railway station, which is connected to the airport terminal building via the free AirRail Link car shuttle. From the railway station, trains depart to and from Oxford every hour between 06:14 and 22:14 and take about an hour. A single ticket costs £25.50, a return £28.80 off-peak or £51 at peak travel times. You can get discounted tickets by booking in advance or by investing in a Young Persons Railcard. Check timetables and rail websites prior to traveling.
Oxford is linked to London by the south-eastern stretch of the M40 motorway (depending on traffic, which can be heavy, the journey varies between 50-90 min). The north-western continuation of the M40 also links Oxford with Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Parking and access restrictions are very stringent in the narrow streets of central Oxford. The roads are under constant surveillance by wardens and cameras and there is a risk of heavy fines. The council has also implemented circuitous and one-way traffic systems, making it difficult to get around by car.
An alternative is to use one of the five Park and Ride services which are located on the city outskirts on all sides of Oxford (well signposted). They offer free parking and, once on the park and ride the bus, take about 12 minutes to reach the city centre. £2 is charged for the return bus trip to the city centre. Be wary of using the Thornhill Park and Ride on weekdays, as it is very busy early on due to the London commuters.
The Oxford railway station is in the western part of the city centre Fast First Great Western trains run to and from London Paddington every half an hour, taking about an hour to complete the journey. Commonly, these trains call at Reading, Slough (for Windsor Castle), and Didcot Parkway though not all trains call at each of these stations. Tickets to London cost approximately £20 off peak without a railcard and £40 at peak times without a railcard, although you can buy tickets from about £4 if you book in advance and online. There are also stopping services to London calling at a large number of stations, which run every hour and take about 90 minutes to complete the journey.
In 2016 Oxford gained a new railway station; Oxford Parkway. This new station is between north Oxford and Kidlington. The trains from here will take you to Marylebone Station in London. Most trains take about 1 hour with no changes or an hour and a half with one change . Some will stop at Bicester Village as well as Islip and High Wycombe.
Most trains into Oxford allow bicycles to be carried for free.
Frequent services run from several convenient bus stops to Gloucester Green coach station in Oxford. Those coming from London usually begin at Victoria Station, running westwards via Marble Arch, Notting Hill, and Shepherd’s Bush and then on to Oxford. Stops in Oxford include, besides others, Thornhill Park and Ride, Headington, Brookes University, St Clements, High Street (Queen’s Lane), (which is best for daily visitors, as it’s right in the middle of the city centre) and finally, Gloucester Green, which is also well situated. Bus companies between London and Oxford include all of those mentioned before.
There are regular bus services between Oxford and London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports with the Airline.
There is also an X5 bus between Oxford and Cambridge, taking approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes, as well as buses from Bicester and Banbury operated by Stagecoach. There are also several coaches from other parts of the country that are run by National Express.
Getting Around Oxford and beyond
Oxford city centre is very compact and easy to walk around. Many areas of the city centre are pedestrianized, and all major tourist sights are well signposted. The very centre of the town is pedestrianized, and no cars excepting emerging vehicles are allowed. This creates a highly enjoyable shopping experience on foot.
All the streets of the city centre, including the small and narrow, are pedestrian friendly but difficult for cars.
Many students use bicycles to get around and, as in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, there are thousands of them. Although there are cycle lanes on virtually every street near the cnetre, they do share the road with other motorists. Extra care should be taken cycling around buses which have blind spots where cyclists cannot be seen. Never cycle past on the inside of buses or lorries.
The familiar sight of cyclists to local drivers makes cycling safer than other towns, but many accidents happen each year, often due to dangerous cycling. If you are thinking of cycling in the UK, make sure you are familiar with the UK Highway Code for cyclists as laws do apply. It is also vital that you use lights at night; local police frequently set up checkpoints and there is a fine for cycling without lights. Bike parking is available everywhere, just be sure to buy a strong lock to keep it safe, and don’t leave anything valuable on the bike.
As of 2016, Oxford Brookes University has provided ten new electric powered bikes on campus for students and staff to make eco-friendly trips around their four main campuses. Furthering on this initative, Brookes has also partnred up with dockless bike company Pony Bike. Pony Bikes has planted one-hundered distinctive green bikes around the city which can be rented for a small fee, encouraging workers, students and tourists alike to see our fantastic city by bike.
The best information can be found on the Cycle into Oxford map, available from the tourist office (15 Broad Street Oxford, OX1 3AS), which shows all local cycle routes. You can also hire bikes from Cyclo Analysts (150 Cowley Rd; per day/week £10/27).
Buying a Bicycle
A lot of people choose to invest in a bicycle. They are tremendously useful in Oxford: quick, reliable (or at least, with bike shops all over Oxford, never too difficult to fix), and a good sort of on-the-go exercise for busy types. Something worth remembering though bike thieves are everywhere, and tend to have lots of free time on their hands - to get a decent lock, and don’t use your £600 racing/road bike to get to lectures. It is worth buying a cheaper, second hand one for £30 or so for day-to-day travel.
Hiring a Bike
Bike hire has never been so easy or accessible with Pony Bikes, an app that allows you to hire dockless bikes from various nearby locations around Oxford. Simply download the app, set your location, and see where the nearest available bike is to pick up, and once you're done simply leave the bike at any location. Prices for bike hire start at £0.50 for per half an hour or alternatively £35 for students per term.
It is best to avoid driving in central Oxford. Traffic is heavy, the one-way system can be complicated to newcomers, the streets are often very narrow with restrictions, and parking can be expensive. It is advised to use public transport such as the Park and Ride bus system where possible.
Local buses are mostly operated by the Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach. Fares are expensive (but less so than in other British cities) and a flat single rate within the city was recently introduced. If you plan on making more than two trips in a day, it might be worth buying an all-day pass to save money. The main hubs for local buses are the rail station, St Giles and St Aldate’s. If you are in town for a while, you may want a rechargeable smart-card that gives a discount on bus fares. With a valid BROOKESKEY, Oxford Brookes Students can get £1 travel (single journeys) on most Oxford buses.
The BROOKESKEY also allows free travel on all the Brookes Bus services and is very handy for traveling around the city. The service covers a large area from Gipsy Lane to Wheatley, Harcourt Hill, and Cowley (U1 / U1X / U4 / U5 / U5X).
Note that after midnight you will be charged £1, with a valid BROOKESKEY, to ride on the Brookes Bus Night services (NU1 / NU1X / NU4 / NU5 / NU5X).
Oxford has both black cabs (also known as Hackney Carriages), which can be flagged down from the street or taken from taxi stands located around the city, and ‘minicabs’ which must be ordered by phone. Meter taxis are quite pricey but are convenient for short journeys if travelling in a big group. Minicabs are much cheaper for long-distance journeys; the fare should be agreed over the phone when booking or should be bargained with the driver. Never get in a minicab without agreeing the price or checking they have a hackney carriage license. Some local firms offer both hire cars and taxi cabs, and some offer student discounts when booking a taxi through their apps.
Oxford also now offers Uber as an option for cheap taxis. You can download the app via your smart phone and book journeys of any length and pay on the app using paypal or your bank card. There are options to carpool with others to cut the fare price or you can travel alone. Uber prices are usually considerably cheaper than other taxi services so are a good mode of travel whether you're travelling individually or as a group.
Taxi Contact Numbers
- ABC Taxis: 01865 770077 / 01865 775577
- 001 Taxis: 01865 240000
- A2B Oxford Taxi: 01865 477777 / 01865 477477
- Radio Taxis: 01865 242424 / 01865 249743
- Royal Cars: 01865 777333
- Oxford Cars: 01865 406070 / 01865 406080
- Oxford City Cars: 01865 703030 / 01865 703333
- Elite Cars: 01865 250500
- Star Cars: 01865 777695
- Go Green Taxis: 01865 922222
Day Trips and National Travel
Getting to London by Bus
One of the great things about living in Oxford is its proximity to London. The Oxford–London bus route is busy, with three companies offering services throughout the day and night. Most, if not all, services are reliable and all start their journey at Gloucester Green bus station, going up through Headington, stopping at Brookes and the Thornhill Park and Ride. In the UK, it is customary to pay the bus driver as you get on the bus. Make sure you have money in your wallet as they usually only accept cash or prepaid travel cards.
Runs every 10 minutes to Buckingham Palace Rd (return £13, 1½ hours).
(Cost for Brookes Key card holders only £10).
X90 Oxford Express
Runs up to every 15 minutes to Victoria coach station (Cost - Return £13 approx. Duration - 1½ hours).
Cost - One way from just £1 from Oxford Thornhill Park and Ride to London Victoria). Duration - 1hour 20 minute average travel time. Megabus also offers tickets on the Oxtube from just 90p if booked far enough in advance.
Megabus runs from Thornhill Park and Ride and travels to several different stops in London.
More Bus Routes
National Express has five direct buses to Birmingham (Cost - £10.20. Duration - 2 hours). One service to Bath (Cost - £8.90. Duration - 2 hours) and Bristol (Cost - £12. Duration - 2¾ hours). Again these services start their journey at Gloucester Green bus station.
For students, you can easily save money on National Express through either a NUS Extra card or a Young Persons Coachcard. No matter your age, as long as you are a student, you can apply for a NUS Extra ** card which will, for a limited time, give you 25% off travel with **National Express. If you are aged 16-26 and/or are a full-time student, you can buy a Young Persons Coachcard, which only costs £12 for 1 year or £27 for 3 years. This will give you a 1/3 off standard fares including peak and off- peak times, weekends, bank and public holidays. This card also entitles you to 10% off travel for events and festivals.
Stagecoach serves most of the small towns in Oxfordshire and runs the X5 service to Cambridge (Cost - £7. Duration - 3½ hours) roughly every half-hour. If you’re planning a lot of bus journeys it’s worth buying a Goldrider pass (£18), which allows unlimited bus travel in Oxfordshire for seven days.