travelling uk

What’s the Same and What’s Changing in UK Travel

Traveling in the US and “travelling” in the UK are two vastly different ventures, and in more ways than just driving on opposite sides of the road. While not many US citizens travel internationally compared to their UK counterparts — about 42% of Americans have passports, compared to 76% of British citizens — even domestic journeys come with their variations. From cars and trains to buses and planes, people in both places have preferred methods of getting around, as well as preferred places to get to.

People from both places love buses

People in the US and the UK are both fans of taking buses to travel domestically. In the US in 2014 alone, 604 million passengers traveled on a motorcoach bus; in the UK, 1 billion people a year travel by motorcoach. Although buses make for longer journeys than trains or planes, the low prices make them a near-irresistible option.

Many UK citizens use trains to travel domestically

Because the island of Great Britain is so small, it’s common and relatively inexpensive to get around by train. To go from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, all the way down to London is only about a four-and-a-half hour journey by train, and even the ferry required to cross over to Northern Ireland is included in the price of a train ticket.

US citizens generally use planes to get around at home

Although there are some beautiful rail routes available in North America, traveling by train isn’t quite as common in the states as in the UK. When traveling domestically, citizens generally use planes to get from city to city. This is likely due to the massive size of the US, which is also reflected in ticket cost: a $352 average for domestic travel.

The UK may be falling behind on business travel

Data from the annual Travel Trends survey produced by Britain’s Office of National Statistics appear to show that Britain’s business travel sector has fallen out of step with the rest of the world. The report summarises visits abroad by UK residents and visits to the UK by overseas residents. The latest figures show that the number of business trips made by UK residents grew modestly — up by just 7,000 to 7,156,000 in 2016, a rise of 0.1%. This falls a long way behind the historical average annual growth rate of 2.8% experienced since 1980.

At the same time, the survey reports that last year overseas residents made 9,187,000 business trips to the UK, up by 322,000 from 8,865,000 the previous year. This 3.6% growth in the number of trips is right on the long-term average.

There are two likely scenarios. The first is that business travel has undergone a systemic change since 2008 and that people are travelling less on business than before. This is a possibility but given that overseas visitors have not stagnated at the same rate it seems unlikely, unless the UK is leading the charge in travel demand management and finding alternatives to travel.

The second, more likely, reason is the UK economy’s dependence on the financial services sector. The City of London generates almost 10% of the UK’s GDP. While there was a lot of talk about a cull of jobs in the City of London after 2008, this has largely not happened. What has happened is that many banks have cut back on travel. This may well explain the divergence of the UK from the rest of the world.

One positive note in UK travel is the fact that chauffeur services are as popular as ever. In fact, as competition with other transportation forms heats up, chauffeur prices have actually become inline with traditional taxi services. Services such as Cars Exec at cars-exec.com that serve the entire United Kingdom and offer airport transfers as well as corporate and executive travel are doing very well.

Traveling internationally is much cheaper from the UK

One of the most shocking things about international travel in the UK compared to the US, says visitengland.com, is the cost difference. To get from the US to any other country — including Mexico and Canada — costs about $502 on average. Across the pond, on the other hand, travelling from the UK to other parts of Europe can cost as little as £15 (or $20) round trip (minus luggage fees of course) thanks to budget airlines.

Many Brits are bilingual — Americans less so

According to a 2012 study, 39% of Brits are bilingual; meanwhile, only 20% of Americans can carry a conversation in a language other than English. Still, English-speakers from both countries have nothing against places like Scandinavia, where it is common to speak at least two or more languages.

US citizens are less likely to travel internationally

When picking out vacation destinations, traveller.com notes that Americans are more likely to travel domestically than British citizens on holiday — in fact, 83% of American trips are domestic, according to MMGY Global. UK citizens tend to travel out of the country more regularly, their favorite destinations including Spain, France, and Italy.

British currency is more valuable than American currency abroad

Citizens of both places who go abroad will find that their money becomes more valuable in most other countries. However, Americans are worse off financially than Brits traveling in the EU and the Cayman Islands.

In the UK, people will complain that a one-hour drive is too far

There’s a major difference in driving habits between the US and the UK. In the US, driving six hours to vacation is considered easy; in the UK, even a one-hour drive is seen as exhausting.

It all boils down to the size of the two nations. To drive from the top to the bottom of England takes just under 9 hours, so one hour seems like a relatively long time. In the US, it takes 15 hours to drive across Texas alone, so six hours in the car is a relatively quick journey.

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