Long-distance buses usually provide the cheapest way to travel between England and Scotland; fares may be as little as a third of the rail fares for comparable trips and are cheaper if you buy in advance. However, the trip is not as comfortable as by train (no dining cart, smaller bathrooms, less spacious seats), and travel takes longer. Glasgow to London by nonstop bus takes 8 hours, 45 minutes; by train it takes about 5 hours, 30 minutes. Scotland's bus (short-haul) and coach (long-distance) network is extensive. Bus service is comprehensive in cities, less so in country districts. Express service links main cities and towns, connecting, for example, Glasgow and Edinburgh to Inverness, Aberdeen, Perth, Skye, Ayr, Dumfries, and Carlisle; or Inverness with Aberdeen, Wick, Thurso, and Fort William. Express service is very fast, and fares are reasonable. Scottish Citylink, National Express, and Megabus are among the main operators; there are about 20 in all. The Royal Mail Post Bus provides a valuable service–-generally twice-daily–-in the Highlands, Argyll, and Bute and the Western Isles. All buses are nonsmoking.
The London terminal is Victoria Coach Station for National Express and Megabus, which now offers a Gold service: a sleeper coach with seats that fold down into beds.
Discounts and Deals
On Scottish Citylink, the Explorer Passes offer complete freedom of travel on all services throughout Scotland. Three permutations give 3 days of travel out of a 5-day period, 5 days of travel out of 10, and 8 days of travel out of 16. They're available from Scottish Citylink offices, and cost £41, £62, and £93 respectively.
National Express offers discounted seats on buses from London to more than 50 cities in the United Kingdom, including Glasgow and Aberdeen. Tickets range from £12 to £50, but only when purchased online. Megabus (order tickets online), a discount service, has similarly competitive prices between major cities throughout Scotland, including Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Inverness, and Perth.
Travelers ages 16 to 26 are eligible for 33.33% reductions with the Young Persons Coachcard (£10).
Fares and Schedules
Contact Traveline Scotland for information on all public transportation and timetables.
For town, suburban, or short-distance journeys, you buy your ticket on the bus, from a pay box, or from the driver. You need exact change. For longer journeys—for example, Glasgow–Inverness—it's usual (and a good idea; busy routes and times can book up) to reserve a seat online.
Credit cards are accepted at most bus stations.
Traveline Scotland. 0871/200–2233; www.travelinescotland.com.
Megabus. 0900/160–0900; www.megabus.co.uk.
National Express. 0871/781–8181; www.nationalexpress.com.
Royal Mail Post Bus. www.royalmail.com.
Scottish Citylink. 0871/266–3333; www.citylink.co.uk.