Getting Around Belfast: Guide to Public Transportation

pink bus in belfast
The Metro buses offer the best way to get around Belfast on public transportation.

 William Murphy/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast is a relatively compact city that is easy to navigate on foot or bicycle. For those who want to explore the further corners of the city or use Belfast as a base to reach other parts of Northern Ireland, the city also has a public transportation system managed by Translink.

Locals tend to rely on cars to get around Belfast, but it is not necessarily worth it to rent a car if you plan to stick to the downtown area. Dealing with traffic and parking tend to outweigh the perks of having a car for a short time in the city.

Within the city center, buses are the most common form of public transportation, and this guide will show you how to get the most out of riding the bus in Belfast. Plus, find tips on using Northern Ireland’s train system, getting to and from the airport, and the best ways to navigate the city to save time and money.

How to Use Metro Buses in Belfast

The public bus service in Belfast is known as Translink Metro. However, don’t let the name fool you into thinking there is a subway service in the city; “metro” refers only to the above-ground buses. The bright, pink-colored buses are both single and double-decker. If you plan to travel outside of the Belfast area, these buses are managed by Ulsterbus.

The Metro buses run regularly and the most central bus stops can be found at the Europa bus station. The buses follow 12 different routes, and the Translink website has a modern journey planner to help you find the best travel options.

The standard cost of a one-time use ticket is 2.10 pounds, but there are travel passes available if you plan to take the Metro bus regularly during your time in Belfast. Some options for tickets include:

  • Metro City Zone: 2.10 pounds
  • Metro Daylink (for unlimited day travel): 3 pounds off-peak / 3.50 pounds at peak
  • Metro Weekly Travel Smartcards: 15 pounds
  • Metro Monthly Travel Smartcards: 55 pounds

You can purchase single tickets on board from the driver if you have cash. If you prefer to buy tickets ahead of time or want to purchase a travel card, the best places to purchase these in the city center are from the Metro Kiosk in Donegall Square West or at Visit Belfast Centre in Donegall Square North.

Most of the buses in Northern Ireland are accessible, but Translink provides a full accessibility guide to assist you in planning your trip.

You can use the trip planner on the Translink website to map your route and check the timetables for expected arrivals and departures. The website also has more information about purchasing tickets online whenever possible.

Taking Northern Ireland Railways

Belfast is also served by a series of trains which are managed by Translink, and which run to the major city suburbs and other Northern Ireland destinations. If you plan to take the train between Northern Ireland and Dublin, you will need to check the timetables and service information of Enterprise Train – a joint venture between Translink and Irish Rail. The trains depart every two hours.

Airport Shuttles

While Dublin is the busier airport, Belfast has its own transit hub known as the Belfast International Airport (BFS). The airport is located about 20 miles outside of the city but is well connected by the Airport Express 300 bus. The buses leave every 15 minutes during peak hours and operate 7 days a week. Timetables can be found on the Translink website, and tickets can be purchased for 8 pounds (single) or 11.50 pounds (return).

If you prefer to take a taxi, you can book ahead by calling the Belfast International Airport Taxi Company (+44 (0)28 9448 4353). Taxis are also almost always available in the official taxi rank outside. The fares will be according to the meter, and a sample list of current fares is always posted inside the airport terminal.

The much smaller George Best Belfast City Airport (BHD) is located just over a mile from the city center. It is served by regular Metro bus connections and tickets cost 2.60 pounds for the eight-minute journey. If you prefer to take the train, walk over the footbridge to Sydenham train station and take the next train to Belfast Central Station. Tickets are 2 pounds and can be purchased from machines inside the station.

If you plan to travel to Belfast from Dublin Airport, there are direct buses that depart the Irish capital for Northern Ireland. There is no need to travel into the Dublin City center to catch the bus to Belfast, simply check the timetables and find the best connection leaving directly from the airport. You can purchase your tickets on board, and the coaches are equipped with WiFi to help you pass the hour as you head north.

Bike Sharing in Belfast

Belfast has a bike-sharing program managed by Belfast Bikes that offers bicycles to rent at 30 different points throughout the city. Biking is a popular way to move about the city, and prices are very reasonable, with registration ranging from 6 pounds for three days to 25 pounds for an annual subscription. After that, the first 30 minutes are free and just one pound per hour after that.

Taking a Taxi in Belfast

There are four types of taxis that operate within the Belfast City Center, and the rules that govern where and when they can pick up passengers depends on if the cab has an A, B, C or D license. All official taxis are clearly marked, but the best way to get a cab is to find a taxi rank or call a reputable company to reserve a taxi at a specific place and time. Many taxis are prohibited from stopping when hailed, though these rules are relaxed between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.

Rates depend on the day of the week, and the hour of the day but usually start around 3 pounds. These rates should be clearly displayed inside the taxi, and the meter should be turned on. The final price will depend on the distance traveled.

Tips for Getting Around Belfast

Most of the main attractions in the center of Belfast are walkable, and it may be faster to go on foot, or hop on a bike share, rather than waiting for the bus. Buses are really best used if you plan to head out to the suburbs and neighborhoods outside of the downtown area, or when you plan to take the bus from Belfast to another part of Northern Ireland.

For shorter journeys, taxis are available at some taxi ranks downtown. However, some classes of taxis cannot be hailed within the city center. To be sure of getting where you need to go, you can also call ahead to book a taxi. One of the most popular companies is Value Cabs (+44 (028) 90809080).