Getting Around Birmingham, England: Guide to Public Transportation

A platform of Birmingham Moor Street station
Massimo Borchi/Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

Birmingham is a relatively easy city to navigate, whether you prefer to take public transportation, rent a car, or navigate on foot. Visitors can get around central Birmingham in various ways, including Network West Midlands' buses and trams. The city center is also very walkable, with Birmingham Moor Street station and Birmingham New Street station within walking distance of many of the city's attractions, including Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Jewellery Quarter.

Because the trains arrive frequently and are well-connected, those who want to travel outside Birmingham for day trips can find several options that don't require a car. Birmingham Airport is also connected to the city center via rail, with regular trains running between the airport and Birmingham International station. Here's everything you should know about using public transportation in Birmingham.

How to Ride Network West Midlands

Buses and trams, operated by Network West Midlands, are the main mode of public transportation in Birmingham. As Network West Midlands also operates public transport through the general region of England's West Midlands, the buses and trams connect different areas of Birmingham and connect Birmingham to nearby cities and towns. It's a good way to get around, especially if you prefer not to drive or deal with parking.

It can take some practice to navigate the different bus routes, but many routes operate late into the evening and during the weekends, making them a good option for getting around town any time of day.

  • Fares: The fares can vary based on your destination. If you are sightseeing, opt for a one-day bus pass, which costs 4.80 pounds for an adult ticket and 4.20 pounds for an adult off-peak ticket. A combined bus and tram one-day ticket costs 6.80 pounds per adult.
  • How to Pay: Tickets can be purchased on the bus or tram, at a travel center, or via mobile app. Use Transport for West Midlands' fare checker website to find your rate. If paying by cash, be sure to have exact change for the driver. Network West Midlands also offers a pay-as-you-go card called Swift to tap on and off of public transportation.
  • Routes and Hours: The buses and night buses operate dozens of routes, while the tram, known as West Midlands Metro, connects Birmingham Bull Street with Wolverhampton via numerous stops. Find the best route using the local area maps on Network West Midlands' website.
  • Service Alerts: Network West Midlands keeps a list of all planned and unplanned service disruptions on their website. Travelers can search by date of travel to see what stops and routes are affected.
  • Transfers: It's necessary to purchase a new ticket to transfer between the tram and the bus, so if you plan to take multiple rides either opt for a day ticket, which allows for unlimited travel, or use a Swift card, which maxes out at a certain fare (there are three-day and seven-day caps on Swift cards).
  • Accessibility:  Birmingham's buses have facilities for easy access for wheelchair users and strollers. Those who are disabled and live in the West Midlands should apply for a disabled person's pass, which allows free access to the buses and trams.

Riding the West Midlands Railway

West Midlands Railway runs throughout the West Midlands to destinations like Coventry and Birmingham. It operates from several stations in Birmingham, including Birmingham Moor Street, Birmingham International, and Birmingham New Street. The train is the best option for travelers who are taking day trips to nearby attractions or destinations, like Stratford-upon-Avon. The trains have free Wi-Fi, luggage storage, and toilets on board. For those with limited mobility, all of West Midlands Railway's trains permit wheelchairs and scooters and offer priority seating.

  • Fares: Train fares vary drastically depending on when you book, your destination, and whether you have a discount railcard. There are five main ticket types: Advance, Off-Peak, Anytime, Flexi Season, and Season. Look for Advance or Off-Peak fares to find the cheapest options. If you plan to travel regularly by train during your visit, it's worth purchasing a railcard for discounts. Download the mobile app to purchase digital tickets.
  • Service Alerts: Check West Midlands Railway's website for planned engineering works that might delay or interrupt your journey. The website also lists any current service disruptions and features a live departures and arrivals page.

Trains Around England

While West Midlands Railway connects the region around Birmingham, there are also several train lines that travelers can use to get from Birmingham to destinations like London and Manchester. It's about two hours from Birmingham New Street to London Euston via Avanti West Coast. Trains run regularly from 5:29 a.m. until 11 p.m. on weekdays. Direct trains are also available from Birmingham to Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, and Oxford, as well as other popular cities. Those planning to go to Scotland can transfer in Manchester to get to Edinburgh or transfer in Warrington to get to Glasgow.

Taxis and Ride-Sharing Apps

Birmingham has several taxi services, which can be pre-booked online or hailed on the street. The two most popular are TOA Taxis and T.C. Cars. TOA Taxis has its own app, which visitors can use to call a car anywhere in the city or to plan a journey in advance. T.C. Cars is a good pick for those who need wheelchair access in their car. Uber also operates in Manchester, which can be used via its mobile app. Uber is often cheaper than a taxi, especially when going to and from the airport.

Bikes

Birmingham is a popular city for cycling and it boasts lots of paths alongside its scenic canals. West Midlands Cycle Hire is available throughout the city center. Hire a bike using your smartphone from over 50 docks (return it to the nearest dock when you arrive at your destination). All docking stations can be found via Midlands Cycle Hire's app, which notes how many bikes are currently available to hire and if there’s space available to park. Bikes cost 5 pence per minute, plus a 1 pound unlock fee. Be sure to follow the rules of the road when cycling in Birmingham, especially if you are used to traffic going in the opposite direction. Other bike rental companies include Brompton Bike Hire, Cycle Chain, and On Your Bike.

Renting a Car

It's easy to rent a car when in Birmingham and having one can be especially helpful if you plan to leave the city for various day trips. Car rental shops can be found in the city center, but Birmingham Airport has the largest selection due to the various rental companies at the airport. Be sure to add the GPS to your rental, as some of the roads in England can be confusing. If you're new to driving in the U.K., do a little advance preparation and learn what various street signs and road markings mean. For those who need to park a car in central Birmingham, Visit Birmingham has a helpful list of parking lots and garages.

Tips for Getting Around Birmingham

Getting around Birmingham, especially in the city center, is relatively seamless, but there are a few tips that can make your trip even more stress-free.

  • On Christmas Day in England, most public transportation shuts down completely, so opt for a taxi or Uber. Services are also limited on Boxing Day. Pre-book a taxi if you plan to travel on Christmas.
  • While many of the trains and the trams are not available late at night, many buses continue running, and there are also always taxis and Ubers available. Be sure to check the last tram or train time online, so you don't miss it.
  • If you need more help, pay a visit to the Network West Midlands Travel Information Centre, located in New Street Station's forecourt. It's open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The information center is not open Sundays or bank holidays.
  • Download the Trainline app to help search and book travel. It's an easy way to search all options to get to your destination. It's most frequently used for train tickets, but visitors can also look for bus options.
  • Visit Birmingham partnered with AccessAble to help travelers with disabilities get around Birmingham. The website and its app can help visitors find accessible hotels, restaurants, and attractions, as well as give information on how to best reach them. Transport for West Midlands also operates a Ring and Ride service for those whose disability prevents them from using public transport.
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