Like London, Manchester has a vast and reliable public transportation system. Known as Transport for Greater Manchester, or TfGM, the system connects the city's central part with its outskirts via tram, bus, and train. The tram, a light rail system, is called Manchester Metrolink and is the primary public transportation method in Manchester, connecting 99 total stops.
Manchester is actually quite sprawling when you consider the suburbs and surrounding areas. Still, the trams and buses connect most places, which means it's unnecessary to rent a car when visiting the city. Here's what you should know about using public transportation in Manchester.
How To Ride the Manchester Metrolink
Many commuters and visitors in Manchester use the Manchester Metrolink, which extends 65 miles and includes 99 stops. It's the longest and most extensive light rail in the U.K. It can often be quicker than driving, thanks to traffic in the city.
- Fares: Metrolink has four zones, each with its own price structure. Single journeys in Zone 1 start at 1.40 pounds for an adult. If you plan to move around the city a lot during your stay, opt for a single-day travel card or a seven-day travel card, which can save you a lot of money. A single adult ticket traveling from Zone 1 to Zone 4 starts at 3.80 pounds. Certain groups are entitled to a discount, including children, 16-18 year olds and families traveling together.
- How to Pay: Use a contactless credit or debit card or the mobile ticket app to tap in and out of your journey without needing to buy a separate ticket. There are also traditional ticket machines at each tram stop. Those staying longer should opt for a System One Travelcard, which allows the use of the bus, train, and tram around Manchester for one, seven, or 28 days.
- Routes and Hours: During the week and on Saturdays, Metrolink runs from 6 a.m. until midnight, while on Sundays, it runs from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. The frequency of the trams varies depending on the time of day. There are different lines on Metrolink, all of which connect in central Manchester. Check the transport map for your best route.
- Service Alerts: Manchester Metrolink occasionally has delays or service outages. Stay in touch with its current status on the TfGM website, which has live updates for all routes. The website also lists any upcoming service interruptions.
- Transfers: Transfers between tram lines are easy to do, especially as most of the routes intersect at various points. Ticket prices are determined by zone, so it doesn't cost anything additional to change lines. Those using a contactless card to pay don't need to tap in and out when transferring trams.
- Accessibility: All Metrolink trams and its tram stops are wheelchair accessible. Those using a mobility scooter will need a valid mobility scooter permit to bring a scooter on one of the Metrolink trams. Each tram has a designated area for wheelchairs and scooters and designated seats for those who have trouble standing. More information on Metrolink's accessibility is available on their website.
Riding the TfGM Buses
TfGM also has a range of bus lines that connect greater Manchester in addition to Metrolink. There are over 100 different routes, so chances are there's a bus in the direction you want to go. Many of the routes, including buses to Manchester Airport, also run a limited overnight schedule. Various companies run some of the buses in Manchester, so check online when planning a journey.
- Fares: Tickets for the buses are available as single journey tickets or bus passes, which are the best option if you plan to make multiple trips. Tickets can be purchased on board the bus from the driver with cash, but it's easiest to use a contactless credit card. System One Travelcards can also be used on most buses.
- Service Alerts: Any upcoming planned service changes can be found on the TfGM website.
Free TfGM Buses
Manchester offers three free bus routes in the city center. The routes include stops at Manchester Victoria Station, Manchester Piccadilly Station, the Northern Quarter, Chinatown, and the Medieval Quarter. The buses vary in times, but most run between 6:30 a.m. and 11:30 pm., with limited hours on Sundays and holidays. Check the map and timetable online to plan your trip.
Using the Local Trains
Several train companies operate out of Manchester, connecting the city to England, Wales, and Scotland. Trains are available to all of Manchester's suburbs and Manchester Airport, and many Metrolink tram lines connect with the local trains. To travel to London, hop on a train at Manchester Piccadilly station to London Euston. Use the Trainline website or mobile app to find the best routes and times and to buy tickets.
Taxis and Ride-Sharing Apps
Manchester has numerous taxi services and mini-cab companies, which can be pre-booked online or hailed on the street. 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.
Manchester is a great city for cycling, and many programs encourage bike use. There are many traffic-free cycle paths, as well as dedicated cycling lanes in busier areas. Look for Cycle Hubs around town to park your bike safely. Those who want to rent a bike while in Manchester can pick from numerous companies, but some of the most popular include Manchester Bike Hire and Brompton Dock.
Renting a Car
While some American travelers coming to the U.K. may not want to rent a car, it's easy to rent one when in Manchester, especially if you plan to leave the city for various day-trips. Car rental shops can be found both in the city center, including Hertz and Sixt, and at Manchester Airport, which has various rental companies to choose from. Be sure to add the GPS to your rental, as some of the roads in England can be confusing, and do a little preparation in terms of what various street signs and road markings mean. It's not recommended to drive around central Manchester, but a car is a good option if your itinerary includes other destinations around Northern England.
Tips for Getting Around Manchester
Manchester has a relatively easy public transportation system, but it can still be confusing, particularly if you're not used to big city public transport.
- Holidays and weekends can mean limited transportation options. Roadworks and improvements to Metrolink often occur on the weekends, so check ahead of time if you need to get somewhere urgent. On Christmas, most public transportation shuts down completely, so opt for a taxi or Uber. Services are also limited on Boxing Day.
- If you are traveling before or after a Manchester United or Manchester City game, the Metrolink and buses may be more crowded than usual. Try to plan your journey around the crowds of fans.
- While Metrolink shuts down at night, many buses continue running, and there are also always taxis and Ubers available. Still, if you don't want to splurge on a taxi and want to stay as safe as possible, check the last tram time online, so you don't miss it.
- When exploring the central part of Manchester, including the Northern Quarter and the museums, consider walking. Manchester isn't particularly rainy, and the temperature is usually moderate, so a good pair of shoes and Google Maps will get you a long way.