How to Travel From London to Manchester by Train, Bus, Plane, and Car

The Shambles
John and Tina Reid / Getty Images

A little over 200 miles away from London, Manchester is rapidly becoming the cultural capital of Northern England. It has a lively music scene and it's the headquarters of the BBC sports establishment. For many tourists, it's a popular next stop on a tour through the UK's most exciting cities and there are many different ways to travel. There are a few direct non-stop flights between London and Manchester, but it's also possible to take the train or bus, which can be cheaper or more convenient, or rent a car and drive.

  Time Cost Best For
Train 2 hours, 10 minutes from $37 Convenience
Bus 5 hours from $11 Budget travel
Flight 1 hour, 5 minutes from $56 Speed
Car 4 hours 209 miles (336 miles) Flexibility

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From London to Manchester?

National Express is the main provider for bus travel across the UK and the company runs frequent service between London Victoria Coach Station and Manchester Central Coach Station. The trip takes at least five hours and one way tickets typically cost between $9 and $12. It's extremely affordable to travel this way and occasionally National Express offers special online fares for only $1 if you book early enough. These fares are usually posted on the website a month to a few weeks before the trip. Because it's a long bus trip, going to Manchester and traveling back to London on the same day by bus is not really practical. If you plan to travel back to London by bus, you'll want to arrange for overnight accommodation in Manchester.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From London to Manchester?

Flying is the most popular way for business travelers to go between London and Manchester because the flight only takes an hour, but it's not always the most practical choice. Only British Airways offers nonstop service on this route and while tickets can sometimes cost as low as $56, they can cost up to $150 or more. The flight only takes off from Heathrow Airport (LHR), so you will have to factor in the extra time needed to navigate from your accommodation in London to the airport, which is 16 miles away from Central London.

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

With over 200 miles to drive, it will take at least four hours to get to Manchester from London. There are multiple ways to make this trip, but the fastest is to leave London heading west along the M4 and then travel northwest on the M40 until you pass Birmingham. After that, you'll get on the M6, which you can take north all the way to the M56, which will bring you the rest of the way into Manchester. Because of almost continual roadwork, approaches to Manchester can become very congested during the rush hour and during random, unpredictable times of day.

How Long Is the Train Ride?

Taking the train is the most convenient way to get to Manchester, because you can travel from city center to city center and won't need to deal with burdensome airport transfers. Avanti West Coast trains leave from London Euston Station daily and arrive at Manchester Piccadilly Station in about two hours, 10 minutes. The train isn't the cheapest way to go, but if you travel at off-peak times, avoiding rush hour, weekends, and holidays, you can find one-way tickets for as little as $37. You're also more likely to find a better deal if you book "advanced" fares, which are always sold as single tickets.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Manchester?

It's tough to plan for the weather in the UK, but it's generally agreed upon that the summer is Manchester's best season. Between June and August, you are be more likely to be able to enjoy a sunny day in the city or at a soccer match. However, there tends to be more tourists at this time of year and hotel rates might be higher than you expect. Besides the weather, summer is an especially interesting time to be in Manchester and there truly is something for everybody. For example, the season marks the return of the Royal Horticultural Society's Flower Show, the Parklife Music Festival, and Manchester Pride. If you're not flying there, it's best to plan your journey to avoid leaving London or arriving in Manchester during rush hour.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

The Manchester Airport (MAN) is 9 miles from the city center. It's a short and inexpensive cab ride, but you can also take the train or the public bus. Buses 43 and 103 run between the airport and Manchester, but there are other bus lines too if your final destination is somewhere in the suburbs. The bus is cheap, but the train is faster. Once you're in the airport, you can follow the signs to the train which will bring you into Manchester Piccadilly Station in as little as 20 minutes.

What Is There to Do in Manchester?

Today, Manchester is famous around the world for being the home of two Premier League teams, Manchester United and Manchester City, so you should try to catch a soccer game—or football match, as the Brits say—while you're in town. If you can't score a ticket to see a match while you're in Manchester, you should at least pay a visit to the National Football Museum, which is the world's largest museum dedicated to the sport.

This hip city also offers plenty to do from museums, art galleries, and historic sites like the UK's oldest public library. Chetham Library has been open to the public since 1653 and is so charming that it was almost used as the set for the first Harry Potter movie (the producers deemed it too small to fit a film crew). As you explore the town, don't forget to try out as many coffee shops as you can. Manchester is famous for its independently-owned coffee shops, like Pot Kettle Black and Grindsmith, where you can find a mean cup of coffee and a great atmosphere.

Was this page helpful?