Public transport in Glasgow
Now that you have been in Glasgow for a little while, you may be getting used to the transport system. It’s much smaller than the transport network of cities like London and Paris, but it can still be a bit confusing!
Here is a short guide to getting around Glasgow.
Glasgow’s subway system must be the simplest in the world! There is only one line, and two tracks (the Inner Circle and Outer Circle) so even if you get on the wrong train, you will still arrive at your destination eventually. The subway is known as the Clockwork Orange, because it goes around in a circle all day and the trains are orange! The Glasgow subway system is the third oldest in the world after the London Underground and the Budapest Metro – it was opened in 1896.
How do I buy a ticket?
The subway operates on a Smart Card system. This means that you buy a card in advance, then top up as you travel. You can order a card at: http://www.spt.co.uk/smart/ and it will be posted to your home address. You can then top up your Smart Card at the ticket machines in any subway station, or at a cashier’s desk.
Many students use the Smart Card because, if you travel regularly, it is cheaper: a single journey with a Smart Card costs £1.40.
You can, however, also buy individual subway tickets without having a Smart Card. A single ticket to any station is £1.60; a return ticket is £3.00; a full-day ticket is £4.00. Tickets can be bought at ticket machines or at cashier’s desks. For more information on subway travel, visit the SPT website: http://www.spt.co.uk/subway/
Where can I go?
An old student tradition in Glasgow is to do a ‘Sub Crawl’ – to ride all the way around the subway, stopping at each station to have a drink in a pub! If you don’t fancy doing this (and I would not blame you!) then you can also use the subway as a cheap, fast way of seeing some of the most interesting sights in the city.
• Hillhead: of course the University is here, but this is also the stop for the Hunterian Museum and the Hunterian Art Gallery (both on the University campus) and shopping on Byres Rd.
Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow
• Kelvinbridge: this stop is also close to the University and the shops on Great Western Rd.
Kelvinbridge subway station
• Kelvinhall: this stop is close to Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery.
• Partick: this stop is ten minutes’ walk from the Riverside Museum, Glasgow’s museum of transport and local history.
• Buchanan Street: this stop is in the centre of the Buchanan Street shopping area and is also close to Queen Street train station, the historic George Square and the Gallery of Modern Art in Royal Exchange Square.
Gallery of Modern Art
• St Enoch: this stop is close to the Argyle Street shopping area, the St Enoch Centre shopping mall and The Lighthouse, an architecture museum designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Glasgow’s most famous architect.
• Cowcaddens: this stop is close to the Glasgow School of Art (which has a great shop and offers walking tours of the city) and the Glasgow Film Theatre, an original 1930s cinema which shows interesting international films with English subtitles.
Glasgow Film Theatre
• Shields Road: this stop is close to Scotland Street School, a beautiful old school designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, which has been converted into a museum.
Scotland Street School
• Govan: this stop is close to the Govan Stones, a collection of early medieval carvings from the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde, located in Govan Old Parish Church (open until the end of October).
The Govan Stones
The Glasgow bus system is a little more complex than the subway, but still a good value way to travel. The main bus company in Glasgow is First Bus, which operates buses all over the city, and to other places such as Loch Lomond and Glasgow Airport.
The First Bus website has details of the timetables of each bus, and helpful instructions for planning your journey: http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/glasgow/
Buses on Hope Street
How do I buy a ticket?
To catch a bus, you must stand at a bus stop and put your hand out to hail the bus, as buses do not automatically stop at each bus stop.
You buy your ticket from the driver on the bus, and you can only pay in cash. It is important to have the correct money as most buses do not give change.
A single journey of less than five stops costs £1.20; a single journey of more than five stops costs £1.95. A return ticket costs between £3.00 and £3.45. An all-day ticket costs between £4.10 and £5.50. If you are not sure how much your ticket should cost, simply tell the driver your destination and he/she will tell you the price. Please keep your ticket, as a ticket inspector may wish to see it.
Where can I go?
• Some useful bus numbers (for the West End/City Centre area):
• 3: this bus stops outside Kelvingrove Museum and will take you into the City Centre.
• 4 or 4A: this bus stops on University Avenue and Gibson Street and will take you to the City Centre.
• 6: this bus stops on Great Western Road and will take you to the City Centre.
• 500: this bus stops at Buchanan Street bus station and Queen Street train station and will take you to Glasgow Airport. A single ticket is £6.00.
• 747: this bus stops at Buchanan Street bus station, Charing Cross and Partick Bus station and will also take you to Glasgow Airport. A single ticket is £6.00.
Travelling by train is a comfortable, quick way to explore Scotland – you can go to interesting places all around the country, such as Edinburgh, Loch Lomond and the Highlands! It is a bit more expensive than the bus, usually. There are two major train stations in Glasgow: Central and Queen Street, Trains from Central generally go south or west – to the suburbs of the city, the Ayrshire coast, towns and cities in central and southern Scotland and to England. Trains from Queen Street generally go north and east – to Edinburgh, Stirling, Aberdeen and the Highlands. It is very important to check whether your train will leave from Glasgow Central Station or Glasgow Queen Street Station.
How do I buy a ticket?
For longer journeys, it is a good idea to buy tickets in advance. Good websites for finding cheaper train tickets are: http://www.thetrainline.com/ and http://www.redspottedhanky.com/
For shorter journeys, you can buy your tickets at the train station, at a ticket machine or cashier’s desk. If there is no ticket machine or cashier at a station, you may buy your ticket on the train (from the ticket inspector) but in many stations you will not be allowed to board a train without a ticket.
Where can I go?
Check http://www.scotrail.co.uk/ for information on timetables and destinations.
The smaller stations throughout Glasgow also allow you to reach interesting places around the city by train. For example:
• From Central Station, you can travel to the beautiful Pollok House and Country Park (station: Pollokshaws West) from £2.30 for a return ticket.
• From Central Station, you can travel to Queen’s Park, one of Glasgow’s most beautiful parks, with a glasshouse full of tropical plants and animals (station: Queen’s Park) from £1.90 return.
Queen’s Park Glasshouse
• From Queen Street (low level), you can travel to the East End of Glasgow (station: Alexandra Parade) to visit the lovely Alexandra Park and have lunch at one of the traditional Italian cafés for which this area is famous, such as Coia’s, Celino’s or Zecchino’s from £1.90 return.
As in any city or country, it is very important to only get into a taxi which is officially registered.
You can catch a taxi in the street – the big, black cars with ‘taxi’ signs on the roof are very easy to identify. If the ‘taxi’ sign is illuminated, this means the taxi free and you may take it. If the ‘taxi’ sign is not lit up, this means the taxi is being used and you cannot take it. At busy times (such as Saturday afternoon and Saturday night), taxis are in high demand and it can be hard to catch one in the street. At times like these, it is wise to wait at a taxi rank, such as the one outside Central Station (on Gordon Street) or on Sauchiehall Street (outside The Garage nightclub).
Glasgow Taxi cabs
If you wish to call a taxi to pick you up, you can do so. Please be aware that there may be delays at busy times, such as Friday and Saturday nights. When you order your taxi, ask the operator to send a text or phone you when your taxi is approaching.
Some useful numbers:
• Glasgow Taxis: 0141 429 7070. This is the company which owns the city’s black cabs. It is a little bit more expensive than smaller companies.
• ACS/Network Cabs: 0141 557 1110. This company operates private taxis, and is slightly cheaper than Glasgow Taxis. Their cars look like normal cars, but should have a sticker identifying them as taxis on their rear windows.
• West End Cabs: 0141 954 2000. This is the West End of Glasgow’s local taxi company. Their cars also look like normal cars, but should have a sticker identifying them as taxis on their rear windows.
• Please note: you should NEVER get into a taxi if you are not sure if it is the right one. If you have ordered a taxi, ask the driver to tell you the name of the person who ordered it when he/she arrives. If he/she does not say your name, it is not your taxi.
Private hire taxis should have a yellow ID plate at the front of the car, beside the registration plate.