Getting To and Around Southampton

As the biggest city on England's south coast, Southampton is, naturally, a very accessible place to visit. It doesn't hurt that it has its own major port, either.

Located practically at the centre of the coast, Southampton lies at the farthest point to the north of Southampton Water, connecting there with the River Test and the River Itchen as well as the River Hamble on its southern side. Being the closest city to New Forest, Southampton is practically halfway between Bournemouth and Portsmouth.

The local authority is Southampton City Council, which is a unitary authority. The city is part of the ceremonial county of Hampshire.

Visitors to Southampton can get in by plane, train, boat, bus or car. When flying in, tourists enter the city via the Southampton International Airport, which is near Eastleigh city. Despite being a relatively small airport, Southampton International services several destinations, including Ireland, France, Austria, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Channel Islands and other parts of UK.

Travellers from other destinations can also take a flight to any of the London airports and enter Southampton by bus, car or train. In this instance, the most accessible airports are:

            - Heathrow Airport. It is only a 60-mile drive from Southampton if you go through the M4 (westbound), M25 (anti-clockwise) and the M3 (southbound) motorways. You may also take a RailAir coach service via Woking station and hop on a mainline train to Southampton.

            - Gatwick Airport. It is an 80-mile drive from Southampton if you go through the M23 (northbound), M25 (clockwise) and M3 (southbound) motorways. From the airport terminal complex, tourists can take the train service to Southampton which departs every hour. The ride takes less than two hours.

UK travellers often take the train to Southampton, particularly South West Trains, which operates an hourly service departing from London Waterloo to Southampton, passing through Winchester and Basingstoke, even from Portsmouth and along the south coast. Some trains go past Southampont all the way to Bournemouth and Weymouth, passing through New Forest.

Southern Trains, Virgin Trains, Wessex Trains and the Megatrain also have services that head to Southampton. Southern Trains have a longer (and slower) ride to Southampton but is the preference of some travellers since it passes London Gatwick airport along the way. Virgin Trains services the farther UK destinations on the north and passes through Birmingham and Reading. Meanwhile, from Cardiff, Bristol and Swindon, the train to take is Wessex Trains, which passes through Salisbury.

The Megatrain is the new train on the block, so to speak, and it's relatively easier on the pocket than its other more established counterparts. The Megatrain has three scheduled trains a day shuttling from London and Southampton. If you can book your ticket early enough, tickets can cost you as little as £1 each way.

For a comprehensive schedule of trains bound for Southampton, you can check out the National Rail Planner or call 0845-748-4950 from anywhere in the UK.

Meanwhile, if you're heading to Southampton by car, your best bet is the M3 motorway. From there, you can get to the M25 and London. Meanwhile, the M27 will link you to Southampton from Bournemouth and the West Country from the west and to Brighton and other places south of England on the east.

When you get to Southampton, parking is relatively easy as there are numerous pay and display areas, especially in the city centre. You may even be lucky to find a free parking spot, particularly on the streets or at those free two-hour car parks.

To get to Southampton by bus, you can choose either the Megabus or the National Express. The Megabus travels from the London Victoria Coach Station to Southampton two times a day, with ticket prices costing from £3-£5. Scheduled return tickets cost a little less than £20.

Finally, travellers from other countries also have the option of entering Southampton by boat. With its bustling port, Southampton has many links to various countries all around the globe.

Once in Southampton, the two preferred ways of getting around are either by bus or taxi, assuming, of course, that you don't have a car with you and are saving your feet for all the shopping and dancing that you plan to do. Actually, walking around the city isn't so bad, especially since the city centre is such a fairly compact place.

The five major bus lines are Uni-link, Solent Blue Line, First, Wilts & Dorset and City Clipper.

The city's bus network is pretty extensive and will take you anywhere, including the outer reaches of Southampton and near the south coast. Southampton recently introduced a new bus departure information system that is a big help to travellers in letting them know which bus to board. There are several electronic information screens all over Southampton that give timetable information and directions.

Taxis are also easy to find, but they are a great deal more expensive than hopping on a bus.

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