Though Oxford calls itself a city, really it is a town with a grandiose self-image. The upside of this is that the city is easily navigable on foot. Central Oxford can easily be crossed in under an hour and venturing into nearby Cowley, Summertown, or Kidlington does not present a particularly pressing challenge. Simply wandering Oxford’s streets can be pleasant afternoon; the gothic and baroque streets are a flaneur’s dream!
Though walking is a pleasant way to experience Oxford, by far the fastest way to get around is by bicycle. Oxford’s narrow streets can make driving a slow and congested process. Seeing a bicycle overtake a line of traffic is extremely common! Visitors can rent bicycles from Walton Street Cycles, Bainton Bikes on Botley Road, or Brompton Bike Hire from directly in front of the station. Oxford proudly announces itself to be a “City of Cycling” and has many dedicated cycle lanes. Where these are absent, cyclists often have right of way on the roads, so you can navigate the streets without needing to stress.
Dotted around the city are also electric scooters available for rent. Though given their limited range, parking restrictions, the requirement to have a driver’s license, and the expense, they are not the most recommended mobility option!
While driving is a possibility in Oxford, one-way systems, pedestrianised areas, heavy traffic, and ultra-low emission zones can make this logistically tricky. A far better option might be to use one of Oxford’s Park and Ride systems. There are five such systems which serve the City Centre. Oxford Parkway (north) is linked to the city centre via the 500 bus service. Pear Tree (north) and Redbridge (south) take the 300 bus and for Thornhill (east) and Seacourt (west), take the 400 bus services the city.
A series of buses form the only public transport within the city. The buses are provided by a series of operators and can occasionally be confusing for a casual visitor. A lot of the confusion can be solved with the Oxford Bus app, but if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask a bus driver! They are generally friendly and will usually be able to direct you to the correct bus.
If you are looking to reach specific locations within the city or have specific mobility requirements, a taxi might be preferable. There are taxi ranks outside Oxford Rail Station, Gloucester Green Coach Station, and St. Giles. Alternatively, taxis can be ordered anywhere in the city via the FREE NOW app.
If you’re coming into Oxford from further afield, there are plenty of connections to the rest of the country and abroad. For transport to London, the fastest means of transport is by rail. Oxford train station offers two service to central London: a fast train which will take you to Paddington in under 50 minutes, and a slower train which will take you to Marylebone in an hour and a quarter. Oxford rail station also offers direct trains to Birmingham New Street, Reading, Southampton Central, and Bournemouth. Though the “Varsity Line” which once linked Oxford and Cambridge has long since closed, the line will soon be reopening! Though under the new name, “East West Rail” uses much of the original Varsity Line track and is expected to be opening in 2023.
If travelling by bus is more your speed, the Oxford Coach Station at Gloucester Green offers transport links to London via the Oxford Tube (which runs all night to London Victoria) and National Express Services. There are also direct coach services to Oxford from many major centres in the UK including Birmingham, Sheffield, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Barnsley, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Cambridge.
If you’re visiting Oxford by air, London Oxford Airport lies just out of the city limits in Kidlington. Unless you plan on arriving in Oxford in extreme style, however, you might be hard pressed to find a flight to here. Most of the airport’s commercial capacity is dedicated to private aircraft! For the less flush among us, there are direct coach services to London Heathrow and London Gatwick airports, which are also accessible by train via London and Reading respectively. Birmingham International, though offering fewer destinations than Heathrow or Gatwick, is accessible via direct train from Oxford Station. Luton and Stanstead airports are also served via coach.
Finally, the ambitious among you could brave the Cherwell on a punt! Although impractical as a mode of transportation, for a lazy Sunday journey to the Victoria Arms, there is no finer way to travel.
- Adam Johnson, St. Catherine’s College Alumnus