How to get to Cambridge
Travelling to Cambridge for the first time? Jump to directions:
For directions near and within Cambridge, please refer to your college or department website and the University map (paying particular attention to one-way roads if travelling by road).
The classic image of Cambridge involves gown-wearing students cycling to lectures. Although wearing a gown while cycling is no longer compulsory (and is probably not a good idea) cycling remains the most popular method of transport within our very crowded, and very ancient, city.
A few legal points regarding cycling: In the UK, it is illegal to cycle at night without a front and rear light. These have to be continuous lights; flashing LEDs are not technically enough. The police regularly fine people for cycling without lights; it’s also supremely dangerous. It is illegal to ride your bike on the pavement (unless it’s also marked as a cycle path), additionally many streets in Cambridge are one way and you can only legally cycle in one direction. For maximum confusion, there are also several streets (e.g. Downing Street) which are one-way for cars, but have a contraflow cycle lane, so you can cycle in either direction. Inconsiderate and illegal cycling often leads to aggressive responses from the public which all cyclists then suffer from.
Wearing a cycle helmet isn’t a legal requirement (but is probably a good idea!). If you’re going to buy one, make sure it has a British Standard kitemark. Many Colleges operate a scheme whereby cycle helmets can be bought at cost price or you can claim the cost of a helmet back. It is worth asking your MCR if this is the case. You can also buy cycle helmets and lights at cost price at the Freshers’ Fair.
There are many shops in Cambridge that sell and repair bikes. At the start of every term, the Police hold an auction of recovered stolen bikes – look for posters around town. To avoid having your bike stolen in the first place, always lock it to an immovable object. D-locks tend to be the most effective. Certain areas of town tend to be bad for theft and vandalism of bikes – try to leave your bike in a secure bike rack, preferably in a secure area. Colleges issue numbers to paint on your bike, to help identify it if it is stolen – this is usually run by the Porters. The number also discourages the college authorities from disposing of your bike if it looks like it has been abandoned! You should also keep a record of the frame number, and ideally get it written on your receipt when you buy a bike, so that if there’s later any dispute you can prove that you own it.
Further advice and details of legal requirements can be found in the Highway Code.
If you aren’t confident about cycling in Cambridge, adult cycle training is available. Information can be found on the Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s website:
Keeping a car
Undergraduates are not usually allowed to keep cars or motorcycles in Cambridge without special permission. Graduates under 24 must also obtain a certificate through their Tutor and a University license from the Motor Proctor:
- 1 St Mary’s Passage
- 01223 333310
- Motor Proctor
Any person in statu pupillari (essentially a student who doesn’t have an MA and who is 24 or younger) who keeps, hires or uses a motorcycle or car (mopeds are exempt) within the precincts of the University without permission from the Motor Proctor can be fined £175. Permission from the Motor Proctor does not constitute permission to park in any Colleges or University grounds. Under the terms of the Motor Proctor’s license, students agree to park their cars in a private off-street parking space. Similar restrictions apply to keeping a boat on the River Cam.
Some Colleges are able to provide car parking along with accommodation, although many can or will not. Colleges may charge for the use of a parking space, which can be up to £200 a year depending on the College.
If you are accommodated in College owned houses or rent in the private sector it is quite likely that you will live in a Residents’ parking zone, where to park on the road you must obtain a permit for around £50 a year from the local council (visit Customer and Support Services reception in the Guildhall, Market Square). To obtain the permit you must prove ownership with your vehicle logbook, have your driving license registered to the Cambridge address and have proof of residency at the address in the form of a rental contract or a stamped letter from the College as landlord.
For more details, see the following information from Cambridge City Council:
Overseas students who wish to drive whilst in this country must take out a provisional driving licence within one year of becoming resident here, unless they have previously passed a UK driving test or have held a full UK license during the last ten years. If you own a car in Britain you must legally have the car registered in your name on the logbook, have insurance, have valid road tax and, if it is over 3 years old, a valid MOT certificate. Driving a vehicle without valid insurance, registration, MOT (roadworthiness) testing or a licence is a criminal offence.
For more details, see:
- Legal obligations for drivers
- DirectGov: Motoring (comprehensive information about driving from the UK government)
- Highway Code (legal requirements and guidelines for use of the roads)
Getting to Cambridge by car
Cambridge is about 50 miles north of London.
- From the South, use the M11 motorway from London. Take junction 11 to enter the city from the south, passing the Trumpington Park and Ride site; junctions 12-14 also access the city at progressively more northerly points. (This applies for journeys from London, the London airports, the Channel Tunnel and the cross-channel ferry ports).
- From East Anglian places north or east of Cambridge, you can access Cambridge from the A14 or A10, entering the city from the north-east on Milton or Newmarket Road.
- From the North and West, you should approach Cambridge on the A14. From the north, the A1/A1(M) connects to the A14 near Huntingdon. From the west, the M6 joins the A14 near Rugby. The A14 enters the city from the north.
Commuting from outside Cambridge
Some graduates, especially those with families to accommodate, choose to live outside the city where accommodation is cheaper. If you intend to do so you should consider your transport options carefully, especially as to whether there is a good bus service. Public car parking in Cambridge costs upwards of £20 a day and many departments and Colleges do not have the capacity to allow graduates to park on-site. There is a good Park and Ride service, whereby you park your car on the city outskirts for free and then take a shuttle bus into town. The bus fare is currently £2 per adult, and each adult can take up to three children (under 16) for free. Using the Park and Ride can also be a good option if you are having visitors, although be aware that the car parks close at night.
Cambridge is a pleasant city to walk around, and small enough to make walking a practical alternative to cycling, cars or taxis. It is a relatively safe place, but (like all cities) Cambridge is not free of crime: it is best to avoid poorly-lit or exposed areas late of night like Christ’s Pieces, Jesus Green and Midsummer Common. If you’re worried, get a taxi or walk home in a group. CUSU and many college welfare officers can provide free personal attack alarms. At night, if you think you’re being followed, you can go to any College for help. Find out where the less salubrious areas are before walking through them: wearing your college scarf or boat club kit around certain areas of north Cambridge may not be wise.
Coaches and Buses
There is an extensive local bus network. Stagecoach Cambridge serves central areas with six frequent “Citi” services; Stagecoach and other operators also have a variety of routes connecting local towns and villages with Cambridge.
The University supports the costs of a shuttle bus service, the Uni 4, which runs from Madingley Road Park and Ride to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, via the West Cambridge site, West Road (for the UL and the Sidgwick site) and Trumpington Street (passing directly outside the Graduate Union!). It runs every 15 to 20 minutes from 7am to 7.30pm, Monday to Friday. Members of the university travel for 50p per single journey if you show your University Card.
There is also a free City Circle bus service running every 15 minutes from 9am to 5pm connecting several sites in the city centre with the bus station (Emmanuel Street), Market and the Grafton Centre (Fair Street).
There is no discount for members of the unviersity on the other Citi services, for which a return journey or day pass (a ‘Dayrider’) costs £2.80.
More information about local bus services is available from:
- Cambridgeshire County Council Bus Timetables
- Cambridge City Council: Buses
- Stagecoach Cambridge
- Map of Cambridge City Bus Routes
- Bus station map
For longer-distance travel, you can catch coaches to hundreds of UK and European destinations from the bus station on Drummer Street or from the Parkside coach stops, depending on destination. Timetable information can be found on the National Express website. You can buy tickets online to print straight from your computer (or request traditional tickets for postal delivery if your prefer): it is better to buy tickets in advance if possible than to try and buy them on the coach.
If you’re aged 16-25 or a full time student, you can buy a Student/Young Person Discount Coachcard (£10 for one year or £25 for three), giving you savings of up to 30% on many National Express coaches.
Taxis are a convenient, albeit expensive, way to get around. Regular taxis can only legally carry four people so if there are more of you you need to request a people carrier. There is usually an additional charge for items of luggage. Taxis carry a council license number, the driver should have an identification card and all taxis should display a list of fares, these vary and are higher at night and on bank holidays.
- Taxi services
- Panther: 01223 715715
- Cabco: 01223 711111
- Camtax: 01223 313131
Taxi ranks can be found at Drummer Street (for bus connections), Parkside (for the coaches), the train station and St Andrew’s Street, although they are not all in use 24 hours a day. You may have to wait a long time for a taxi (particularly on Friday and Saturday nights) so don’t get left on your own expecting a taxi to miraculously appear.
Cambridge’s train station is located just south of the city centre, at the end of the imaginatively named Station Road. There is a fast and regular service to London and many trains to local destinations, but trains to other UK cities are mostly slow, irregular and often involve changes. Timetable information can be obtained online or by phone (0845 7 48 49 50) from National Rail Enquiries.
If you’re aged 16-25 or you are a full time student, you can buy a Young Person’s Railcard (£22.80 for one year from the Graduate Union shop), giving you a third off most rail fares anywhere in Britain.
The UK train service is complicated – there are several separate train companies, sometimes even on the same route with different ticket pricing (particularly for special offers). Return tickets often cost only slightly more than a single, and it can be considerably cheaper to book in advance with reservations for a particular train or route. You can, however, buy tickets from any mainline station, or online from most of the train companies, for travel on any route and with any operator.
- Cambridge station information and map
- National Rail Enquiries: timetable information
- http://www.thetrainline.com/: train ticket sales from one of the train companies
- Getting to the airports.
Getting to/from the airports
Cambridge is quite conveniently located for air travel. The closest major airport to Cambridge is Stansted Airport, which can be reached in under an hour by coach or train, but Luton, Heathrow and Gatwick can also be reached using the regular National Express coach services from Parkside. There is also a direct train to Stansted Airport, although this doesn’t run all night. The table below summarises travel arrangements by train and coach to each airport – all details are approximate or indicative, and fares are for economy returns:
|Coach||Travel time||55 min||1 h 30 min (direct)
3 h via (Stansted)
|2 h 35 min||3 h 50 min (direct)
5 h or more (other routes)
|Journeys/ frequency||21 (hourly)||25 (of which 10 direct)||30 (better than hourly)||40 (half-hourly; many slow)|
|Train||Route (from airport)||Direct||Shuttle bus to Luton Airport Parkway; Thameslink train to London King’s Cross (45 min); Train to Cambridge (1 h)||Heathrow Express train to London Paddington (15 mins, £28 return); London Underground to London King’s Cross (30 mins); Train to Cambridge (1 h)||Gatwick Express train to London Victoria (30 mins, £26.80 return); National Express coach to Cambridge (2 h, £8-16 return)|
|Travel time||35 min||About 3 h||About 2 h 30 min||2 h 30 min – 4 h|
Stansted and Luton have a good range of flights, particularly with budget airlines and to European destinations. Fly to and from Stansted if you can; getting there is quicker by train than coach, but you will need to take the coach for late-night journeys. For those travelling further or with traditional airlines, Heathrow and Gatwick may be the only options. If travelling from Heathrow or Luton, coaches are as fast (or faster) than trains, operate for longer hours and are often the more convenient option, as you do not have to change.
At most airports, there is a bus station with a ticket office from which you can buy your tickets, or you can buy them online in advance. You should generally not expect to buy coach or train tickets on board.
Several low cost carriers have appeared in recent years: if you book well in advance or look out for special offers, registering on their mailing lists, you can travel around the UK and Europe for very little. Budget airlines operating from Stansted include:
Most booking services do not search all budget airlines. We have been informed of one website which provides a handy searchable index of budget airline routes, with links to the airline’s websites (it doesn’t sell tickets itself):
The external websites and companies mentioned on this page have no connection to the Graduate Union, and listing them here does not constitute an endorsement.