A guide to student bus passes
Students have a love-hate relationship with buses. They’re essential for most of us, but not always cheap. Buy a bus pass and you’re on to big savings.
Most university cities now have local bus operators offering students passes. They end up being much much cheaper than buying standard tickets over the year, so if you’re planning on busing it around uni, get one.
In this guide we’ll first make sure you actually need one before getting into the various operators and kinds of passes.
Do I need a student bus pass?
If you plan on using the bus, then yes you probably do. In most cities there are different kinds of passes available, covering both time periods (ie. weekly, per term, yearly) and distances.
The average student will have lectures most weekdays and live a fair distance from campus. So generally speaking, you’ll probably be using the bus twice daily for uni, and then you’ve got all the nights out and other trips to town.
Perhaps you’re not ‘the average’ and don’t think you’ll use the bus all that much. In that case it’s down to you to weigh up the cost of X amount of single tickets versus the cost of the bus pass divided by X amount of days of estimated use.
What’s the best pass to get?
In most cases, buying an annual student pass is the most economical choice and gives you great flexibility to travel whenever you want.
They cover all times of day, including nighttime when the cost of a single ticket can be up to twice as much! So the savings really add up. For example an Annual UniRider can save Manchester students up to £300 a year.
Bear in mind that there may be more than one student bus operator, in which case it’s worth comparing what they offer and for what price.
Student bus passes
Now you’re sure you need to get a student bus pass, it’s time to work out where to get it! Different private bus operators cover different regions and cities, and routes within them. They don’t all offer discount student passes, but the ones that do are listed below.
Stagecoach operate services in many university cities across the country, and have a strong presence in Scotland. Their student bus pass is called the UniRider and it’s one of the best value passes for students out there.
You can opt for either an annual pass (cheaper) or for a term. The cost varies from city-to-city (related to variations in single ticket prices) but make sure you buy yours online to receive a £15 discount. You’ll also avoid the mile-long queues during Freshers’ week! Click here for current prices.
First Group student passes
You’ll find the pink and white buses of First Group in a number of university cities across the UK, including Manchester, Leeds and Bristol. See the full list below.
Students have a choice of purchasing bus passes annually, for a single term or monthly. Visit their student site for current prices.
- Bristol, Bath and the West
- Calderdale & Huddersfield
- Central Scotland
- Devon & Cornwall
- Eastern Counties
- Edinburgh & Lothians
- Greater Glasgow
- Hampshire & Dorset
- South Cheshire
Arriva Student Saver
Arriva are a major bus operator within many university cities, and offer a student bus pass called Student Saver.
You can opt for a full academic year or for just one term (15 weeks), and the cost depends on the area you want to travel. Student Saver passes can only be bought via their website.
Oyster cards (London)
For students studying or living in and around London, your best bet is to purchase an Oyster Card from Transport for London.
The pay-as-you-go card allows you to save money on travel across the bus networks as well as on the underground.
Check out our London student city guide for more information on getting the most out of the Capital!
Saving money on bus tickets
If you have a bus pass, you won’t need to worry about these so much! However if you only use the bus every now and then – buying tickets on the bus – then there are a few tips to help save you money.
Free inner-city buses
An increasing number of cities, including Manchester and Leeds, now offer free metro buses. Their routes often pass through university campuses and other student hot-spots.
Find out if your city has a free bus service by checking the local transport website, and if so take full advantage of it!
Find out where the price zones are
You could save good money by simply walking to the next stop if it is in the next price zone. Check the bus operator’s website for a network map and ticket prices.
Avoid peak times
If you can help it, try to travel when others don’t as you may find tickets are cheaper off-peak. The most expensive time to travel though is usually after midnight, and this is where a bus pass can result in big savings!
Borrow your mates pass!
So long as they don’t need it (perhaps they’ve gone home for the week), ask a friend if you can borrow their bus pass. Just beware that some operators have strict terms prohibiting this, but it’s still a common money saving method used by many students.
Don’t use the bus…
Buy a cheap second-hand bike (that’s in good nick) and over the years you’ll easily end up saving £100s and keep fit at the same time. Or if your university is only a brisk walk away then stick to using your pegs.
Use the cheapest bus company
In some cities the same bus route is traveled by a number of bus companies. Check out which ones may be cheaper for you.
This guide is really about local bus travel, but if you’re thinking about making a journey out of the uni bubble, start with Megabus for tickets from £1 or National Express who often have deals for students throughout the year. More advice on national coach travel here.