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A fresher’s guide to getting around Manchester


You’ve spent your first few days getting to know your local area. Now it’s time to venture a little further – into the city centre and beyond. And don’t worry, the locals don’t bite. Not very often anyway.

Manchester is one of the best-connected cities in the country and to maximise your enjoyment here, it really is worth getting to know a little more about the transport options available. It means you can suss out not only the fastest way to get back to your digs or halls, but opens up an array of places for you to explore.



Manchester is one of the best served cities in the country when it comes to buses. Three bus companies are the major public providers of services here: Stagecoach Manchester, First Greater Manchester and Arriva. You can buy daily, weekly and monthly tickets for individual buses. You can also get a SystemOne Travelcard online, with daily, monthly and weekly passes available, which you can use across the network.

Be sure to keep your eye out for the colourful Metroshuttle buses which give you free travel between popular city centre destinations. Just hop on and off.

You will find most services which serve the student enclaves of south Manchester at the bus stops in Piccadilly Gardens. The four mile stretch along Oxford Road and Wilmslow Road between the city centre and Withington sees an average of at least one bus every minute during weekdays in term-time. For those who’ve grown up in a place where one bus an hour is typical, it does seem pretty surreal.

The Magic Bus is a lifesaver, but not literally – that’s an ambulance. The Magic Bus is easily recognisable by its blue livery and the fact that it has the words Magic Bus on the side in big yellow letters. An ambulance is white with the word Ambulance on it.

The Magic Bus runs along this route as far as Didsbury, even at night, connecting this part of south Manchester with the city centre. But don’t be misled. The Magic Bus has nothing to do with Harry Potter. The magic bit is that the fare for a single journey is just £1.

PS don’t forget to thank the driver when you get off the bus. It’s what we do here.



Manchester’s Metrolink, also known as the met or tram, is your way of getting in or out out of the city centre and avoiding the traffic which can be horrendous at times. Most trams run every 15 minutes or better. Trams run on 7 lines, none of which operate along the main university corridor (that’s what the Magic Bus is for). However, you can visit places like MediaCity, Chorlton (Manchester’s hipster suburb) and Heaton Park, which is home to a Grade I listed country house and has over 600 acres of open space. It is more expensive than the bus and well worth getting a day ticket unless you are travelling within the City Zone. Don’t forget to buy your ticket from one of the machines on the platform before you board and mind yourself crossing the tracks in the city centre. No bikes allowed.


A bike lane on Oxford Road

There’s no excuse for you not to cycle if you live close to the Oxford Road corridor. It has recently been fitted with new cycle lanes which segregate bikes from vehicles so you can feel extra safe. Just be wary of people walking into the cycle lanes especially in Rusholme.

Over 60km of cycle lanes have been built across Greater Manchester since 2013. This means much of south Manchester is readily accessible by bike and there are a number of parking facilities along the way, as well as designated areas at the universities. You can also bring your bike all the way into the city and lock it in a safe space, thanks to a series of Cycle Hubs at bus, train and Metrolink stops. If you’re going to park your bike anywhere else you’d better invest in a top quality lock. You have been warned.

A number of both National and Regional cycling routes pass through Manchester including National Cycle Route 62,  the Trans Pennine Trail,  part of a coast-to-coast route between Hornsea on the east coast and Southport. The Fallowfield Loop connects this popular student area with places like Chorlton on an 8-mile off-road route.


Taxis can be cheaper than you think especially if you are sharing one. One will never be far away. Some of the most popular places to pick up a cab include Piccadilly, Deansgate Locks, The Printworks, the Northern Quarter, Oxford Road close to Revolution, Chorlton Street and the Great Northern.

Private hire (aka minicabs) is even cheaper and even better value but needs to be booked in advance. Cresta Cars are one of the biggest and most reputable private hire firms in the city. Their rates are the most competitive in Manchester, their drivers are reliable and CRB checked and all of their vehicles are tracked and managed via GPS to ensure a swift, efficient and safe service. Book either by phone on 0161 205 5000 or through their online booking system which includes an easy mobile app via the website

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Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

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