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Institute of Astronomy



The Cambridge way to get around is cycling. Some colleges have bike sales at the beginning of the year. These are substantially cheaper than local shops and worth getting to before the undergraduates come back. For a cheap new bike, check out Station Cycles (next to the Grand Arcade car park entrance, in the street behind the Material Sciences department) or the cycle workshop in the narrow alleyway between the Anchor and the Mill (both pubs, if you’re wondering). You can also check out the adverts list on the University forums 113 where people post things they want to sell. Don’t forget when you get your bike to get a good helmet and a good lock. If you live in College housing, you should also register your bike with them so they know not to throw your bike away when you’re away on holiday! You can also register your bike with Immobilise, which is a UK wide property register in case your bike is stolen.

If you decide to ride at night, note that you are legally required to have lights: one white light in the front and a red light for the back. You will be fined if you’re caught without them. It is also illegal to ride a bicycle on the pavement except where signs permit it. Otherwise, cycle on the left-hand side of the road. In Cambridge there are several roads with designated cycle paths. Note also that bicycles are bound by the rules of the road and must obey all the stop signs and traffic lights just as other vehicles would. That won’t stop many of the cyclists you see around town, but one day they will be caught and ticketed in front of your law-abiding self, and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you did the right thing.


The main taxi company in Cambridge is Panther Taxis. They are fairly reliable and you can book a taxi on 01223 715715. The department also has an account with Panther Taxis so if you are on university business with the IoA speak with Debbie Peterson or Reception about booking a taxi through the Institute’s account. Uber taxis are also available in Cambridge, usually booked through the Uber app on your phone, sometimes they can be booked online.

Car Rental

Most people consider keeping a car in Cambridge hardly worth the effort, as getting around the city is practically impossible with one. If you want to rent one occasionally, Cambridge offers the standard range of big name companies. If you are between 23 and 25, Cambridge Car and Van Rental is one of the few places that will not charge you a young driver surcharge. Also, you get a free day on every 5th rental and a 10% discount for University members.


If you like to travel by train, we recommend checking out the various Railcards on offer through National Rail. Many can save you up to 1/3 on all rail tickets, and pay for themselves if you go to London more than twice in a year. Look for coupon codes and other discounts before you purchase, as it is usually possible to save 10% or more.

The National Rail website also serves as a good journey planner and will send you to the rail operator’s site to buy tickets. You don’t need to worry about picking the right rail operator, as you can buy any ticket on any website. Occasionally, there will be a deal that is only available through the train operator you will be travelling with, but this is the exception rather than the rule. A good tip is to think about getting a PlusBus upgrade to your ticket, giving you free bus travel within your destination city (except London) on the day of arrival. It is often significantly cheaper than a regular day ticket.

A note on travel costs—always check all the options carefully. Train pricing works in mysterious ways; a day return ticket can sometimes be cheaper than a single fare. What’s even more bizzare, once in a blue moon the first class ticket may be cheaper than standard. Return and advance tickets generally reduce the price significantly. Open return tickets allow the return journey to be any time up to a month after the outward trip, which allows you to save money even if your return leg is not fully arranged. Be aware of off-peak returns as these allow you to travel back on any train for up to a month after your outward trip, but only on certain trains that are outside of peak times. These tend to be week days 8.00-10.00 am-ish and evenings 16:30-18:30 pm -ish but it can depend. If you get caught out and end up on a peak-time train with an off-peak ticket, you are normally forced into buying a peak ticket so it’s best to look ahead to see which times are available to you.

Trains are extremely convenient for travelling to London. An express connection to London King’s Cross operates at high frequency. There is also a marginally cheaper though rather slower connection to London Liverpool Street. The biggest drawback of train travel is that the station is outrageously far away from the city centre, by Cambridge standards, that is. Think about 20 minutes walking distance from the city centre (quite a bit further from the IoA). There are also very frequent buses between the train station and the city centre, even quite late in the evening. Cambridge now has a second station - Cambridge North.

If you are planning on travelling around London regularly, it is worth investing in an Oyster Card, which makes paying for public transport in London both cheaper and easier. These are used on buses, the underground, and the overground trains in London. It is very like other metro systems in cities around the world. Your Oyster Card can be topped up and then swiped on public transport to pay for a ticket. This is cheaper and easier than paying by cash. It records your journey and will take the cheapest fare possible—just make sure to swipe off at the end of your journey to avoid paying a penalty.


Coaches are often a cheaper alternative to trains and can sometimes be more convenient. The main carrier is National Express. If you plan to use coaches regularly, get the Young Person’s Coach Card for discounted fares. It costs £10, and you can buy it online or at any coach station (Drummer Street in Cambridge). The long distance coach connections depart from and arrive to the east side of Parker’s Piece, which is within a comfortable walking distance from the city centre. There is also the infamous (and painfully slow) X5 line operated by Stagecoach, providing you with the cheapest way of getting to the Other Place (Oxford!). Note that despite being rather more expensive, and involving a fairly long connection on the Underground to get from King’s Cross to Paddington, the train is in fact still faster by at least 30 mins.

Air Travel

The natural thing to do when flying is to use one of the London airports.

  • Stansted
  • Luton
  • London City Airport
  • Heathrow
  • Gatwick

For cheap flights within Europe, check out Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizzair, BMI and LastMinute. Ryanair, despite charging you extra for pretty much everything, has the advantage of flying from Stansted. A good website that will give you flexible dates and good travel ideas, as well as quotes from all cheap European airlines, is Skyscanner. Finally, one crucial hint for flying with “cheap” airlines— don’t go over the luggage weight limit as you will soon realize that British Airways would have been cheaper. Make sure your hand luggage also meets their requirements, these can change even between different budget airlines.