Travel & Tourism Tips

oxford city centerOxford is England’s longest-standing institution of learning, and more. Not only has it been the home of many famous writers such as C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien and Lewis Carroll, it has also often been the inspiration behind their work. And more recently, Oxford entered a new place in pop culture consciousness when it was used as the location for Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the film-adaptation of the Harry Potter series.

Prime examples of the city’s architectural heritage include the world-renowned Museum of Modern Art and the Ashmolean Museum. There’s much to discover and even more to do, from lounging in a college quadrangle to exploring the famous river, Oxford has something to offer every visitor, young and old alike.

The Basics

Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

Electricity: 240V AC, 50Hz. Standard outlets accept square three-pin plugs.

Currency: Like the rest of England , the pound (£) is the official currency. Each pound is made up of a hundred pence, while notes are available in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 pounds. All major credit cards are commonly accepted and all towns have ATMs. You can have your currency exchanged at large hotels and bureaux de change, although banks usually offer the best exchange rates. If you are bringing travellers cheques, make sure they are in Pounds Sterling to minimise extra charges from conversions. These are accepted in areas usually visited by tourists.

Language: Official language is English. (However, there are many regional accents in the area, and visitors may even feel the need for an interpreter when interacting with the locals!)

Getting around: Oxford and nearby villages and towns are serviced by buses from different companies. Bus routes connect Watlington, Abingdon, Wantage, Banbury, Wallingford, Carterton, Thame, Chipping Norton, Henley, Didcot and Faringdon. The city is mostly pedestrian-friendly, with many one-way streets and avenues that may be harder to navigate through in a car. If you are bringing your own vehicle, “park and ride” car parks offer a good alternative to driving around the city. To take in the most popular sights, special buses offer “around the city” tours with many stopovers.

Health: There are no health risks specific to traveling in the UK. Food and water are normally safe. Emergency treatment is free of charge to visitors, courtesy of the British National Health Services, although regular medical services will carry a fee. Countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and EU-member countries have reciprocal health agreements with the UK. Nationals of other countries such as the USA, Canada, and South Africa should take out a reliable medical insurance policy, although this is not a requirement for travel.

Tipping: A service charge is sometimes included in the bill of hotel restaurants. A tip of 10 to 15% of the bill is customary in upscale hotels and restaurants. Taxi drivers will appreciate a tip, although it is not expected.

Safety: Travelling in the UK is safe, though it is always best to take extra care of any valuables when going through central London, one place where pick-pocketing is commonly reported. As for the possibility of terrorism, the level of risk is about the same as it would be in the US, for example.

Customs: There is a no smoking ban on public transportation, although it is generally allowed in bars and eating places. It is customary to shake hands when meeting someone for the first time. When taking the escalator, be sure to observe the practice of either walking on the left side or standing on the right. Londoners are usually observed to be in a hurry when going about their business, and less amiable than their fellow Brits, especially when commuting. On London transport, the only people carrying conversations are usually the tourists.

Communications: The international dialing code for the UK is +44. To make an outgoing call, dial 00, followed by the code for the country you are calling. The mobile phone standard is GSM, and cellular networks generally cover the whole country. Public internet access is available from internet cafes in major cities and large towns, and train and airport terminals.

How To Get There

By car from Heathrow Airport

To get to Oxford you can take the M4-M25-M40 route, though the M25 is not at its best during rush hour traffic. Look for the Oxford exit from the M40; if you miss it you will up arriving at Birmingham instead. Finding a place to park in Oxford can be a challenge, and most visitors quickly realize the hassles they can avoid by not bringing a car. Still, it can be convenient to have your own car for quick trips to places outside Oxford during your stay. For a temporary car parking permit, you can make arrangements with the Science Area Car Parks. Permits are limited in availability and all the parking spots are usually taken by 8:00 a.m. Overall, if you can help it, you are better off not bringing a car.

By taxi from Heathrow Airport

You can take a taxi from Heathrow Airport to Oxford. A taxi can usually carry four passengers. Take note that this is the most costly method of traveling to Oxford.

By coach from Heathrow Airport

By far the most recommended option, the X70 coach service takes passengers every hour from Heathrow Airport. During peak times, a coach may even leave every 30 minutes. Coaches either stop at the main station for Terminals 1, 2 & 3, or at Terminal 4. A period return ticket can save you money. If you are coming from Terminal 4, a free shuttle service connects it to the other terminals.

If you are planning to stay at one of the older colleges found in the middle of Oxford, ask your driver to drop you off at High Street, which is the first stop after you cross Magdalen Bridge and pass Magdalen College-you’ll know when you see a big tower to your right. Make sure to stand up when you do so that the driver knows you need to get off at next at the stop. Otherwise, if your coach misses your stop you can ride a taxi from Gloucester Green bus station which is at the end of the coach’s route. It’s a just a short ten-minute walk through if you’re traveling light and you can follow your map. Gloucester Green and High Street are both a ten-minute walk from the OUCL, Parks Road.

By train/coach from London

Express trains arrive at Paddington Station approximately every hour. Each trip takes about an hour one way. This method is a more expensive option than the coach service. From Victoria coach station, the CityLink 190 coach has a trip every twenty minutes. Each trip is estimated to take a hundred minutes but it usually takes longer during rush hour. An alternative is the “Oxford Tube”, which takes passengers outside the Victoria railway station. Whichever coach you take, it will stop at the end of Oxford Street, right at Marble Arch. One advantage of some “Oxford Tube” coaches is that they have a restroom right inside the bus.

By coach from Cambridge and/or Luton Airport

There is a direct coach route via the National Express, known as the “747” that also has access to Luton Airport. The 3 hour coach trip does have a reputation though-it’s known to be quite a bumpy ride as you make your way through the English countryside by way of side lanes. Despite the fact that the same trip can be made via London, some people still opt for this route (or at least there are still some coach trips that take this route, demand for it notwithstanding).

The route crosses England from Bristol to Norwich (usually the morning trip) or to Thetford (in the evening).Coaches leave daily, every day of the week, with two-hour intervals between trips. Besides Luton Airport, the coach also passes by Stansted Airport.

Main Attractions

Bodleian Library

Bodleian_Library_entrance,_OxfordThe Bodleian Library is comprised of collections spread across several buildings in the city. Central to the collection is the site off Broad Street, in Radcliffe Square which houses Duke Humfrey’s Library from the 15th century and the Divinity School of gothic fame, known for its dazzling vaulted ceiling. Every book published since 1610 in Britain has a copy in the library, but only members can visit the reading rooms-although no one can actually borrow a book to take home with them. Guided tours are offered of the main buildings open to the public.

Address: Central Bodleian site is off Broad Street and in Radcliffe Square

Websitehttp://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/;

Opening times: Tours from the quadrangle, Broad Street, depart 10.30am, 11.30am, 2pm and 3pm on weekdays, and at 10.30am and 11.30am on Saturdays.

Ashmolean Museum

Ashmolean MuseumThe Ashmolean Museum was founded in 1683, making it the oldest museum in the UK. Included in its famous collection is archaeology and artwork from a period of history spanning 4,000 years-from artefacts of the ancient cultures of Rome, Greece and Egypt to modern works of the 20th century.

Address: Beaumont Street

Website: http://www.ashmol.ox.ac.uk/

Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm , Sunday 12pm to 5pm. (During summer the museum stays open until 7pm )

Christchurch Picture Gallery

Christchurch Picture GalleryThe Christchurch Picture Gallery, located in one of Oxford’s most famous colleges, houses a collection of around 2,000 drawings and 300 paintings, mostly by the Italian masters. The extensive collection is rotated every few months, as it cannot be viewed in its entirety due to its size. Artists such as Rubens, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Rafael are featured in the Italian collection, and there also exhibits of Russian icons and 18th century glass.

Address: Entrance in the Canterbury Quadrangle, Christchurch College

Websitehttp://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/

Opening times: Monday to Saturday 10.30am to 5pm , Sunday 2pm to 5pm (1 April to 30 September). Monday to Saturday 10.30am to 1pm , 2pm to 4.30pm , and Sunday 2pm to 4.30pm. (1 October to 31 March). Closed Easter week and 22 December to 3 January.

Carfax Tower

Carfax TowerFrom atop the Carfax Tower in the centre of the Oxford shopping district is a breathtaking view of the “dreaming spires” that make Oxford architecture world-famous. Originally part of the church of St Martin, the tower endures from the 14th century. The church itself was demolished in 1896 to alleviate the traffic that would form at the intersection of Queen and Cornmarket Street. While enjoying the view, information boards nearby name each spire and landmark from your vantage point. And every quarter hour, two figures on the clock on the tower’s eastern face announce the time.

Opening times: Daily 10am to 5.30pm (early closing at 3.30pm during winter).

Botanic Gardens

Botanic GardensEven if you’re not a horticulturist, there is much to enjoy inside the walls of the oldest Botanic Garden in the country, where more than seven thousand species of plants have been thriving for 4 centuries, creating a fascinating biodiversity reputed to rival that of a rainforest. Exquisitely lush walled gardens, greenhouses filled with exotic plants, and sublime rock and water gardens lure admirers from all over the world.

Address: Rose Lane

Websitehttp://www.botanic-garden.ox.ac.uk/

Opening times: Daily from 9am . Closing time varies between 4.30pm and 6pm depending on the season.

Useful Links & Resources

To add your site to the Oxford Useful Links page click here

The Oxford Bus Company
(Click on “Oxford Express” for Heathrow, Gatwick, London info)
http://www.oxfordbus.co.uk/

Oxford’s Tourist Information Center
http://www.oxfordcity.co.uk/

University of Oxford Home Page
(“Visitors” link has maps, bus schedules, and more)
http://www.ox.ac.uk/

This Is Oxfordshire /Oxford Mail
Oxford news, weather, & sports
http://www.thisisoxfordshire.co.uk

 

 

 

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