Belfast Travel Guide

Getting Around

The centre of Belfast is small enough to be explored by foot. However, to explore the suburbs of the city, as in any city, requires some sort of transport. From the centre of belfast to the city limits at any point is perhaps a distance of eight miles, Within the city there are two very distinct 'Bus' systems. Translink which is a private company operated the 'Metro' (previously Citybus). Buses run along colour coded high frequency routes that radiate from the city centre from around 6AM until 11PM. All major bus routes start or pass through Donegall Square, and a Metro information kiosk is on the West side of the square (Donegall Square West). Tourist passes are available from here, or for the more frequent traveller, you can purchase and pre-load a Smartlink card with credit for bus trips. While the routes are extensive, the travel is expensive, as it is for the whole of the country. Buses frequently do not turn up and staff can at times be unhelpful.

On Friday and Saturday night, Metro Night Link buses operate limited service from Donegall Square to Antrim, Ballygowan, Ballynahinch, Downpatrick, Bangor, Carrickfergus, Comber, Lisburn, Newtownabbey, and Newtownards. These pass through most suburban areas of Belfast: however, the fixed-fare system means that a taxi may be better value if you're only travelling within Belfast.

Belfast's second 'Bus' service is the 'Taxi Bus' or more commonly known as the 'Black Taxis'. These London style Black Taxis were brought to Belfast in the early 1970s and occurred at a time when the 'Troubles' was in its infancy. Riots and armed conflict were a daily occurrence and the established Bus company, would suspend its services to sections, or all of Belfast in response to this conflict. This suspension of services left much of Belfast without a regular transport service. It had negative effect on many working class areas of Belfast which found that they were unable to get to or from work, or in the case of children, school. The communities response to this was for individuals to travel to England and to purchase old London Taxis. These Taxis initially appeared in Republican areas of Belfast and later in Loyalist areas of the city. The Taxis operated as buses and were shared by members of the public who would hail the taxi and pay a nominal fare. For more than 40 years this system has existed and developed. The primary provider is the West Belfast Taxi Association which operates this service in Nationalist/Republican areas. They have a fleet of around 220 taxis and service, from their base at King Street, Belfast areas such as the Falls, Whiterock, Glen, Andersonstown, Stewartstown and Shaws Roads as well as outlying areas such as Twinbrook and Poleglass. The Association also provides a similar service in the North of the city covering the New Lodge and Ardoyne areas as well as to the small town of Crumlin. To avail of the 'Taxi Bus' service, one merely has to put ones hand out to stop a taxi. Most taxis have a display which states their destination. However, should a visitor to the city be unsure of the exact ettiquete surrounding this form of transport or destination, they should just hail any 'Taxi Bus' and ask advice from the driver. The fare for these journey are (for the short journey) 80 pence for a pensioner; 90 pence for any child still at school and £1.30 for an adult. The longest journey is slightly more expensive, but still cheaper than the regular buses (90 pence for a pensioner; £1,00 for any child still at school and £1.70 for an adult). This Association instigated and developed the now famous 'Black Taxi Tour'.

Unionist/Loyalist areas of the City are served by the Shankill Taxis who provide services on the Shankill and Shore Roads, This operation is considerably smaller given that there are perhaps only a dozen taxis working these routes.

If your time is limited, the open-top 'Belfast Sightseeing' bus tours are recommended, costing about £10 per person for a 2 hour journey. You will be shown the sights in the city centre and suburbs including famous murals painted on the ends of terraced houses during 'The Troubles' in the Falls Road area, the Harland and Wolff shipyards where the RMS Titanic was built and Queens University. The guides are friendly, well informed and interesting, although many locals still remark that is unusual to see bright red open top tour buses passing through once troubled neighbourhoods. You may prefer a less obvious exploration of the city.

Belfast is now famous for its Black Taxi tours of the city, which are highly recommended, and can be arranged by most hostels, hotels and at the tourist office (47 Donegall Place, above the Boots pharmacy, just north of the City Hall). These tours are given by regular taxi drivers who have worked through the troubled years, and have a wealth of knowledge and very personal experiences, which they are glad to share during a tour that can last up to two hours.


source: Wikivoyage

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