Belfast has two airports.
George Best Belfast City Airport is just two miles from Belfast's city centre, with magnificent views of the city of Belfast or Belfast Lough on approach and departure. The airport principally serves routes to domestic UK and Ireland, however British Airways has extensive worldwide connections through the OneWorld Alliance. Airlines using the airport include:
The terminal is served every 20-30 min 06:00-22:00 by the Metro 600 bus (£2 single, £3 return). Depending on traffic, the journey to Belfast's Laganside and Europa Buscentres should take no more than 15 minutes.
Alternatively, NIR trains serve the airport at Sydenham station twice an hour on the Portadown/Belfast/Bangor line. Upon arrival, ask at the airport information desk for a free shuttle ride to the station. If arriving by train, the courtesy bus may be requested just inside the airport perimeter across the bridge from Sydenham station. A single fare to Belfast Central, Botanic, City Hospital or Great Victoria Street costs £1.60. A single to Bangor costs £3.80
Taxis cost approximately £10 to most parts of the city and are an economical choice for small groups.
Belfast International Airport is further from Belfast than City Airport, lying closer to the towns of Templepatrick and Antrim, but offers significantly more international destinations. United Airlines has connections available to destinations throughout the Americas and beyond.
The terminal is served up to every 30 min from 5:35AM–11:20PM by the 300 Airport bus (£7 single, £10 return). Depending on traffic, the journey to Belfast's Laganside and Europa Buscentres takes about 45 minutes. Taxis should cost no more than £25-30 to Belfast City Centre.
There is a cheaper, but slower route available by taking the 109A (hourly service M-Sa) Ulsterbus 109A service to Antrim from the stand outside the airport, leave the bus at Antrim Bus station (£2.60 one way). Take a train from Antrim to Belfast Great Victoria Street. Train times to be found on timetables at station, you can also get by train to Londonderry/Derry, Ballymena/Ballymoney and Coleraine /Portrush/Castlerock by train also just ask what platform they are departing from trains run every hour to Londonderry/Derry and to Belfast Great Victoria Street
The fastest way to get to Belfast from Dublin Airport 160 km (100 mi) is by bus, it only takes about 1 hour 30 mins. Ryanair, Aer Arann and Aer Lingus (the national airline of the Republic of Ireland) serve many international destinations in Europe and North America (including Boston, Los Angeles and New York). Hourly buses that leave 20mins past the hour e.g. 2:20PM, 3:20PM etc. (24 hours, daytime services operated by Ulsterbus, night services by Bus Éireann) link Dublin Airport and the Belfast Europa Buscentre.
Aircoach also run a bus service every hour from Dublin Airport to Belfast, you get dropped off in Glengall Street (just outside the Belfast Europa Buscentre). They leave on the hour e.g. 3PM, 4PM etc. The Aircoach is normally faster than the Ulsterbus/Bus Éireann service as there is less stops.
You can now get cheap online tickets from Dublin to Belfast on https://www.translink.co.uk/Buy-Tickets-Online/Enterprise-Web-Fare/ . If you are arriving into Dublin Airport do not get the train to Belfast, get the bus direct from the Airport. The train station is in Dublin City Centre, nowhere near the airport.
Despite decades of underinvestment and service cutbacks, Northern Ireland Railways (a division of Translink, Northern Ireland's public transport operator) manages to maintain a small but increasingly reliable passenger rail network around the province, with four 'domestic' lines radiating out from Belfast. Great Victoria Street Station is in the centre of Belfast on, as the name suggests, Great Victoria Street. Just yards from the Grand Opera House and beside the Europa Hotel, the Great Victoria Station is part of a combined bus/rail station, the bus centre being called Europa Bus Centre. Look for the sign above the door to access the station from Great Victoria Street, Great Northern Mall. The "Central Station" is not very central at all - it's about half a mile from the city centre but is close to Belfast Courts, the Waterfront Hall and bus routes to east Belfast.
There are four rail corridors in/out of Belfast:
Service is most frequent and reliable on the Portadown - Belfast - Bangor corridor, on which new trains offer frequent and fast suburban service. The line to Londonderry/Derry is exceptionally beautiful as it passes along the north coast after Coleraine, however travellers should note that the railway line is slower (two hours or more) than the equivalent Ulsterbus Goldline express coach (one hour and forty minutes). Contact NIR for information on tourist passes for exploring Northern Ireland by bus and train: with integrated bus and train stations in most major towns, the province is easily explored without a car.
Services to Dublin (with connections to other destinations in the Republic of Ireland) is offered by the Enterprise, a modern, comfortable, but relatively slow train jointly operated by Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnrod Eireann (which operates trains in the Republic of Ireland). Journeys between Dublin and Belfast take two hours and twenty minutes, and there are up to eight trains a day, offering two classes of service. The train takes a less direct route than the road, but offers some superb views and is still generally quicker than equivalent buses. Cheap day returns are available to those willing to book online . Standard fare is £25 one-way when purchased on the day of travel.
Ulsterbus (a division of Translink, Northern Ireland's public transport operator) operate the intercity bus network in Northern Ireland, linking most major towns and cities. Services are well-used and, in most cases, reasonably priced. The most frequent service is to Londonderry/Derry. Bus Éireann jointly operate cross-border services with Ulsterbus and operate almost all intercity routes in the Republic of Ireland. Bus Éireann offer a €15 single fare and €22 return fare from Dublin Busaras (bus station) and Dublin Airport to the Europa Buscentre in Belfast (currently unavailable to purchase online); Ulsterbus offers similar specials in the opposite direction. There is also a daily bus to Cork, via Athlone and one to Galway via Cavan.
Under the Eurolines banner, Ulsterbus offer 2 daily services to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and 2 daily services to London via Manchester and Birmingham. All of these are via the fast ferry Stranraer. Connections are available via National Express to virtually every destination in mainland Great Britain.
For less independent travellers, you can also book day trips from Dublin to Belfast on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. This includes a bus trip to Belfast followed by a black taxi cab ride through the two neighbourhoods and a visit to the peace wall. See Belfast Taxi Tours for info.
Local bus travel in Northern Ireland can be expensive outside of Belfast, but services are frequent and reliable. Belfast itself is small enough to walk anywhere comfortably.
There is also a bus based Park and Ride facility available, see National Park and Ride Directory
Belfast is the focus of the road network in Northern Ireland, and as such is very well connected to the road network in Northern Ireland. While there are only three motorways in Northern Ireland (M1, M2 and M22), the rest of the country is very well provided for with high quality trunk roads.
Access to Belfast from the Republic of Ireland has never been better. Due to the great improvements the peace process in Northern Ireland has gained, crossing the border into Northern Ireland is now nothing more noticeable than a change in signposts and road markings. The M1 connects Dublin to Dundalk and almost to the border with Northern Ireland. The M1 is 83 km long and has one toll over the bridge of peace in Drogheda (€1.80 for a car).
Belfast is not as well served by car rental companies as Ireland in general. Some Irish car rental companies offer a drop off option in Belfast while others have locations in Belfast City. If you plan to rent a car in the Republic of Ireland and drive it into Northern Ireland be aware of the additional insurance cost. Dan Dooley are the only car rental company operating in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland not to charge for additional cross border insurance.
It is possible to buy a through train ticket between any railway station in Great Britain and any railway station in Ireland, north or south. It is generally cheaper to do this than buy separate train tickets to ferry ports and then foot passenger tickets on the boat, and this remains one of the cheapest ways of reaching Northern Ireland, especially at short notice.
For journeys from Great Britain tickets can be bought from any staffed station and from some automated ticket machines. Few online ticket agents sell cross-channel rail tickets, and those that do add additional booking fees. Since tickets are no cheaper booked in advance, they can usually be bought at the station on departure.
For journeys from Northern Ireland cross-channel tickets (and, in fact, all rail tickets for travel within Great Britain) can be bought from NI Railways Travel, the travel agency located at Great Victoria Street railway station (with a small handling fee) or at the Stena Line terminal in Belfast.
Most rail and sail passengers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland are routed via Stena Line's Belfast/Stranraer Stena HSS fast ferry. Stranraer railway station is immediately adjacent to the ferry terminal, although Stena Line will leave Stranraer for the non-rail connected Cairnryan in 2011. Fares are priced by zones within Great Britain, starting at £25 single / £50 return (£16.50 / £33 with a National Rail railcard) between Belfast and destinations in south-west Scotland. London to Belfast via Stranraer costs £46 single / £92 return. Tickets include rail travel to Stranraer and passage on the Stena HSS, although not the transfer from Stena's terminal in the Port of Belfast. Metro 96 runs hourly throughout the day between the terminal and the city centre, or for slightly more rail and sail passengers can travel on the faster coach transfer to the Europa Buscentre offered free for cross-channel coach passengers.
An alternative 'rail and sail' routing from London and southern Britain is via Holyhead and Dublin. Seat61.com offers informed and independent advice on how to book combined train and ferry tickets from any railway station in Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
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