There are several options for getting around Birmingham; some of them better than others.

Birmingham is a large and busy city - and therefore car travel in the city centre is not recommended. Much like London, Birmingham is better navigated either by public transport or by foot.

Travel by Bus

Like much of Europe, there is a good bus and train system in Birmingham, making public transport a good way to get around. Information can be found on the Network West Midlands website.

Tips for Bus Travel

  • The buses depart from various points in the city. Maps for the buses are available at tourist offices, libraries and the Travel West Midlands shops.
  • Buses do not give change - so be sure to bring the correct amount. A maximum fare is about £2.40 - so have at least £5 in loose change before you plan your journey. On National Express West Midlands buses (Birmingham's main operator) you can make a single journey within the City Centre for just £1. Local shops often sell 1 day 'Daysaver' travel cards currently priced at £4.40. These are valid on the buses only and not the tram/Metro. These end on the last service of the day (i.e. they are NOT 24 hour as in a lot of European cities) 
  • If you plan to use the bus more than once in a week, consider buying a week-long ticket. National Express West Mids has a shop in the Pavillions Shopping Centre in the City Centre. Avoid early mornings though, Mondays especially as that's when people renew their commuter passes. The staff in there are nice but not exactly fast!  
  • If you do not know the area, a good tip is to sit near the driver and request that he notifies you when you reach your stop, (I've left this one on here while updating as it's a nice idea in theory but clearly originally written by someone who has never used buses in a large UK City! You might be lucky but generally bus drivers do NOT speak to or even look at you if they can help it. You might get lucky and find one who is actually friendly/helpful but it's exceedingly unlikely!)

Travel by Train 

Another excellent option for getting around Birmingham is by train. Train timetables and information can be found on the National Rail website.

There are three main stations in the city centre:

  • Birmingham New Street is the main train station for the city. The refurb is finished, it's even been sold on since being rebuilt! It's now underneath the Grand Central, an expensive shopping mall with a large food court. Trains from New St go all over the UK. It's a hub although if you know anything about rail in the UK you'll know to either book your ticket months in advance or check out the Megabus site. 
  • Birmingham Snow Hill and Moor Street are smaller stations, but run mainly local services, plus regular trains to London Marylebone. Moor St and Snow Hill are on the same line, and run services from Worcester, Kidderminster and Stourbridge right into the city and out to Solihull or Stratford-upon-Avon. 

There's a handy London Underground style map showing all the local rail lines and services throughout Birmingham and the West Midlands, available here.   

Travel by Metro

The Metro is a tram system that runs between Wolverhampton and Birmingham Snow Hill. The network only comprises on one line and is more geared up for commuters and shoppers. But as part of the development work around New Street Station it is currently being extended from Snowhill through the city centre to Centenary Square. Travel on the metro is easy and unlike with the buses change is given by the onboard conductor. Passes are accepted as per the bus. The Metro may be useful if you wish to visit Birmingham's historic Jewellery Quarter during your stay; due to the recent addition of St Paul's Metro Station. More details can be found here.  As of May 2015a the City is still waiting for the final extension to be finally completed! It's taking a long time. 

Travel by Taxi

There are plenty of taxis available in Birmingham city centre. Taxis are of course readily available from Birmingham International Airport, as well as New Street Station. There are other popular ranks around the city - especially around the nightlife areas of Broad Street, The Arcadian and The Mailbox. Compared to London and the South East, Birmingham taxi prices are very reasonable. A 1-2 mile trip should not cost more than £5. Birmingham Taxis, whilst cheaper than London are still extremely expensive. Uber operates in the city and is generally reasonable although their drivers really struggle to find their way around some of the inner southern suburbs like Quinton. Interesting recent price comparison from City Centre-Harborne was £8.50 with Uber and £15 with a black cab.

Tips

  • A tip about safety, especially if you are a single female, is to choose black cabs.  Only enter such a car if you have personally booked it yourself. If you are hailing down a taxi on the street, only enter black cabs. Aside from Uber all taxis operating within Birmingham City Council areas are black cabs!
  • It is not essential to tip a taxi driver and mini cab drivers are usually not tipped. Some like to give black cab drivers something as tend to offer a better service. Percentage tipping is not the rule in the UK so if you do tip you can offer the driver your change. For example, if the fare comes to £4.20, it is usual to give a £5 note and say "keep the change" - or to hand over a £10 note and say "take £5". As the UK does not have a tipping culture the latter would be for only very exceptional services and is generally considered a very generous tip for a cab ride. Tipping taxi drivers is optional the same as tipping for any other service and no one will get upset if no tip is given.      

Travel by Foot 

Birmingham on the whole is a large city - but the centre is small enough to walk around on foot. The distance from (for example) the central shopping district to the popular nightlife district of Broad Street, for example, is only about 1 mile. It is advisable to choose a hotel in the city centre to make travelling around easier. If you choose a hotel outside the city centre, be sure that public transport is easily accessible. Car parking can be expensive and troublesome because of heavy traffic. Birmingham is very pedestrianised aside from a few stinking underpasses, eg. crossing Livery Street towards Snow Hill Station. For walking directions and maps, try walkit.com. If you're put off by that particular subway walk a little way towards where you see a bridge connecting a big office block, simply walk up the stairs there and take the bridge across the Great Charles Street Queensway. Another tip/short cut is if you need to get from Digbeth to the City Centre. Instead of walking all the way up the high street, walk to Coventry Street where you'll see a multistorey car park, go up the lift and depending on the floor you choose you'll either be in Park St (handy for the National Express ticket shop) or the Bullring itself!  

Travel by Car

If you are planning to make a journey out of the city, you might wish to take a car hire in Birmingham - although public transport is usually preferable. Birmingham's roads can be confusing and a little hectic to visitors. They can even be a little daunting. Traffic tends to be worse between the hours of 8am-9am and 5pm-6pm when 'rush hour' hits, due to people going to and coming back from work, and on Saturdays when people come to Birmingham to go shopping. If you do feel comfortable driving, just bear in mind that you may need patience when trying to get out of the city centre. Once you are out of the city centre, the roads will generally be clearer.

Want to drive but don't have a car? Car2Go allows you to rent a car for however long you want and as often as you want. Find out more here

Other Modes of Transport

Travel by bike is not recommended in the centre. No one cycles in Central Birmingham aside from chav teens! 

A minority choose to travel by motorbike or scooter. Whilst this is a very effective and intelligent way of getting around the city centre easily, it may again be daunting for a visitor who is not familiar with the Birmingham road system. On the upside, scooters and bikes can usually park for free in most major car parks - so it is a cost-effective way to travel.