Travel and visas in South Wales

Visas

Citizens of all European countries – other than Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and most republics from the former Soviet Union – can enter the South Wales (and the rest of the UK) with just a passport for up to three months. US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand citizens can travel in the UK for up to six months with a passport. All other nations require a visa, available from the British consular office in the country of application.

Now that the UK has left the EU, visa regulations are subject to change, so contact the nearest British embassy or high commission before travelling. Once in Wales you are free to travel into England or Scotland. Check gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration.

Getting there and away

By coach

Coaches ply the M4 corridor, with both National Express and Megabus operating services from London to Cardiff. Buses are roughly every 90 minutes with a journey time of around 3 hours 45 minutes. Fares can vary massively (with both companies), but book far enough in advance and you could secure a ticket for as little as £5 one-way.

National Express also operate a handful of buses each day from London to Swansea, via Cardiff and Bridgend, with a journey time of around 5 hours; and from London to Pembroke Dock, calling at Swansea, Carmarthen and Tenby among other places.

By air

The likelihood of you arriving in South Wales by air are slim, given that there is only one airport, Cardiff (in Rhoose, to the west of the city), and even they it is serviced by very few flights. It may well be that both Ryanair and Wizz Air both of whom currently fly to a limited number of destinations from Cardiff, increase the number of flights they offer.

In 2021, Ryanair started flying from Cardiff to Dublin, and in 2022 Wizz Air announced that they were to make Cardiff their fourth UK base.

By sea

There are two entry points into South Wales by sea, both of which originate in Rosslare, southwest Ireland. From Fishguard, in western Pembrokeshire, Stena operate two daily ferries to Rosslare, with a crossing time of 3 hours and 30 minutes or 4 hours.

Irish Ferries also operate two ferries a day to Rosslare, but from Pembroke Dock on the southern Pembrokeshire coast. This crossing takes marginally longer at 4 hours (return fare from around £78 adult, £270 car).

By rail

The most straightforward entry into South Wales by train is the London Paddington line to Cardiff, which also stops at Newport. Trains from Paddington also service Swansea, stopping at Bridgend, Port Talbot and Neath en route. Trains run every 30 minutes to Cardiff and hourly to Swansea.

A far more agreeable way of reaching South Wales by train is via the Heart of Wales line, which is operated by Transport for Wales. The line starts in Shrewsbury, northeast of Birmingham, and enters Wales at Knighton before wending its way down through mid-Wales to Llandovery, Llandeilo, Ammanford, Llanelli and finally Swansea (with a zillion stops in between).

Getting around

By car

Welsh roads are, for the most part, excellent. With regard to South Wales, the principal entry points from England are the M4 and M48 motorways, the former originating in London and ending in eastern Carmarthenshire, the latter a short 13-mile stretch of road which veers off the M4 in England before crossing the Severn Bridge near Chepstow and rejoining the M4 near Newport.

Driving in southeastern Wales can be frustrating, particularly around Newport and Cardiff, but apart from that, congestion is not a huge issue. Your biggest frustration in the Brecon Beacons is likely to be sheep rather than other vehicles. though even they somehow manage to take the stress out of driving.

By bus

The bus network is generally excellent, with local services run by a bewildering array of companies, though nearly all operate a much-reduced service on Sundays, if they run at all. Moreover, such are the relatively short distances between places in South Wales that no one journey is ever particularly arduous.

Traws Cymru operate half a dozen or so medium-to-long-distance services throughout Wales. Of relevance to South Wales are T1 (Carmarthen to Aberystwyth), T4 (Cardiff to Newtown in Powys, via Merthyr and Brecon), T5 (Haverfordwest to Fishguard), T6 (Brecon to Swansea), T11 (Haverfordwest to Fishguard via St Davids) and T14 (Cardiff to Hay-on-Wye via Brecon). These buses are clean, comfortable and have Wi-Fi – and do have Sunday services.

By train

Like buses, the train network in South Wales is generally excellent, if not quite as far-reaching, which is not surprising given the terrain. The main inter-city line is the one from London Paddington whose first stop in Wales is Newport, then Cardiff, Bridgend, Port Talbot, Neath and Swansea. From these stations, suburban and rural services fan out into Monmouthshire, across the Valleys and the Vale of Glamorgan, and, from Swansea and Carmarthen, into Pembrokeshire.

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