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Getting here

Fuss Free Flights to Belfast!

Are you a GB student who is considering Queen's but concerned about travel costs and inconvenience? Worry no more as Russell talks you through how quick, cheap and EASY it is to get to Belfast.

Plane at an airport

My first time visiting Queen’s was the offer holder day in 2022. I was excited to explore the city and university in person after reading blogs and scouring the city on Google maps back at my home in England. But the thing that was the most nerve wracking about that day was that I was flying by myself for the first time in the morning and evening of that day. 

Writing this blog now I’ve taken that flight many times and quite enjoy it so hopefully I can give you some details of what it’s like flying to university and some tips that I’ve learnt over my first year to make your first flight here a little more confident than mine.

Tip: Download these apps!

Firstly, before you travel, I’d recommend downloading two apps. First the Translink NI app to track the bus times in Belfast. Secondly the app of the airline you’re flying with. This will allow you to easily check your flight status and download an online boarding pass (but I would recommend printing the physical copy as well just in case your phone dies).

Translink app

Tip: Make sure you arrive in time to get through security

When arriving at your home airport check to see how early you should arrive, when flying from London Gatwick I tend to arrive 2 house 45 minutes before the flights due to take off with the boarding gate opening 30 minutes before this. Although this may seem like a long time, sometimes there can be large delays at security. If you get through quicker than you had expected most airports have shops and restaurants to explore.

If I have time I always like to grab a Wetherspoons breakfast in Gatwick as it’s normally quite quick and cheap.

Easy jet plane

Tip: Belfast has TWO airports

When flying into Belfast there are two airports you can choose from; George Best Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport. The International Airport is the bigger of the two airports but despite the name is not actually in Belfast but about a 40-minute bus away from Belfast. Personally I tend to fly into the city airport which is right by the city. As you fly into this airport you follow the coast before landing by the port just after the waters edge.

Tip: Don't book a taxi before you land

Nearly every time I’ve flown to Belfast my flight has landed about half an hour earlier than due so this should be taken into consideration if booking a taxi to travel from the airport.

view from bus

Tip: Get the bus to your accommodation

When landing in Belfast I travel to my accommodation by bus. As you exit the city airport follow signs pointing you left towards the bus stop. For only £3 the bus takes you into the Europa bus centre in the heart of the city centre.

The buses are every 30 minutes except on Sundays when they’re every 45 minutes. The Bus centre is the heart of the city centre and is only a 15 minute walk to the university.

stands in bus centre

Tip: Don't worry- there are screens showing stands and announcements

When heading back from Belfast I again recommend taking the bus. The bus number is 600 and again it operates every 30 minutes except from Sundays. Use the app to plan which bus to take and arrive at least 5 minutes before it is meant to depart. Once you’re in the bus centre you can check if your bus is on time on the big screen. This also displays which stand to head to. The airport busses are normally stands 4-7.

Europa Bus centre timetable

Tip: Killing time in the airport

I would normally arrive two to two and a half hours before the plane is due to take off as with the city airport being small you can pass through security quite quickly. If you are getting the evening flight you’d most likely grab some dinner in the airport. There’s a pub doing general pub food as well as an Italian restaurant in the departure lounge.

If you're sitting in the Italian or the café Nero in the lounge you can sit right by a big window looking out onto the runway. When in the lounge you can keep an eye on the departure boards to see when your gate opens but they also make announcements in the lounge for each fight.  There’s only four gates in the airport so it’s pretty easy to navigate and there’s clear signs. After arriving at your gate make sure you have your boarding pass ready to scan and then you’re ready to fly back home.

Tip: Book early and get a cheap flight

Hopefully, you now know a bit more about what it’s like flying into and out of Belfast for uni. Personally, I think it’s a great way to travel and with flights from Gatwick at about £25 (with only hand luggage) and only lasting about 1 hour and a bit in the air, I spend most of my time relaxing in the departure lounges!

Find out more

Life in Belfast

Download the Translink app

More blogs about Getting Here

Russell Unsworth

Chemical Engineering | Undergraduate Student | England

Once a week I take 10min walk from my Queens Belfast Accommodation to the local Lidl but living right in the city of Belfast means I pass some amazing sights on my little trip to the shops.

Russell Unsworth