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In July I'm going for my second summer in London living/working with family friends. At the time of my travel I will be 15 (nearly 16), I'm highly independent and last summer I did a lot of solo sightseeing, and I'm extremely familiar with the buses and underground and what not.

I'm wondering to what extent I would be able to travel as a minor while I'm there (my parents don't have a problem with it), (i.e: trains to mainland Europe, Northern England/Scotland). I look much older than I am and I'm around 6'4. I just don't know what the attitude/rules about that sort of thing is in Europe as opposed to here in the US.

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    Within the UK, you shouldn't have any problems at all. As long as you can afford to buy your ticket for the train, bus, etc. Not sure about travelling to/from Europe, I don't know if unaccompanied minors would be an issue when crossing borders. – Anthony Grist Jun 10 '15 at 16:31
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    Border crossing (especially the border between the UK and France) is the main thing you need to worry about. The advice in travel.stackexchange.com/questions/47731/… should be broadly applicable to this border as well. – Relaxed Jun 10 '15 at 16:31
  • Yeah that's a concern of mine, would they bar entry because of age? – Dylan McGrath Jun 10 '15 at 16:33
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    @DylanMcGrath There will not bar entry because of age, but sometimes they will want to be satisfied that you are not being kidnapped. However if you are able to explain your plans coherently there will be no problems. It is relatively common. – Calchas Jun 10 '15 at 16:40
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    As an aside, if you are working for money on London, you're probably (technically) working illegally. Don't mention it to border officals. – CMaster Jun 10 '15 at 17:33
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While within one of the EU countries, you could travel by bus and train quite easily, even when crossing borders within the Schengen zone you might not run into trouble. But traveling from the UK to the Schengen zone you will have to show proof of permission to travel from your parents.

I checked out the Eurostar rules, as it is the easiest way to travel from London to the continent. It looks you are out of luck there

Children of 12 years old and above may travel alone provided they have a completed and signed 'Unaccompanied minors form’. This must be signed in front of a member of Eurostar staff.

Airlines are more likely to allow you on board but will need to see permission to travel by your parents and you can not buy your own tickets (if following the rules online, which state you need to be 18 to buy your own tickets.)

There will be some hotels, hostels and 'bed and breakfast' places that do not check your age, but for most of Europe there is the rule you need to be 18 to sign contracts and booking a hotel room and checking in is seen as signing a contract. Hostels seem to sometimes allow 16 and 17 year old teens to check in alone, often a letter of permission of the parents is needed.

Within the UK the same limitations on hotel and hostels exist, with some exceptions where the owner does not bother to check. But at 15 you should not expect to be able to travel long distance without questions asked. You might be tall, but European kids are often also tall and train and hotel staff know to more ways to guess age. Often hotels and hostels require a passport to check in, and at 15 you will not be allowed and might be send 'home' under police supervision.

If your parents are OK with it and they or your host family can organize it, you might be able to stay with friends of the family somewhere else in the UK, or even on the continent, but you will need to have the right paperwork.

  • Given that you can legally be married with children at 16 in the UK at least, the minimum age of 18 to buy a ticket seems very strange. – eleanora Aug 9 '15 at 6:34
  • To marry at 16 you need your parents permission, to buy train tickets within the UK you do not, it is just international travel for which you need to be 18 or have parental permission. But age limits on different things prove nothing. In the USA you can drive at 16 or even younger, vote at 18 and not drink till 21. – Willeke Aug 9 '15 at 9:12
  • It's not hugely relevant but you don't need your parents permission to get married at 16 in Scotland AFAIK. – eleanora Aug 9 '15 at 18:57
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For traveling to Northern England/Scotland using the train provider "Virgin East Coast" there are no strict regulations for underage passengers traveling alone, (source: Minimum age for unaccompanied children). They instead state that travelers should be mature enough to understand the risks of train travel.

In terms of tickets, when you reach 16 you might be interested in getting a "16-25 railcard", as this will entitle you to discounts.

I cannot comment for trains to mainland Europe.

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    Traveling by train is only one part of traveling. When in Northern England or Scotland the OP will need a place to stay and those are not available (officially at least) for 15 year old kids, unless privately arranged by the family. – Willeke Jun 10 '15 at 16:47
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    Do other train operators in England have restrictions? If not, why are you especially recommending "Virgin East Coast"? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 10 '15 at 18:53
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo No, they do not. It is normal for children to use public transport unaccompanied in the UK. – MJeffryes Jun 10 '15 at 21:49
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Virgin East Coast or Virgin Trains (via the West Coast) are the only train operators to the North of England / Scotland from London. – davidb Jun 11 '15 at 13:02

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