London’s public transport system may be one of the most comprehensive and well used systems in the world, but it can still be very confusing for first timers to use.
The Underground, or ‘the tube’ as it’s known by locals, actually carries out an estimated 1.35 billion journeys every year. The bus network essentially connects the entirety of Greater London which covers an area 15 times larger than Paris and the taxis and cabbies fill in all the gaps.
This stunningly comprehensive system works very well indeed- but can be intimidating to those of us who don’t use it regularly. It can be busy, fast paced and downright uncomfortable to ride the tube at times.
But don’t let all that put you off, public transport is the key to London; so don’t miss out during your stay at The Montcalm London City, home of the famous Montcalm afternoon tea. Take full advantage of the best London hotel deals and get out there to explore!
Let’s take a quick look at everything you need to know about the key elements to transport in London.
The first thing you need to consider is paying for the transport that you are going to use.
For most people living in the UK this is simple, but for those visiting it can be a little more complex.
Here are the two key elements you need to understand before you arrive.
Like I said, if you’re living in the UK and have a UK bank account, then contactless will be your best friend.
All of the Tube stations, buses, taxis and whatever else you may need to traverse the city will accept payment with contactless. It is a cheap and fast way to pay your tube fair- you don’t even need to visit a ticket machine.
Simply tap your card at a ticket gate, and you will be charged for that journey. Too easy.
The Oyster Card
If you are not based in the UK and visiting from overseas, then the Oyster Card will be your best friend as you travel around.
You can preload it with cash, receive discounted fares and it allows you to tap on and off whatever it is you are choosing to ride.
You can purchase a card online or at any station and you’ll get some nice discounts at stores across London too!
The Underground and Overground
The London Underground is most likely the service you will use most frequently. It is an incredible network of tracks that link up the entire city, and allows for immediate and fast travel pretty much anywhere.
There is a staggering 400 km of track covering 272 stations! It was the very first underground passenger rail system in the world and allows for amazing access.
When it’s combined with the Overground the service becomes even more ludicrous. The overground circles the city centre, and stretches all the way out to Greater London and even into Hertfordshire.
Make sure you fully utilise the incredible capabilities of this system and maximise the amount you are able to see during your time in the city.
There are a few things to look out for when riding the Underground, so here is a quick list of tips and tricks so you can ride like a pro!
Tips for the Tube
- Avoid rush hour: It can be extremely busy between the hours of 6:30-9:30 and again between 16:30 and 19:00 as people make their to and from work. Try to avoid using the service at these times.
- Stand to the right: When riding an escalator in a station (which you will do a lot of!) standing still is fine if you do it on the right hand side of the escalator. Some people will be in a rush so leaving a clear lane on the right is essential!
- Move down the platform: There will be many people joining on the platforms down there, so move away from the platform entrance to allow them to wait with you.
- Let people off the trains: Letting people off the trains before you climb aboard is key etiquette when you’re in London!
- Use TfL GO: The maps and navigation in the stations can be very confusing, so using apps like this will help manage your journey.
London’s bus network is even more thorough than the rail network. The buses fill in the gaps and basically allow you to get anywhere in the entire city.
For the city centre you should not need to use them too much, but if you fancy it then an open top bus tour that visits all the major landmarks can be a great way to get around.
London’s taxis are pretty iconic. The black cabs with the golden lights on top have been featured in hundreds of TV shows and movies, and are a symbol of the city.
Riding in a cab and seeing the driver’s knowledge of the city first hand is a thing of beauty- they have to pass a test memorising over 30,000 streets to secure the job! They can get you anywhere, and they can do it quickly!
London is becoming more and more friendly to cyclists. There are more lanes for bikes opening everyday, and areas like the banks of the Thames make for some beautiful bike rides.
Don’t worry about traffic, emissions, or anything really. Just cruise your way around the city at your own pace.
Pretty much all of the major landmarks are accessible on a bike, and you can even take advantage of the Santander Cycles system.
There are hundreds of well placed depots around the city where you’ll find bikes to rent. All you have to do is register for the app, choose a bike and cycle it away!
When you’re done head for the nearest depot and lock it up for someone else to use! It’s my favourite way to get around, without question.
There is always something to be said for walking. Simply strolling the city centre is a great way to feel the vibe of London, and truly experience the city.
Join a walking tour, cruise at your own pace, or stop off in a park. The joys of walking are increasingly forgotten!
So there you have it; a quick rundown of the main public transport options that you will find yourself using during your time in London.
Explore the city at your own pace, and tick all the things off your list as you go. London is incredibly accessible. Once you have finished your day you can head back, tired and happy to your accommodation; London city will be ready for you in the morning after a great night’s sleep.