19 ways to travel around London like a pro
Navigating your way around the Big Smoke is never easy. It’s busy, it’s fast paced, there are tourists everywhere and the complex tube system is enough to make your cry if you’re a first-timer. But don’t worry, while it’s daunting at first we’ve tried to make your life travelling around London so much easier. Follow our tips to ensure venturing around the busy city goes as smoothly as possible…
(And once you’ve worked it out it’s easy peasy)
1) Find a friend in Citymapper
We know that travelling around London can be confusing and terrifying but if you download this App it will make your life a lot easier! Simply tap in your current destination and your end destination. Then, Citymapper will pull up a the best ways of getting there: the cheapest, easiest and quickest (by tube and bus). The App even tells you when there are delays so you can avoid them! There are so many different tube lines to familiarise yourself with - but Citymapper will tell you which line to get and which direction to go in. You won’t be able to travel around London without it!
2) Ask the bus driver
If you’re unsure about what bus to take, ask the bus driver if it is stopping at your chosen destination (before the bus heads off, of course). They know all of the routes around London. It's better to ask than getting on the wrong bus and ending up on the other side of the city. Drivers are always more than happy to help out.
3) Save money and time with an oyster card
Using public transport can be quite expensive if you’re buying tickets everyday. However, Oyster cards can make your travel much cheaper. You can buy these at most train stations and in some London shops, they cost £5 which you can get back if you return the Oyster Card when you’ve finished using it. All you have to do is top up your Oyster in any station. Or you can get a Visitor Oyster that you have to buy in advance. It will get delivered to your house full on credit, you just need to remember to pack it.
4) Get the Tube Map App
When a newbie in London, you have no chance understanding the complex tube system without this bad boy. Find out the exact line you need to take, how many stops to get you there and which is the easiest route! The Tube Map App also gives departure times. Or, just pick up a tube map leaflet from any station and make sure you carry it around anytime you travel.
5) Uber Pool is a cheap, easy way to get around
Uber is one of the best ways to travel around London if you don’t have any cash on you. Some black cabs don't take card (and are a little pricier). All you have to do is download the app, add your bank details and order your Uber right to your feet. Then, the closest uber driver to you,will come and pick you up and take you to your destination. You can also choose “uberpool” which allows you to share your Uber with other clients heading in the same direction as you.This splits the fee making the journey even cheaper...and you get to meet new people!
6) Contactless is a god send
Similar to an Oyster, contactless payment makes your journey so much easier and quicker. So choose this option or an Oyster, doing both isn't really necessary. But with contactless payment you can avoid queuing at a ticket machine to top up your card because TFL adds up all your journeys from and charges you at the end of the day! Just remember to tap out every time you exit a station.
7) Set up tube wifi
We all hate the “NO SERVICE” sign we get on our phones whilst travelling underground. Although we still have no signal, TFL has now teamed up with Virgin media bringing wifi to over 250 London Underground stations, so you don’t need to worry about not being able to communicate with your friends anymore when taking the tube! It also means you can update them on your wherabouts and journey time if you're heading to meet someone.
8) Plan your travel
Always make sure to plan your journey before leaving. That way, you can avoid rush hour (7:30-9:30am and 5:00-7:00pm) meaning that you will avoid overcrowded stations and trains - meaning that you won’t be squashed into a train like a sardine and it will make some of your journey quicker (ie: just getting out the station). Planning also means you know the exact route you need to take, which makes life easier when you're travelling.
Also, by planning your travel you can find out if there are any delays and where so that you can avoid those particular trains.
9) Rent a Santander bike
Photo credit: Transport for London
If you’re a confident cyclist then you can rent out a Santander bike. There are over 750 docking stations over London so they are very easy to find and they will only cost you £2 every 30 minutes. (Download the Santander Cycles app which shows you the nearest docking stations and bike availability). Cycling around London is one of the quickest ways of travelling and means you can see more of the city in a shorter space of time. Would you rather be on the ground, or underground? That's your call
If you’re not a confident cyclist, steer clear of road cycling. London roads are extremely busy and can be quite dangerous if you aren’t the best on a bike. A lot of Londoners themselves won't even bother attempting cycling around on the roads due to fear.
Don’t underestimate the power of walking. To get from A to B sometimes it’s easier and quicker by foot rather than tackling the hot tubes. This is when Google Maps comes into play to tell you how far away you are from your destination. Eg) you can walk to Baker Street from Marylebone in 5 minutes. The same goes for Oxford Street to Piccadilly Circus which is easily walkable. That’s one great thing about London; you can walk lots of it if you’re exploring a particular part of the city.
11) Ask a Londoner on the street
They will usually know the way to the nearest tube station or museum. And most of the time, they will be super friendly. Just avoid the fast-paced busy bodies who look like they're in a rush or on the phone (which you will see a lot).
12) Be aware of tube strikes
Occasionally, the whole of London’s tube system comes to a complete halt because the train drivers decide to go on strike. Just make sure there isn’t a tube strike taking place when you’re in London… If there is, there are ways around it. Tickets will be accepted on buses and overground lines for example. To keep updated on tube strikes see the TFL website.
13) If you’re lost, ask someone who works in the tube station
The London Underground staff will usually be wearing a luminous jacket (so they are easy to spot). These heroes know ALL the tube routes and will direct you to the platform you need/the exit you need to take whenever you're struggling.
14) Only take black cabs
Any other cab is unlicensed and therefore not the safest option. So, when looking for a cab stick to the black ones with an orange TAXI sign on the front. (Unless of course it’s an Uber).
15) Avoid travelling during rush hour
Probably one of the most important things to consider. Or you will get swamped, overheated, squished, pushed, shoved and irritated. When commuters are travelling to work it’s the busiest time of the day on public transport so plan your day around this mayhem. Avoid 8am-9.30am and 5pm-6pm. Tubes can get so packed that you will feel like sardines in a tin. Travelling during these peak times also raises the price of tube tickets. So yeah, try to avoid if you can (sometimes it's impossible though if you're up early and need to be somewhere).
16) Lost? Google Maps will get you from A to B
We all know how Google Maps works. Lost? Need to walk somewhere? Want to know how long it will take? Google Maps is there to save you. Just insert in your current location, then your destination et voila, Google Maps will direct you. I find Google Maps is most useful when travelling by foot. Even if you don’t have wifi, take a screenshot of your route before you set out into the no wi-fi zone, and you’ll be just fine.
17) Always stand behind the yellow line
This is the rule on every Underground or Overground platform when waiting for your train to arrive - and it’s for your own safety.
18) Stand on the right hand side of an escalator
When you find yourself on the escalator in crowded tube stations (or anywhere in London with an escalator), make sure to stand on the right. The left hand side is for people who want to walk up. So STAND ON THE RIGHT or risk agitating a lot of people.
19) Follow the signs
This is obvious but even the locals would struggle to get around without these trusty signs. They are dotted all over the stations to direct you to the way out, to other platforms and to the toilets.
Article by Shereen Sagoo