How to Use London's Public Transport
Getting around London can look like a real mission when you don’t know the city like a local. However navigating the tubes, working the buses and paying your way around London’s public transport is actually really easy (and cheap) when you know how it all works. Once you’ve downloaded the right apps and picked up your Oyster card, you’ll be riding through London like a pro in no time! Check out these top tips on how to get around London on a budget.
Looking for the best hostels in London? Check out St Christopher’s Inns
Watch our video on getting around London’s public transport to see it all in action…
There’s a reason why Citymapper is downloaded onto every Londoner’s smartphone. The free app is a lifesaver when it comes to navigating the city in the quickest, easiest way possible, and it’s not just London it works for. Whether you’re in London or all the way in New York, Tokyo or Sydney, Citymapper will help you find the best route to get you from A to B.
Tap on ‘Get Me Somewhere’, type in your desired destination and it’ll tell you what tubes or buses to get, in which direction and how long it’ll take you. Plus it’ll even say whether there are disruptions on the tubes and let you know realistically when you’ll arrive at your destination. If there’s one app that’ll help put your mind at ease when getting around London, Citymapper is the one.
Unless you have a contactless bank card or Apple pay on your phone, Oyster Cards are by far the best way to pay for public transport in London. Every tube, bus and overground train within London takes Oyster Cards, allowing you to simply tap on and tap off from every journey by placing it over the yellow, circular reader.
Oyster Cards are far better value than buying paper tickets. They’ll save you 50%, meaning you’ll have more to spend on way more fun things! Still not convinced? There’s also a price cap so you’ll never spend more than £7 on getting around London in one day.
You can buy your Oyster Card in advance before you even get to London if you’re visiting, otherwise most tube and train stations will have ticket offices where you can purchase one for a £5 deposit (you’ll get this back as the first load onto your Oyster Card).
As for actually getting around, it’s no trip to London without hopping on the London Underground. Use Citymapper to help you navigate your way through the tubes and download the free Tube Map app so you have one handy at all times. Don’t forget to tap on AND off the tubes and trains every time or you could land yourself with a fine - not what you want on a trip away!
A few tube and train stations don’t have the gates that you have to ‘tap off’ in order to get through. In this case, find the yellow reader which will be on the platform, before you walk out of the station without tapping off.
Other than this, just remember:
- Rush Hour is between 7:30-9:30am and 5-7pm
- Stand to the right of the escalator
- Check for line closures on the TFL website (or Citymapper)
- Give up your priority seat to someone who needs it more
- Move down inside the carriage
- Let people off the train before you get on
- Don’t panic! Going back on yourself is easy
- And, of course, mind the gap.
Citymapper will easily guide you through the London bus routes, but if it’s how to use London buses that you want to know, you might be surprised at how simple they actually are. All you have to do is use your contactless card or Oyster Card to tap on at the front of the bus, and when your stop is up next just press the stop button and walk straight off - you don’t even need to tap off.
On buses, your card will be charged just £1.50, and you can take as many journeys as you’d like within one hour.
Santander Cycles are, of course, much more environmentally friendly than using buses and tubes. If you’d like to use them then keep an eye out or check the TFL website to find the nearest docking station (they’re all over London), then pay with a debit or credit card, enter the release code and you’re off!
While the Santander bikes might look like fun, please take care when using them as London’s roads are busy - we recommend sticking to the city parks or quieter roads away from central London.
In some parts of London, it’s actually quicker to walk than take the tube. Covent Garden and Leicester Square tube stations are next door to each other on the Piccadilly Line, and are only 20 seconds tube journeys apart. It’s only a 5 minute walk above ground, so save yourself time and fresh air and take the stroll through one of the most bustling parts of London!
Article by Darcy King
Heading to London sometime soon?
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