Travel and Getting Around
From Reddit London wiki
- Get an oyster card. They make travel much cheaper and save you time. You can buy them just about everywhere. There's usually a £3 'activation' charge if bought online or £5 ‘activation' charge if bought at the station. This acts as a deposit and is refunded if/when you return the card.
- Oyster card ensures you pay the cheapest fare. It automatically charges you for the correct zones and time (peak/off peak, esp. since traveling into the city during the evening peak is an off peak journey). There's also a daily cap so you'll never pay more in a day than the cost of a one day pass.
- TFL.gov.uk is your friend. Use it.
- The Journey Planner will set out your journey for you. It will also notify you of disruptions and engineering works.
- Familiarise yourself with the different Zones of London.
 TFL/Oyster Card/PAYG/Travelcard
- TfL - stands for Transport for London. It's the government body responsible for all transport in London (Buses, Tube, Overground, as well as taxis, minicabs, and roads).
- A Travelcard - is a ticket that allows you unlimited travel across specific travel zones for a period of time. The more Zones you want included, the pricier it gets.
- Day/Weekly/Monthly Travelcard - is a... well you guessed it...
- You need to register your Oyster card if you want to put a month or longer travel card on it. Do this at the ticket office.
- You can get a paper-ticket Day Travelcard or load a Travelcard onto your Oyster card
- All Travelcards include buses in all zones.
- Oyster Card - is a plastic card that you use to travel on the TFL (and suburban parts of the national rail) network. Most people use one instead of paper tickets.
- An Oyster can contain a Travelcard or PAYG credit or (most likely) both.
- PAYG - stands for Pay-As-You-Go. To put it simply, you 'charge-up' (known as topping-up) your Oyster with credit and each journey costs you a set amount. Remember you can always recharge if you run out of credit.
- You can top up a PAYG Oyster card at all tube stations and many news agents and other small shops showing the blue Oyster card name/logo
- Previously you've not been able to top up at train stations (National Rail or Overground) but some are now adding Oyster top up to ticket machines (all Overground and terminal stations have them).
- You can check your Oyster balance here
- You can top up and buy Travelcards online but the credit is only added when you go through the selected station the day after (which is kinda useless).
- You can set up an auto top up online, so that when your balance goes below £5 it will automatically top it up £20 or £40 (and debit your bank card).
- If you spend enough PAYG credit with your Oyster card during a single day, it will automatically 'cap' itself and therefore turn into a day Travelcard. For example, if you use PAYG and you take the Tube (Zone 1) 20 times in a day, it won't charge you £38 (20 x £1.90), instead it will cap at £8.00 which the max charge for Zone 1 travel in a day. Price Table.
- On escalators, WALK LEFT & STAND RIGHT.
- When you walk onto the platform, turn either right or left and walk away from the entrance tunnel you have just walked through. Don't stand in the entrance way and block the people behind you. It's the kind of little things that make everyone's journey smoother. Same applies when you get on the train, move down inside the carriage, especially if it is busy. Basically just be a little aware of who is behind you.
- When the announcement says "stand clear of the closing doors" that means stand clear of the closing doors. It doesn't mean dive through the closing doors or jam the closing doors open while your friends run down the stairs. When people do that it slows the service down with a surprisingly large knock on effect to following trains. Also it can jam/break the doors, causing major delays.
- On travelators , please stand as far to the right as possible and walk on the left. Alternatively, walk briskly on the left, you will be amazed at how much distance you can cover and the speed you can walk at with the aid of the conveyor belt.
- Tube Map
- Table showing typical travel prices. Note that buying individual tickets for travel is much more expensive than using the plastic Oyster card if you are making a few journeys - Oyster trips are priced lower because they have an active policy of discouraging the use of paper tickets as this speeds up passage through gates and so on.
- Every weekend, many of the TFL underground lines undergo work which means line closure. Make sure to check planned works or sign up for a weekly line-closure email that tells you what lines will be affected. If your line is affected, there will be 'replacement buses' that will follow the route of the Tube but it's always faster to choose an alternative itinerary as the replacement bus service is famously slow/unreliable.
- Have your ticket/oyster ready as you arrive at the top of the escalator.
- If you are lost/waiting for your group, DO NOT stop at points of high traffic (top/bottom of escalator, intersections, in front of gates).
- Let people off the train and leave a gap for them to walk past before getting on.
- Don't lean on the poles in the middle of the standing area. There is room for about 4-6 people to hold that pole but if one person leans their back against it everyone else's hands get squished or they have to balance.
- Moving all the way down to the end of the platform while waiting for a train will often guarantee you a seat.
- Open/Close buttons on Tube doors are a relic of the past, they are no longer functional, the doors will open automatically. Pressing a tube door button is a number one way to mark yourself out as a tourist. However, if you're on the DLR or Overground services, you will need to press these buttons to open the doors.
- The London Underground network does not operate 24h a day. This is because it's a very old network and they have to close for cleaning and maintenance. Check what time you can catch your Last Tube (and first).
- Geographic Tube Maps
- With Oyster Card, one bus journey costs £1.35. Non-oyster tickets are £2.30. If you have a travelcard (or a travelcard loaded on your oyster) then this also covers bus fares. Price Table.
- Familiarise yourself with the buses in your area.
- City Mapper and BusIt London are nifty tools for planning your bus journey.
A quick guide to picking the right bus (courtesy of jaymeekae):
- 1. Let's say you're at Oxford Circus and you want to get to Paddington. Walk up to any bus stop in Oxford Circus and find the map that looks something like this.
- 2. See how Paddington is over there on the left, and there are three lines that go through it, the 159, the 23 and the 7. (The signs at bus stops also have this information in "list" form, so if you don't know what direction your destination is in, it's a bit easier to use that to find your bus.)
- 3. So you need the 159, 23 or 7 Over on the right of that PDF is a list that shows you which stops those buses go from. Check the "end of line" destination of the bus and compare it to the one on the list on the right to make sure you'll be going in the right direction.
- 4. So the 7, towards East Acton, goes from stops OM, OP and OQ.
- 5. Now you see the little map in the middle? That shows you where the stops actually are. Look up at the sign for the stop you're at to figure out where exactly on the map you currently are.
- 6. When the bus comes just get on and tap your oyster card. It doesn't matter where you're going (how many stops etc), it always costs the same. You don't have to say anything to the bus driver.
- 7. Figuring out where to get off the bus is the hardest part, I think. They do announce the stops but unless it's a major one (i.e. a train station) it might be different to what you thought it would be called. I have googlemaps on my phones so i tend to follow the journey on that. If you dont have it, this is one of those situations where it is ok to ask someone on the bus to help you out. You can even try asking the driver "please can you tell me when we get to X". London bus drivers are moody fuckers but they generally will fulfil this request. When you've got to the point that you actually know where to get off, just ring the bell at some point after leaving the stop before and they'll stop at the next one.
 Night Bus
Missed the last train? Can't afford a cab? Looks like you're going to have to hit the night buses!
Night buses operate similarly to regular buses so you can reuse the guide above. Each stop will have a separate Night Bus Map. Most night buses pass through the center of London (Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street etc...) so making your way there is half the battle.
A few facts and tips:
- Night buses are generally numbered with an N prefix (e.g. N8, N55). Exception to that rule are the buses that operate 24h a day (e.g. 6, 25)
- Goes without saying that the night bus crowd can be rougher (and drunker) than usual so stay safe (and mind the vomit). Staying on the lower deck is always a good bet.
'Overground' is a slightly complicated concept, but generally refers to London's network of regular (ie non-underground/Tube) trains. The network covers a similar geographic area to the tube, but doesn't really serve the very centre of town. It does, however extend far out into the surrounding suburbs and is usually the only way to get to the less-central destinations.
Past a certain poorly-defined point the overground blurs into the general national railway network. This is confusing for everyone, even native Londoners.
In the strictest possible sense, 'Overground' refers only to the routes shown on this map and corresponds to the orange route on some TfL maps. Journeys on these lines are exactly the same as on the tube, except you mostly won't be underground. You'll probably use your Oystercard to touch in and out at the various stations.
Additionally, national rail operators who operate commuter services out of major London stations are usually also grouped under the 'overground' banner (but for clarity are called National Rail). For example, you can catch a South West Train service from London Waterloo to Wimbledon and use your Oystercard to pay for the journey. Until recently you couldn't use 'pay as you go' on these sorts of services, but now you can. Hooray.
Overground is a good way to travel around Greater London (and the only way to get to certain places), but it's worth minding the following points:
- Overground services tend to travel large distances and as such go through zones rapidly. Make sure you check that your travelcard covers the appropriate zones or that you have sufficient funds on your card to pay for the trip. Check the zone of your destination station in advance.
- Make sure you 'touch out' when you leave your destination station. Lots of stations don't have barriers and you'll get charged a penalty fare if you're on pay as you go.
- Overground services can get VERY BUSY during rush hours (approx 0600-1000 and 1700-1900).
- Some Overground services go a very long way. If you get drunk and fall asleep on them you can end up in places such as Shoeburyness, Portsmouth, or even worse, Slough. This is almost always a terrible disaster.
Sit at the front. Best view of (East) London.
The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was initially established in order to allow easy access to the new financial district in Canary Wharf, but now reaches across the farther reaches of east London and across the river to Greenwich and beyond. These trains are automated (i.e. run by computer) but have a member of staff on board to reassure passengers. Except where stations are shared with Underground or Overground services DLR stations do not have have ticket barriers. However, you must touch in and touch out using the yellow pads found around the station to ensure that your Oyster card is debited correctly - if you fail to do so you may be charged the maximum amount for a day's travel, or be fined by a ticket inspector during one of their infrequent checks. Passengers with weekly or longer period tickets don't need to touch in and out, unless they are going outside the zones covered by their ticket.
 Taxis & Minicabs
 Black Cabs
Hackney Carriages (known as Black Cabs) are the only sort of Taxi you can hail on the street.
- All black cabs are the iconic 'London taxi' shape, although not all are black.
- Black cab drivers have to undergo a lengthy training (called 'The Knowledge'), so they're less likely to rely on satnav to find your destination (that's often a good thing).
- Many Londoners avoid black cabs like the plague as they can be very expensive.
- People often don't realise but there's nothing to stop someone from negotiating a fixed price with the driver. Some drivers will do this, some won't, probably more feasible for longer journeys.
- Some black cabs now have wheelchair accessibility and many have ramps.
- Once hailed, black cabs are obligated to take you up to a 12 mile (or one hour) distance.
- Some black cabs can take credit cards, but there is a surcharge.
- Generally you round the fare up to the nearest pound (or add an extra pound).
- Read more about Taxis here.
Minicabs (also known as 'Private Hire') typically need to be booked in advance by phone or via agency. You arrange a pick up point and you're on your way.
- It is not uncommon to be able to negotiate a fare on the spot (e.g. late Saturday night outside the bar/club) even though it's technically illegal to do so.
- Minicabs are usually licensed and registered; however, at night, some minicabs can appear a bit shady (or right down dangerous) so be careful when dealing with drivers directly. This sticker is a sign of a legit minicab, but remain vigilant nonetheless. To be absolutely safe, do not take a minicab which is parked on the street - they may not be a legitimate minicab driver. Either telephone for a cab, or visit a minicab office and order a cab directly from the despatcher.
- Minicap listing.
- AirportOnly.co.uk has been recommended by one of our fellow redditor and seems to offer good service to all airports.
- Alternatively, text Cab to 60835 and you'll receive a text giving you the numbers for 2 local minicabs and one black cab. (Service costs 35p)
 Walking & Cycling
Cycling in London is great fun and experiencing the city above ground, in the open air, is the only way to really see it. Cramming yourself into sweaty tube carriages and crowded buses is an ugly alternative – get cycling. The Boris Bikes are easy to hire and can be picked up pretty much anywhere central - the TFL website can show you where.
Riding in London traffic isn't really that bad as long as you display confidence and clarity about what you're doing. Make your intentions clear and don't be afraid to claim the lane and ride in "primary position" - motorists in London are used to going slowly through busy parts and being able to thread your bike through built-up traffic is one of the joys of London cycling.
There are bike shops everywhere and the bigger/busier ones often have free tools for cyclists - the Evans Cycles off Fleet Street has a foot pump chained up outside for passing bike commuters to borrow free of charge. Be wary of locking your bike up though - cycle theft is ridiculously common in London.
For more info on this, check out the London Cyclist blog.
London is the greenest city in Europe, so ideal for people wanting to take a stroll - there are several very large parks in central London, but many more further out of the centre. Large untended areas of common land such as Hackney Marshes, Richmond Park and Epping Forest are very popular with walkers who want the illusion of being out in the countryside (Richmond even has herds of wild deer). Alternatively there are walking routes alongside the network of canals that run throughout the city, as well as along the Thames riverside.
 Travelling to/from the Airports
Heathrow is on the Piccadilly Line which provides access into central London. A trip from Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3 to Piccadilly Circus would take about 50 mins. This will cost £4.50 peak times (06:30-09:30) or £2.70 off-peak with an Oyster Card or £5 at any time without.
There are 3 Heathrow Stations: Terminals 1,2,3, Terminal 4 and Terminal 5.
The tubes towards Heathrow will either go to Terminal 4 and then Terminal 1,2,3 or first to Terminals 1,2,3 and onto Terminal 5. It's worth noting that if you are in a rush to get to Terminals 1,2 or 3 and are on a T4 train then it is nearly always faster to get off at Hatton Cross (the stop before the terminals) and wait for the next T5 train, this is due to the end-of-line break drivers take at T4.
 Heathrow Express/Heathrow Connect
Heathrow Express will get you to London Paddington in 15 mins, (leaves every 15 minutes). A single Express class (2nd class) fare is £16.50 online, £18.00 at ticket offices and machines, and £23 if purchased onboard.
Heathrow Connect is a rail service which takes the same line but takes about 25 mins (leaves every 30 minutes, stops at a handful of stations between Paddington and Heathrow), this costs £8.50 to/from Paddington one-way, £16.50 return. This can be useful if you want to connect to the Central or District lines as it stops at Ealing Broadway.
There are major bus stations at both Heathrow Central and Hatton Cross. Most buses which travel between Terminal 4, Hatton Cross, Heathrow Central or Terminal 5 are free for this section of the journey. If you need to get to the Airport before the tube is running the N9 Bus Route serves Heathrow from central London through the night.
- See Taxis & Minicabs
 Travelling Between Airports
Gatwick isn't on the Tube network, so you'll need to take a train or taxi to get to central London. The train is cheaper (by far) than with a booked cab which can approach £50 to get to the West End. Consider the latter if there's a group travelling, though.
There are a few options on the train:
- Gatwick Express - 30 minutes non-stop into Victoria station, every 15 minutes. Tickets cost £15.95 one way, with a 10% discount if you book a return journey at the same time.
- First Capital Connect - 30 minutes to London Bridge, 45 minutes to King's Cross, via East Croydon (where you can change for services to Victoria), every 10-15 minutes. Tickets cost from as little as £8 one way, and double that for a return. It's recommended to book online before travelling.
- Southern Railway - 35 minutes to Victoria station, 40 minutes to London Bridge via a change in East Croydon. Tickets cost from as little as £3.65 one way, and double that for a return, but only by booking in advance online.
Bear in mind that when booking online, to get the cheapest tickets you need to book a specific train time. This may be more problematic when arriving at Gatwick, owing to flight delays, getting through customs, etc. An anytime single may be better in that case, but ensuring you catch the specific train out of London back to the airport is quite easy.
The cheapest option is obviously Southern Railway, and they only take 10 minutes longer than the Gatwick Express, at most, to get to Victoria.
- See Taxis & Minicabs
 Transfer/Travel Between Airports
- Alternatively, check out Gatwick's help page!
 A note about Stansted and Luton
When booking flights, bear in mind the hassle and the extra cost of landing at these airports. For example, Stansted is closer to Cambridge than London and the Stansted Express is a full £27.30 for a round trip ticket (internet price), £29.30 if you didn't plan ahead. The journey takes 46 minutes.
It is possible to take a national express bus service from Central London, often the only answer for early morning flights, this costs about £13 one way, and takes an hour or two from central London depending on the time of day and traffic. They tend to go along the North Circular, a very busy north London thouroughfare, and can be heavily delayed during the daytime.
Ryanair and other budget airlines price their tickets very low by using airports farther away from London (Stansted, Luton). This makes them the cheapest option. However, bear in mind the extra cost, time and hassle. Sometimes, by planning well in advance (and with a bit of luck), you will discover that the 20 pounds extra for British Airways tickets into Heathrow will get you there for the same price, half the time commitment, and in a much better mood.
 Getting To/From Stansted
- Stansted's website's got your back!
You can get the train, either the Stansted Express or regular rail services, into central London from the station which is located directly below the airport's terminals. If your hotel is in the Kings Cross/Euston area (which is quite popular with tourists) change at Tottenham Hale station, and catch a Victoria line tube train in the direction of Brixton - King's Cross and Euston are only 3 and 4 stops away respectively.
Coaches into London are operated by several companies from the coach station just outside the terminal building, and are generally a cheaper option than travelling by rail, although journey times can be considerably longer. The quickest option is to get the direct National Express service to Stratford station (which is next to the 2012 Olympic Park) and then continue your journey by tube, Docklands Light Railway, Overground or train from there. This service only takes 45-50 minutes and is rarely subject to delays, unlike the other routes which go into the centre of London.
- See Taxis & Minicabs
 Getting To/From Luton
Travelling into London from Luton using public transport is more awkward than London's other airports. A coach transfer service operates from outside the terminal buildings to Luton Parkway railway station a mile or so away every few minutes, where you can then catch a train into central London. Coach travel into London is also an option, however the route involves negotiating one of the busiest sections of the UK's motorway network - journeys will take well over an hour to get to London by coach.
- See Taxis & Minicabs
 More helpful Reddit Posts
- Tube etiquette - what's good, what's not so good
- London - Protips
- Which Bus to take? - In simple English
- I am a US student studying in London for 5 months. Any advice/tips?
- Going to London for the first time. Any survival tips?
- Travelling out of London on Megabus and your bus ticket says 'Saint Pancras Station'? You will need to read this.