Getting Around in London

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Double decker buses in London

Double decker buses in London

Joseph Hollick

Whether you're trying to get to a London hotel fast, find a London restaurant for lunch or make it on time to any number of London activities or attractions, London's numerous forms of transportation will get you there -- fast. London travel guides have most London transportation basics covered, but there are a few additional things to keep in mind about London's system.

London's transportation network is split into zones, radiating from the centre of the city. All tickets are charged according to which zones you will travel through. Most visitors to the capital are unlikely to wander out of zone 2. This pricing system applies to all public transportation. The best value is a day travelcard (Adult £5.10 which allows you unlimited travel from 09.30 until 04.30 the next day. The TFL site ( www.tfl.gov.uk) has all the recent up to date prices and transport maps.

The Underground
London's tube is frequently moaned about, but is generally quite efficient with trains appearing every 2-5 minutes. In peak times it will be packed and be very uncomfortable, so always take a drink with you to keep cool in the summer. Although the tube network is immense (13 lines), south London is not very well covered and people tend to rely more on rail and buses. The tube runs from early morning (06.00-07.00 depending on each line) to late evening (about 00.30).

Tickets can be bought from machines or from ticket booths in the station entrance hall and from newsagents. For those living in London, getting an 'Oystercard' is worthwhile, for visitors however, the card tickets are fine. A travel card is the best option for anyone taking more than two journeys in the day and can be used on buses, trains and the DLR. The Tube is generally quicker than the bus, simply because of London's legendary traffic jams. 

It is worth noting that since 2006 paper tickets have become more expensive then the same journey being paid for on an Oystercard. A single fare within zone 1 is £4 with a paper ticket, but is £1.50 by Oyster (information correct from April 2007). This is being done to help encourage more people to use the new payment system. The cards themselves can be purchased for around £3 and used without a travel ID card, so for some visitors it may pay to get an oystercard upon arrival. The Oystercard can also be bought online overseas from agents (see http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/faresandtickets/visitortickets/5192.aspx).

One last thing to note, the tube map is a design classic, but it's very deceptive. Some places are a lot closer (and easier to walk) than it appears on the map. www.tfl.gov.uk

Buses
Buses in London are more pleasant and interesting. The network is comprehensive and from the top of a double-decker bus you can watch the city's architecture and life much better. A lot of bus stops are request stops, so if you do not stick your arm out the bus will drive past. Regular buses operate between about 6am and midnight. A bus journey will cost £2 by cash and £1 by Oyster card. www.tfl.gov.uk/buses

Overland Trains
London's rail network is well connected with the tube. It's sometimes quicker and easier than the underground as you move further out of central London. www.tfl.gov.uk

Taxis
London's famous black cabs are comfortable but can be expensive. They work on a timer, so you are stuck in a jam, it can be very frustrating watching the fare go up. www.londonblackcabs.co.uk. The alternative are the minicabs, which mushroom in busy nightspots. You either have to phone them or visit the office. You can't flag them down. When you call the office or visit, you can agree on a fare before traveling.

Driving
Don't do it! If you'd rather drive yourself, you're in for a parking nightmare - it's almost impossible to get a place to park in the city centre and the punishments for parking illegally are cruel indeed.

Passenger Bikes
If time is the most important factor then motorcycle taxis are hard to beat. Journeys across London and to the airports are fun and fast. All the required kit (helmet, gloves etc) is provided and the journey times are usually at least halved compared to those by car. Although expensive compared to other forms of transport, taxi bikes are very quick and a very cool way to arrive. The website ( www.passengerbikes.com) has cost and contact details.

Walking
London is huge, but it can very rewarding to walk rather than hopping on a tube. There are plenty of books suggesting different routes where you can take in the different faces of London.

Night Travel
After the tubes close you will be reliant on the nightbus network (some services run 24 hours and others run only at night, designated with an 'N' before the route number), most radiate from Trafalagar Square, but central London is served quite well and generally run every half hour. If you have enough cash to splash for a cab then choose a black cab or visit/call a cab office. It is illegal for non-black cabs to pick up punters, and you have no guarantee over your safety. You will generally find these illegal cabs hanging outside popular nightspots touting for business.

Contributors
May 17, 2008 change by mcburton (1 point)
July 16, 2007 change by theway
February 14, 2005 change by giorgio
August 23, 2005 change by brixton_ian
December 10, 2005 change by diamondinlondon
November 29, 2004 change by blumount
February 14, 2005 change by wco

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By Motorbike

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If you can ride a motorcycle and will be staying in the capital for over a week it may be worth looking up one of the numerous motorcycle hire services available. It is the fastest way to get around the city, bikers do not pay the congestion charge and parking is free in designated motorcycle bays (which can be found all over the city). A word of warning: London roads can be dangerous for bikers. It is advisable to take the one day CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) course if you are at all unsure of you're abilities - indeed it is compulsory if your driving licence does not more..

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Bicycle

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This is by far and away the best way to travel round the city.  Not for all mind as I understand it can be mildly petrifying but the number of bicycle lanes are increasing as is the number of people who use this mode of transport to travel around the city as it is often quicker, easier and is always better for your health!  Bikes can be hired at a multitude of venues - including for use in most London Parks - but also London Bridge is another place to look as bike shops rent them from anything from one day to a month or so!

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The Tube

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  When I'm traveling I'm a frequent user of public transportation, and the Tube in London, England is probably the best mass transit system I have ever been on.  Take heed America, in this case, Britain does it better, and does it with a comprehensive transit network, and frequent convienient local stops that are designed to move massive amounts of people quickly and efficiently, and it works.   

Fast, clean, safe, efficient, affordable, and will take you close to wherever you wish to go in merry old London.  The airport, it goes more..

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