Top Tips For Getting Around London

If you are new to visiting the city then getting around London can initially seem like an overwhelming task.  Once you have found the best cheap flights, have landed in England and made your way to the city centre, it’s time to explore. London has an extremely comprehensive public transport network but knowing which method of transport is best, how to pay for them and the practicalities of using them to get to and from various locations across the city can certainly be daunting if you don’t know what you are doing.

Luckily, we have put together some top tips to get you started and to help you feel more confident about discovering London with ease:-

Choose your travel time wisely

This is particularly key if you aren’t familiar with London or the public transport system as commuter hours can be extremely busy, especially the tube.  Between 7am and 9am, 5pm and 7pm, it is usually busiest so if it is possible to avoid travelling at this time then do so, particularly if you are trying to travel with luggage in tow.

Trains become crowded with people squeezing into the smallest gaps, it can be a nightmare to get on and off and platforms can be difficult to navigate.  If you are unsure and want to take your time with working out which train you need to be catching, and which direction you want to head in, then try to avoid venturing onto the tube at these times.

Keep your luggage safe on your trip 

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Stick to the rules

It might seem a little over the top but things will go a lot more smoothly if you try to blend in and stick to the written and unwritten rules, especially when travelling on the tube.  This means things like standing to the right when travelling on the escalator or sticking to the right hand side when walking up and down stairs to allow those who want to go faster to come past you.

It also means having your ticket or travel pass ready and in your hand as you approach the ticket barriers.  Whatever you do, don’t wait until you reach the barrier before searching in your pockets or hunting through your bag to find your ticket, you will quickly cause a queue to build up behind you and will have a lot of disgruntled and annoyed Londoners breathing down your neck.

The Shard, London

Walk when possible

Although there are ways to save money when using public transport (more on that in a minute), it can also be pretty expensive if you are hopping on and off tubes and buses constantly throughout the day.  Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you need to catch the tube to get anywhere in the city; the tube map is not to scale and many tube stations are actually located within a very short distance of one another.

On top of that is the fact that a number of attractions and landmarks are actually within walking distance of one another.  Truly, one of the best ways to really see London is to explore on foot so don’t be afraid to skip the bus and walk instead.

There are also a number of apps which you can download to help you with navigating around the city on foot and you may find these useful if it is your first time in London.  Many can be used offline as well so you don’t need to worry about excessive data charges if you are an international visitor either.

Save money

As we mentioned above, using public transport to get around London can be a costly business but there are ways to save money.  One of the best options is to get a Visitor Oyster Card.  These are prepaid cards which you swipe every time you pass through a tube station or board a bus; it costs £5 for the card which you can get back if you return the card at the end of your trip and you can also get a refund on any credit leftover at the end as well.

Best of all is that the amount you will pay in one day using an Oyster card is capped; once you reach that cap you won’t pay anything else for your travel and it just resets the following day.  You can order a Visitor Oyster Card in advance of your trip or buy one from most tube stations once you have arrived in the city. 

Things to bear in mind

We’ve covered the basics above but there are just a couple of other things which are worth bearing in mind when you are looking to travel around London.  The first thing is to plan your route out in advance; you will only mark yourself out as a tourist if you stand staring at a tube map in the middle of the station.  Spend some time before you leave making a note of which line you need and where you are going and you won’t need to hesitate.

Additionally, and something which is important to know if you are travelling with luggage, is that a number of London’s tube stations only have stairs.  This number is decreasing gradually but there are some tube stations which don’t have lifts or escalators which can be a nightmare if you are travelling with large or bulky suitcases.  You can check out in advance which stations these are and make a note so that you know to avoid them where possible.

This also applies for anyone travelling with young children who may have a pushchair; avoid these stations as much as you can and your journey should be a lot smoother.

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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