While everyone loves the idea of traveling around the city in a classic red double-decker bus, the London Tube is a great way to travel quickly and cheaply throughout London. When visiting a new city and trying out a new form of public transit, it is important to learn how to get around town using public transport. The London Tube is a unique train system, and there are plenty of things travelers should know before riding the Tube.
10/10 The Zones And Lines
Before entering a Tube station, it is important to develop background knowledge of the various train zones and lines. The London Tube consists of 18 lines and 9 zones. Zone 1 includes central London, while Zones 2 and 3 cover both the inner and outer parts of the city. The train lines are color-coded, and it is often easier to identify train lines by their colors rather than their official names.
It is also important to remember that train lines run in both directions. It is not enough for visitors to know which color line they need to ride; visitors also need to know the proper direction of travel (heading north, south, east, or west).
9/10 When Rush Hour Is
London is a large city with a population of over 8.9 million people. A lot of these residents commute on the Tube, meaning the stations can get quite crowded. Tourists should avoid taking the Tube during rush hour. The trains are typically busiest Monday-Friday from 7-9:30 am and 4-7 pm. This means afternoons are the perfect time to take a ride on the Tube. For first-time riders, it is especially nice to learn how to navigate the stations when they are not bustling with locals and commuters going to and from work.
8/10 When The Night Tube Runs
During the work week, don’t expect the Tube to run later than 12-12:30 am. On Fridays and Saturdays, however, the Night Tube runs 24 hours a day. These late-night trains run every 10-15 minutes, providing people with a cheap and quick way to get home or back to their hotels after a night out in London.
While traveling late at night has its risks, riding the Night Tube is relatively safe. The platforms are patrolled by the British Transport Police all through the night. The stations also have employees posted at service stations.
7/10 Oyster Cards Are A Must
One mistake tourists in London sometimes make is buying individual train passes. Single-fare tickets cost more, and it is a hassle to constantly buy a new ticket for each ride. Oyster Cards are physical tickets that users can add money to. Travelers can use a ticket machine at any Tube station to load funds onto the card. Visitors can also have an Oyster Card shipped to their home address prior to traveling.
Oyster Cards also work on more than just the Tube; visitors can swipe their Oyster Cards for London Overground, London buses, South London trams, IFS Cloud Cable Cars, and more.
6/10 Download Train And Map Apps
There are plenty of useful transit and map apps that make navigating the Tube easier. CityMaps2Go is a popular app that allows users to star restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions, etc., on a map and categorize and color code them. This map comes in handy when visitors get turned around. The best thing about the CityMaps2Go app is that it is an offline travel map, meaning users do not need to use Wi-Fi or cellular data to access the map.
A London-specific app worth downloading is Tube Map- London Underground. This app features a Tube map, service alerts, and a train tracking feature.
5/10 Pick Up A Physical Map
While apps like Google Maps are perfect for planning a road trip, not every traveler has access to apps while on vacation. Google Maps requires Wi-Fi or cellular data to work, and not every traveler wants to pay for cell service while abroad.
One type of map that is always reliable is a physical paper map. These maps are available at all Tube stations and are a great help in navigating the various lines and zones in London. Cell phones die, lose signal and glitch, so it is smart to have a physical map as a backup for navigating the Tube.
4/10 The Tube Offers Child Discounts
Another thing to know before riding the Tube is that they offer child discounts. The rules regarding fares for children change from year to year, so check the Transport For London site for the most up-to-date policies.
Children under five can ride the Tube for free when accompanied by an adult with a ticket. Children 5-10 can also travel for free with a paying adult. Kids traveling alone must wear a Zip Oyster Photocard in order to ride the Tube for free. Students who are 18 and up are eligible for a 30% discount when purchasing Travelcards for 7+ days.
3/10 Always Be Alert
While the Tube is generally quite safe, it is always important to be alert and aware of one’s surroundings, especially when visiting a new city. Train stations present plenty of opportunities for pickpockets to steal phones, wallets, purses, and watches. One tip for getting around public transit in a new place is to keep one’s back pockets empty. A wallet or phone sticking out of a back pocket is easy to grab. Tucking items into the front pocket of one’s pants makes it tougher for someone to steal those items.
2/10 Follow Proper Tube Etiquette
In order to blend in with locals and respect other travelers, there are unspoken Tube rules that visitors should follow. Some etiquette is obvious, such as giving up your seat for an elderly person, while other unspoken rules are news to tourists. Below are a few common rules to follow:
- Let others exit the train before boarding
- Move to the center of the train car (do not block the entrance)
- Give up seats for elderly and pregnant people
- No loud music or loud talking
- For the escalator, stand on the right and walk on the left
1/10 Know When To Walk Instead
While the Tube is a cheap and easy way to get around London, there are some instances where it is quicker to walk or take the bus instead. In central London, walking is usually the way to go. Traveling only one or two stops on the Tube in the downtown area is more trouble than it’s worth. The time it takes to enter the station, find the correct platform, wait for the train to arrive, and ride the train 1-2 stops will likely take longer than simply walking. Walking also allows visitors to take in the above-ground scenery and explore different parts of the city.