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Oh, London! Land of the big, iconic red buses. If you’re taking a trip to London, you’ll need to use public transport to get you around the city. Cabs are expensive and it’s often quicker to get where you want to go using the tube (London’s name for the metro) or train. We know navigating London can be tricky — so we’ve put together a guide to London’s transport system.

Money, Money, Money

Credit and Debit Card

Buses, tubes and trains all accept credit and debit card. If you can use your card abroad without additional bank fees, you can simply ‘tap’ your card against a card reader as you enter a bus or tube/train station — saving you a lot of time. The fare is automatically deducted from your account.

Oyster Card

guide to London transport
Photo by London Chow

The other option is to buy an Oyster Card. These can be purchased in train and tube stations, or at local corner-shops. Just look for the blue Oyster sign in the window. An Oyster Card costs $6. Once you have purchased your Oyster, you then pre-load it with cash, and use it by tapping it to a card reader when you get on a bus, tube or train. The great thing about an Oyster Card is that it automatically caps at a day limit, so once you have spent the equivalent of a day pass, the card will cap and all your transport for the rest of the day will be free. Check out more information about Oyster.

Travel Passes

You can buy a 1-day, 3-day or 1-week pass. London is split into six zones, with the first zone being the center of London. The further away the neighborhood is from the center, the higher the zone number. Check out the map of London’s zones. If you are staying in zone 4, and want to see the main tourist attractions in zone 1, you will need to purchase a travel pass that covers you from zone 1-4.

Types of transport

Bus

guide to London transport
Photo by Tim Spouge

You can get almost everywhere in the city by using buses in London. Bus routes are extensive and well-covered — there are over 700 different routes running across London. You can text a number that is written on a placard at the bus stop to find out when the next bus will be, or you can check online. Many popular bus stops have live information, letting you know how long it will be until your bus comes. Buses in London do not accept cash — so you will need to either use an Oyster card, purchase a single-bus-ticket at a nearby ticket machine or use a week-pass.

Tube

guide to London transport
Photo by Pixabay

London’s tubes are speedy and efficient. Download a free London Tube map to your phone beforehand. The map is offline and it’s a handy tool for when you want to quickly check a route. British etiquette tip: always stand to the right of the escalator, speedy walkers will walk past you to the left.

Train

guide to London transport
Photo by Hec Tate

Trains in London run through the main stations. If you’re staying slightly further out of London, and aren’t near to a metro, you’ll most likely need to go to a train station and take a train into the city center, before taking a bus or metro to your destination. Check out the National Rail website to plan your train route, or buy advanced tickets.

Transport Pro Tips

Check out the Transport for London website and always plan your route beforehand

Download the National Rail app. This is great for checking train routes. Often in London, you need to take a train in order to get you to a metro station.

  • Download a tube map
  • Download a London Bus Timetables, and you can check each bus stop individually for live times
  • Always keep to the right-hand side when on stairs and escalators.
  • Bring a bottle of water with you when using London transport in the summer months — it gets incredibly hot

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