Finding your way around one of the world's biggest capital cities can be a daunting prospect at first. But don’t fret; London’s transport services are extensive, and provide a well-developed means of travelling between the city’s sites.
The Underground, or The Tube, is your bread and butter of London transport. It consists of 11 lines and 270 stations, meaning you’re never too far from a chance to hop on board.
The London Underground is at its most concentrated in central London, but extends as far north as Watford and as far south as Croydon. Expect the tube to become very busy if you travel in the morning or afternoon rush hours during the week, but trains are extremely frequent at these peak times.
For the cheapest fares, it makes sense to purchase an Oyster card – an electronic smart card that replaces paper tickets and works on all underground, bus, tram, and many overground train routes. A single during peak hours in Zones 1-3, for example, costs £2.90 using an Oyster card, but £4.00 in cash.
For more info on using London’s Underground system, see our dedicated page here.
Cycling in London is not for the faint hearted, but is gradually becoming more popular. There are various cycle routes around London, though many journeys will involve some cycling on normal roads without cycle lanes, and are often busy with traffic. Make sure you have lights on your bike after dark, and don’t cycle on the pavements – both can land you with fines.
New Cycle Superhighways were introduced in 2010, which are intended to provide clearer, safer direct routes from London’s suburbs into the centre of town. Four are in action now, with another eight opening by 2015.
Meanwhile, Barclays Cycle Hire service, introduced in July 2010, provides bicycles for public use across the city. 6000 bikes are stored in 400 docking stations throughout London, meaning you can pick one up in Leicester Square and drop it off in Old Street, should you so wish. The access fee for 24 hours is just £1, and your first 30 minutes of riding is free. After that, prices rise steeply from £1 for one hour to £50 for 24 hours. For more information on cycle hire and Cycle Superhighways, visit TfL’s official cycling website.
Travelling across London the old-fashioned way is often the best way to experience the city, as you’re much more likely to stumble upon charming backstreets, pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops away from the typical tourist hangouts. You’ll also be getting some exercise, as well as saving money and the environment. There are lots of interesting walking routes to be found, as well as organised guided walking tours.
London's infamous black cabs are everywhere in town, and usually easy enough to find. Look out for the yellow light on the vehicle's roof to find one that's available. You can also order one over the phone - check the TfL website for numbers. Alternatively, minicabs can be booked over the phone or in a booking office and are usually cheaper. However, the only vehicles legally licenced to pick up passengers on the street are black cabs - you should not get in any other taxi without having booked it first yourself, as you might put yourself in danger. Taxis are one of the most expensive options for getting around London, but, of course, that's because they're often the most convenient and stress-free option.
Buses in central London have the advantage of dedicated bus lanes to skip the traffic, as well as an opportunity to take in the sites as you travel. London’s congestion charge, introduced in 2003, means fewer cars now drive into town during weekday working hours, freeing the way for buses. Outside the centre, buses remain a popular and efficient mode of transport, but are of course prone to getting stuck in traffic during peak hours. As with the tube, it makes sense to use an Oyster card for the best fares. A single journey costs £1.30 on your Oyster, but £2.20 if you pay in cash.
For more info on using London’s buses, see our dedicated page here.
London hosts an extensive network of overground trains, which includes the ‘London Overground’ (orange line on tube maps) as well as services run by a range of private operators including South West, Southeastern and Southern, which operate out of London major train stations. The National Rail website has lots of information on these services, including a journey planner. Most overground rail services within London now accept Oyster cards for travel.
For more info on using London’s trains, see our dedicated page here.
Aside fom river tours, the Thames' River Buses provide a scenic and relaxing way to traverse across London. There are 19 piers from which to board, with services running from Embankment to Woolwich Arsenal, Putney to Blackfriars, and Canary Wharf to Hilton Docklands. River Buses run every 20 minutes during peak hours.