How to get around London can be confusing at first. It’s a big city and there’s a lot of different ways to get around it. But it actually looks more confusing than it is. For starters most of the sightseeing is within zone 1 and most can be done on foot. And: Overground, bus, tube and DLR all accept the Oyster card as payment, which means you don’t have to worry whether or not your ticket covers a particular journey.
There are 12 Tube lines, the DLR and overground trains. The transport network is divided into nine travel zones. Zone 1 is Central London and zones 6 to 9 are outside of the city.
Definitely buy a Oyster card (you can use the Oyster card instead of a paper ticket on the tube, trains, DLR and buses — think of it as a prepaid credit card. At every station there are machines that allow you to add money to your card, which then gets deducted every time you make a journey) when you first arrive in the city. The fares are much cheaper than individual paper tickets. All you have to do with an Oyster card is touch in and out on the yellow card readers at the gates before and after each journey. Don’t forget to touch out at stations where there are no gates or you will be charged a full fare (don’t worry there will be yellow readers and signs to remind you). The good thing about the Oyster card is that there is a daily price cap — once you have reached this limit, you won’t pay any more. However if you stay four days or longer it’s definitely worth to get a zone 1-2 weekly travel-card. As a tourist you will almost never exit zone 1-2, so don’t worry about restricting yourself to these zones (there are tube maps available at every station and it is very clear in which zone each station is, so don’t worry about accidentally leaving a zone). You can still add some additional credit to your Oyster card if you want to do some travelling outside the centre. Children under eleven can travel free as long as they are accompanied by an adult (who has a valid ticket).
If your stay is shorter than four days, just load some credit onto your Oyster card and use the pay as you go feature (money will be deducted for each journey until you reach the daily cap). The daily cap after 9.30 is cheaper than a travel-card for a day. (Avoid using public transport before 9.30 as the fares are more expensive during the commuting hours. This doesn’t apply if you have a weekly travel-card.) £20 is a good start and should cover you for 2-3 days. If you run out of credit, simply load more onto your card.
A bus journey within Central London is cheaper than a tube journey. However, it’s less fast, because the bus driver has to weave through London traffic. On the plus side you get to see more of the city this way.
Please realise one thing: Almost anything in London is within walking distance. The first few times I was here I made the mistake of taking the tube from Holborn to Covent Garden (7 minute walk) or worse from Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square (3 minute walk). I simply did not realise how close everything is.
More information is available on this page.
Apps to use in London
- Citymapper (it will tell you which route to take, how much it will cost and how long it will take with detailed information. Even walking and cycling. It’s brilliant.)
- London Official City Guide
- Santander Cycles (want to hire one of those fancy, red bikes? Go ahead and use this app.)
- London Official Events Guide
Things to do in London
- Walk from Tower Bridge to Parliament
- Enjoy the view on top of the Shard
- Eat expensive sushi @sushisamba
- Harry Potter fans should visit the Warner Bros. Studio Tour where a lot of the filming happened
- Eat expensive steak @Gaucho
- Enjoy the view on top of 20 Fenchurch Street (Sky Gardens), which is free AND you can see the Shard!
- All my London posts