For first-time visitors, the London Underground system can be daunting. With 11 lines serving 270 stations there are some things one should be aware of before heading to London. Here’s some things you should be aware of and some tips.
There’s quite a few ways of paying for your getting-around on the Underground. For instance, you can get a one-day pass giving you unlimited travel on all London public transportation for 12 GBP. However, if you plan on sticking around for more than a day, this is the expensive option. A much better choice would be London’s pay-as-you-go system, the Oyster card. For Dutch nationals, this works in the exact same way as the OV-Chipcard.
You’ll pay a one time fee of 5 GBP for the card, and whatever amount you want to add to it. Upon leaving, you can get the money left on the card plus the 5 GBP fee back by returning the card to one of the ticketing machines. Keep in mind the cards are valid indefinitely, so holding on to it might be a good option as well.
How to get into London
Assuming you’re flying into Heathrow, London’s main airport and hub of British Airways, you’ll be using either a cab, train or underground service to get into London.
If you’re in a rush, take the Express Train to London Paddington for 22 GBP. This will take you 15 minutes.
If you rather spend those 22 pounds on a meal like we did, opt for a slower option, the Underground. The Piccadilly line (Blue) will drop you off right in the city center, at Piccadilly Circus. This will take 45 minutes, and costs 3 GBP.
There’s great options from all other airports as well. Trains and buses run from Luton, Stansted, Gatwick and Southend. From London City airport, a DLR service will get you into the city. Information about this can easily be found online, so a quick google search should get you the best up-to-date information about how to get into the city.
Getting around in London
Once you’re in the city center, getting around depends on where you are staying, and what you want to do. (Check out our guide on things to do here)
Here are our three best options for getting around.
We chose to walk between most of the sights, and only took the underground to get back to our hotel after dinner. We ended up walking about 50 kilometres in 3 days, so make sure you’re up to the task if you plan to do the same.
If you’re not up to walk 20 km a day, the two main lines you will be using to get around central London are the Circle and Central Line (Yellow and Green). These get you to the main sights in London easily.
For avid cyclists, theres a great option too. Even though London traffic can get extremely busy, it’s a great way to get around if you know what you’re doing. For just 2 GBP you get access to bikes all over the city, and you can get unlimited 30 minute rides for free. (Pro tip: if you want to ride longer than that, just switch bikes at a random station to get another 30 minutes).
Things to consider
Finally, there’s some things you should know about getting around in London. If you plan on using the underground much, make sure to stand on the right of the escalators to allow the Londoners to speed past you on the left. Be prepared to get annoyed looks if you forget this.
Perhaps even more important to know is the fact that the UK drives on the left side of the road. This is different from Europe, the US, and most other countries apart from former UK colonies. Make sure to double check the roads before crossing them, as the cars will come from other ways than you are used to.
Now you should be well prepared to survive the urban jungle of London. Before visiting, make sure to check if all the sights you want to see are open, as some of the big sights are currently undergoing heavy maintenance. Also check if your preferred mode of transportation is running during your trip. Underground tracks need maintenance as well, so do your due diligence.
Finally, make sure to mind the gap! 😉
We hope you like the city, make sure to leave your travel tips in the comments.
Jason & Joël