The transport system in London is confusing at first glace, but once you get the hang of it, you'll realize just how easy it actually is! You'll learn the secrets to it, too, like you can travel in ALL 6 zone on the buses with just a zones 1-2 travelcard. Now that's a bargain if I ever heard one. Don't rely solely on the tubes either, buses are great ways to see how the city is actually laid out, are cheaper than the tube and might possibly be quicker than taking the tube depending on your journey. Also, the night buses are good ways to get home in the evenings if you're out after the tube closes (see Night Tube secti. This isn't meant to be a 'buses are better than the tubes' section, but we know you'll learn how to use the tube pretty quickly and find that students tend to shy away from buses. We say, 'Give it a go!'
- TIP: The river boats are great days out and a fun way to see the city even if you don't want to use them to get to a destination.
- TIP: You can get a great tour of the city by sitting on the top deck of a bus with a handy travel guide. Some of the bus lines (9 especially) travel past all the major sites in London. And this tour will be free if you've got a travelcard!
Transport for London
The transportation system in London is run by Transport for London or TfL. They are in charge of the buses, the tubes, the river ferries, the trams, the DLR, and even have a cycling scheme set up now. Their website is fantastic at giving you all the information you may need to get around London. You can use it to plan your journeys, to find ticket prices, to register your Oyster Card and top up the credit on it, to get the latest information on the tube running times and closures and even information on how to get places if you're walking. You should definitely get used to using this page if you will be using the transport system on a regular basis during you time in London. TIP: It is a great idea to subscribe to TFL's e-mails as well as follow them on Twitter, as you can get updates on planned/unplanned closures and disruptions immediately!
The Oyster Card is a paperless, electronic ticketing system introduced into London in 2003. It can be used on the tubes, buses, river boats, DLR (Docklands Light Railway), trams and some National Rail (mainline overground) trains. This link about Oyster online can give you all the information and tools you'll need to learn about, use and register your cards.
You can now apply for your Student 18+ Oyster Card! You will have received information from us about this before you arrived in London but if you have forgotten, you can always email us at the ICLC email address and ask for more information.
Don't forget! When you're traveling on the tube, you'll need to 'touch in' AND 'touch out' again.
The Underground system is how most students will travel while in London. You'll get to know it really well and eventually be able to tell us what color each line is without having to think about it. It's one of the easiest systems to get the hang of - eventually you'll figure out the Earl's Court District line branch too. The key is to look at the maps and find your stop. Then figure out if the tube is East/West or North/South and get on the right line. ALWAYS look at the front of the train as it arrives so you know where it's headed. This is especially important if you're taking a tube line that branches. If you don't, you may be happily enjoying your tube ride home to Bayswater and suddenly realize you're in Kew Gardens, which is really lovely and you should definitely check it out, but not where you want to be when you think you're going home.
The tubes usually open around 5.00am and the last is generally around midnight. Check here for the first and last trains on each line. This is important information if you're going to be heading to the airport really early to catch a flight or you're going to be out late at night. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time, otherwise you can explore the options of night buses, and taxis.
Night Tube services are now running on the Victoria and Jubilee lines, and most of the Central, Piccadilly and Northern (Charing Cross) lines. The Night Tube offers a 24-hour service on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, click here.
Buses. Red buses, double decker buses, bendy buses, hydrogen buses - WOW! The choice! Check out the bus system in London. It is a great way to get from place to place cheaper, and sometimes faster, than the tube. Each bus stop has a handy spider map that will show you which bus to catch and in what direction you need to be traveling. You can also plan your journey by using TfL's journey planner and online bus maps. Just type in where you want to go and it'll give you the local bus information.
Oh, and a good tip is to make sure to hail the bus when you are at your bus stops you want as it may not stop at your stop otherwise.
Night buses are pretty much self explanatory. They are buses that run at night when the tube is closed. There aren't as many night buses as there are day buses, but they are available and probably serve most of the areas you'll need them for. Their routes are similar to day buses but longer and therefore more extensive. When you're at a bus stop, check for a bus number that has an 'N' at the front of it or one that says '24 hour' after it. That is the night bus number, or an indication that the bus runs 24 hours, and will help you to know if you're at the right stop. You can get maps for all the areas of London that night buses serve by checking TfL's website.
Taxis in London can get expensive, but at the same time, when it's pouring outside and there are lines of people trying to get on the night bus, it may be an option that you're willing to consider. When you are in a group of people and you split the cost, taxis can work out to be cheaper than you imagined. There are a few things you need to know though...
Hackney Carriages or the black taxis (which aren't necessarily black) are all fully licensed. They can pick you up when you hail them on the street or from designated taxi ranks. When you hail one, ask the driver if they can take you where you're going before you get in. They are slightly more expensive than mini-cabs.
Mini-cabs are licensed drivers in their own cars that can ONLY pick you up from a designated spot like a taxi rank or an office that you go into and tell them where you want to go. Legally, they cannot pick you up on the street by being hailed. If a mini-cab driver approaches you on the street and asks you if you want a ride, never get into the car no matter how much it's raining or how late it is.
- NEVER get into an unlicensed mini-cab. They are uninsured and illegal. It's like getting into a stranger's car and paying for the privilege of it.
- Use Tfl text service to get the location of a black taxi rank near you. Text HOME to 60835 to get the numbers of 3 taxi ranks sent directly to your mobile in the area you are texting from.
Remind yourself of ways to stay safe and keep in mind that you should NEVER get into an unlicensed mini-cab.