The main travel options in summary are:
You must have a valid ticket at all times when travelling by bus, tram or train in London. If you can’t show a valid ticket or a validated Oyster card you will have to pay a Penalty Fare, which is usually £40 (increased to £80 if it isn’t paid within 21 days). Always buy your ticket before you get on the train. If using an Oyster Card, ensure that you touch in and out on a yellow reader before and after travelling by Tube or train, even if there are no barriers or they are left open.
There are four types of tickets you can buy: the Oyster card (a contactless electronic smartcard), Travelcards (which exist both in paper form or can be loaded on your Oyster card), contactless debit or credit cards, and paper tickets. Paper tickets are significantly more expensive than paying by Oyster card or contactless card.
The London Underground, known popularly as the Tube due to its tube-like tunnels drilled through the London clay, is a network of 11 lines which criss-cross London in one of the largest underground rail networks in the world. It was also the first: the oldest section of the Hammersmith & City Line opened as the Metropolitan Railway in 1863. The Tube is an easy method of transport even for new visitors to London and is equivalent to subway and metro systems in other world cities.tfl.gov.uk/modes/tube/
If you’re travelling around central London then taking the Tube for just one stop can be a waste of time. For example, to travel between Leicester Square and Covent Garden stations takes over 10 minutes on the Tube, despite the two stations being only a few minute’s walk apart.
The Tramlink network is centred on Croydon, where it runs on street-level tracks around the Croydon Loop, providing transit to an area not well-served by the Tube or National Rail. Route 3 (Wimbledon to New Addington – green on the Tramlink map) is the most frequent service, running every 7 or 8 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime and every 15 minutes at all other times. Beckenham is served by Routes 1 and 2 (yellow and red on the Tramlink map), which terminate at Elmers End and Beckenham Junction respectively. All services travel around the Loop via West Croydon and run every 10 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime and every 30 minutes at all other times. Between Arena and Sandilands, these two services serve the same stops.
Due to the expense of other forms of transport and the compactness of central London, cycling is a tempting option. Free cycle maps can usually be obtained from your local Tube station or bike shop.
Most major roads in London will have a bus lane which is restricted to buses, taxis and bicycles.
Many improvements have been made for cyclists in the city over the last few years, Noticeably, there are many new signposted cycle routes and new cycle lanes as well as a review of junctions considered dangerous for cycling. Despite ongoing improvements, however, London remains a relatively hostile environment for cyclists. The kind of contiguous cycle lane network found in many other European cities does not exist. The safest option is to stick to minor residential roads where traffic can be surprisingly calm outside rush hours.
London offers a bicycle hire scheme known as Santander Cycles (colloquially referred to as “Boris Bikes” after Boris Johnson, a former London mayor), operated by Transport for London. Docking stations can be found across central London and slightly further out into areas such as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Hammersmith.
The bikes, all coloured a distinctive red, can be unlocked at any hire dock and then ridden to wherever you want. After each journey the bike must be returned to a docking station on the network by locking the bike into the rack and receiving confirmation via a green light.
You pay via a credit or debit card and two payment plans exist: Daily and yearly. A daily plan gives access to the system for an unlimited number of rides for 24 hours. A fee for the first 30 minutes of each ride is included in the initial payment (i.e. “free”). For every other 30 minutes above that it costs extra £2. A yearly plan costs £90 for a full year.