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The main travel options in summary are: 

By bus

By Tube 

By Overground

By National Rail

By Light Railway

By foot

By boat

By bicycle

By Bus

London has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Despite residents’ perpetual (and sometimes justified) grumbling about unreliability, public transport is often the best option for getting anywhere for visitors and residents alike. In central London use a combination of the transport options listed below – and check your map: in many cases you can easily walk from one place to another or use the buses. Be a Londoner and only use the Tube as a way of travelling longer distances.

Transport for London (TfL) is a government organisation responsible for all public transport. Their website contains maps plus an excellent journey planner.

Journey Planner

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.

Oyster cards

Oyster is a contactless electronic smartcard run by Transport for London. Unless you have a contactless credit or debit card, Oyster is the most cost-effective option if you plan to be in London for any more than a couple of days


A Travelcard gives you unlimited travel on trains within the relevant zones, and unlimited travel on all red London buses, even outside the zones of your Travelcard. 

Contactless payment 

A contactless payment, debit or credit card, as well as Apple Pay and Android Pay, can be used directly to pay fares on buses, trains and the Underground.

Paper tickets

It’s still possible to pay for a journey by a paper single or return ticket. However, this only makes sense if you take perhaps two to three journeys on public transport during your trip to London as they cost significantly more


By Underground

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.

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.

By Overground

In common parlance, Londoners may refer to travelling by “overground”, meaning going by National Rail (as opposed to going by Underground). However, only London Overground is a Transport for London rail service, which serves most boroughs of the capital. Oyster cards are accepted. Trains will usually run a minimum frequency of every fifteen minutes, and some stations have a considerably more frequent service. The trains have big windows allowing for great “urban scenic” views.
The Overground appears on the Tube map as a double orange line.


By Tramlink

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.

By foot

London is a surprisingly compact city, making it a walker’s delight. In many instances, walking is the quickest method of transport between two points.
Because Britain drives on the left hand side of the road, for most foreign visitors it can be all too easy to forget that traffic will come at you from the opposite direction than you are used to when crossing a street – for this reason remember to look right when you cross the road. If you are using a pedestrian crossing, don’t think it’s safe to risk it, even if you can’t see any traffic coming: Wait for the green man to appear and then cross quickly and carefully. Some pedestrian crossings now have countdown timers to indicate how long it will be safe to cross for.


By bicycle

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.

Santander Cycles

By boat

London is now promoting a network of river bus and pleasure cruise services along the River Thames from Hampton Court in the west to Woolwich Arsenal in the east. London River Services (part of Transport for London) manages regular commuter boats and a network of piers all along the river and publishes timetables and river maps similar to the famous Tube map. While boat travel may be slower and a little more expensive than Tube travel, it offers an extremely pleasant way to cross the city with unrivalled views of the London skyline. Sailing under Tower Bridge is an unforgettable experience.
Boats are operated by private companies and they have a separate ticketing system from the rest of London transport; however if you have a Travelcard you get a 33% discount on most boat tickets.


Read the full London guide.

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