London's travel service is run by Transport for London. Visit their excellent website for timetables, maps, details of disruption and other information on all transport in London, including a useful "Journey Planner". The main services are before.
- Transport for London
- London Underground Map
- National Rail - for journeys using the overground rail network, especially south of the Thames.
- Transport for London hotline for recorded and operator information: 020 7222 1234
- Multimap - find a map of any local area in the UK.
For any information about London's bus services, see the website run by Transport for London: TfL Buses.
Buses are useful for shorter journeys but are often much slower than the equivalent Underground journey. Buses are distinctive in that most are still predominately red, although the world famous Routemaster buses have been discontinued as they are no longer viable to maintain, are inaccessible to those with disabilities and require a separate driver and conductor. However these buses are run on routes 9 and 15 during the daytime alongside the modern accessible buses. Recently "bendy buses" have begun to appear on London's streets also.
Although geographical or "quadrant" maps exist, they are not normally very useful as the routes are numerous making the maps hard to read. More useful are the schematic or "spider" maps which show similar routes alongside each other. It is worth noting that routes may change at the weekends and the frequency of routes may vary dramatically so always check the timetables as a guide.
On one-man operated buses, single tickets must be bought from the machines located at the bus stops before boarding the bus. Single adult fares cost £2 or £1 with an Oyster Card for any journey, child fares (up to age 15) cost £0.40 - children aged 14 or 15 require a photocard to prove their age. On the older, Routemaster buses where there is no door, tickets are purchased from the conductor when he visits your seat. Additionally Transport for London provides a stored-value "Oyster" card which can be used to pay fares on buses, trams, the Underground, and Docklands Light Railway - pass the Oyster card over the sensor at the bus entrance to pay.
A travelcard or Oyster card valid for any zone is valid for all zones on buses.
Buses are typically late but this is less noticeable in central London as they run so frequently that one never has to wait long- the main routes run buses around every 10 minutes. Out of peak hours or out of the central zones buses are less frequent.
Night buses are run from around 10pm into the morning; these generally follow the routes of the main buses but are less frequent. The route number is prefixed by a "N" so N9 runs roughly to the same route as daytime service 9.
In poorer maintained parts of London and especially at night travelling by bus can be an intimidating experience, although this problem is being solved with on-board CCTV and newer, safer buses.
Once a route has been selected, wait for a bus at the appropriate stop. Each bus stop lists the bus routes that are services by that stop on the bus stop sign. Some bus stops are also labelled with a letter for reference on a red circle on the top of the sign. This makes identifying a particular stop easier when using the maps at any of the bus stops in the area.
The front of buses show both the route number and destination. Some buses do not complete the entire route but stop early so it's useful to check the destination shown to ensure the bus in question will be going as far as your destination -- it can be uncomfortable when a bus terminates in an degenerate area.
Bus stops with a red board and white logo are "request" stops (and are labelled as such) which means an approaching bus must be hailed when it is within sight. Stops with a white board and red logo are bus "stops" and the bus is supposed to stop there regardless.
Once on board, either take a seat or stand on the lower deck: standing is not allowed on the upper desks. Use the red or yellow bells after the stop before yours to tell the driver that you wish to disembark. Asking the driver for help in identifying your destination isn't often successful so keep an eye on your map and local landmarks or ask your fellow passengers. A useful trick is to use the passing bus stops which show the name of the stop and direction the bus is travelling.
London has the world's oldest metropolitan railway, the London Underground, which opened in 1863. Today the network's twelve lines ship three million passengers around town every day. The Underground is affectionately known as the "tube" by regular users, after the tunnels that the underground portions of the network utilise, a name that is also promoted by the London Underground organisation. Despite the monikers, a large portion of the network runs above ground, especially the portions outside of zones one and two.
The price for a one week duration ZONE 1 (basically the Circle Line and the area within it)(appropriate for those not wishing to leave the main city itself) is 17 Pounds Sterling. Fares between individual stations i.e. Victoria and Waterloo is dependent upon the number of zones travelled through - some stations are defined as being on the border of two zones. Tickets may be purchased from either the ticket counter or from automatic machines by the gates to the actual trains. National Rail, Gatwick Express, and Southern Rail Line tickets can be purchased at Victoria Station, however these tickets must be bought at the counter. EurRail tickets are purchased at Waterloo Station (where EurRail departs from), the EurRail Office is on the lower floor of Waterloo Station.
Oyster cards are valid on all Tube services.
Services are frequent and usually reliable during the day. However, the tube suffers because of its age and its keepers have struggled to maintain and modernise the rolling stock, stations and track. As such, the carriages are not air conditioned which can make travel unpleasant on hotter days, especially during peak hours when the trains can be full to bursting.
Delays and technical problems can occur so it is advisable to carry water when embarking on a journey and to await an emptier train when the journey is not time-critical.
The Underground is remarkably easy to navigate compared to other cities' metros due to clear signage and a distinctive, and much imitated, map. First produced by Harry Beck in 1933, it was the first to ditch geographical accuracy and scale in favour of a clearer schematic of the network. Maps are freely available at stations, in tourist leaflets and online at the Transport for London website.
The surface rail network is extensive in London, reaching right out into the suburbs (especially in South London where the Underground is less widespread). However, suburban services can be busy especially in the morning and the early evening, due to commuter traffic.
Surface rail ticket prices vary greatly depending on how far and at what time you travel. Trains during morning peak will cost you more. The best way to find the price of a specific ticket is by visiting the National Rail Journey Planner. You can purchase tickets on the National Rail Journey Planner Website or at train stations. Tickets bought from National Rail can be combined with a Travelcard for inner-city travel on tubes and buses. National Rail also sells discount cards called Railcards. Even if you are on holiday, or only travel on trains occasionally, these cards can easily save you money. Go to the Railcard website for more details.
Oyster cards can be used on some but not all surface rail services.
The Docklands Light Railway or DLR is a surface rail system which serves East London. Its routes serve Lewisham, the Docklands region, Stratford and soon London City Airport. The trains are unusual in that there are no human drivers - all the trains are driven by computer from a central control centre.
Oyster cards are valid on all services.
The Croydon Tramlink system is a recent introduction to London's transport system and provides a much needed mass transport system for the ever-growing Croydon area. It provides benefits of speed, reliability and accessibility over the bus system and has done much to improve some of the poorer areas of Croydon. The Tramlink is apparently based upon the Dutch tram system but the unadorned steel girders supporting the electrical cabling are no testament to this. The tram system is very fast compared to the buses as it often runs off-road, along disused railway cuttings, along bus routes or through fields beside the roadway.
Tickets must be purchased in advance, either from the machines at each tramstop, from newsagent shops or from railway stations.