Getting Around London on the Tube:
When it comes to making your way throughout the city of London, England the Underground (subway system) is the way to go. The London Tube
is just like any other subway you would find in New York City or Paris. It's convenient to take at almost all times of the day and it's fairly economical compared to taking a taxi everywhere. The London Underground
isn't designed to take you from point A to point B but you will be able to cut down on the amount of walking required by following the subway map
and being able to cut across town in just minutes. I have visited London several times in my life and taking the Tube is second nature now. All the signs are in English so Americans should have no problem understanding them and figuring out where to go. You will need a ticket to ride the Underground and you can purchase multiple day passes in advance. I usually buy the 3 day pass when I go and that allows me to ride the Tube for 3 days on the same ticket throughout all 6 zones. It takes a few days of using the system to become totally acquainted with the names of each line and the corresponding color. For instance, you may ride the Circle Line (yellow) to the Central Line which is red on the maps.
The Tube is serviced by 12 lines - Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, and Waterloo and City. City buses conveniently take you to places that are between Tube lines so you literally don't have to walk very far when in the city. The trains run between 5 AM and midnight from Monday to Saturday and hours on Sunday are reduced slightly. On my recent trip in March 2009 they were working on the District and Circle lines over the weekend which drastically limited my usage and forced me to walk more than normal. Always be sure to check with the official Transport of London website at http://www.tfl.gov.uk
for the latest details on closures and repairs. During rush hour the Underground trains will be very crowded and on weekends to certain destinations like Covent Garden you will find the subway loaded with passengers. You can always wait for the next train if one is completely full. As you walk around the city you will see signs for the Underground all over the place. The stations are usually positioned near major attractions but that is not always the case. You will need to pay attention to the signs as you submerge into each station and get on the appropriate trains. When you first look at the Tube map you might feel a bit overwhelmed but trust me that it's pretty easy to use it. My parents who are in their 60's and 70's visited London and did just fine on the Tube. .
London Underground Fares:
As an American going to London we SUGGEST you get a TravelCard from Londontravelpass.com
so your travels are made easier. You can purchase 1, 3, and 7 day passes which allow for unlimited riding on the Tube (the 1 and 3 day cards are good from 9:30 AM to 4:30 AM). Another type of card is the Oyster Card which is a "pay as you go" style. For a complete guide to fares on the London Underground from Zones 1 - 6 see the PDF File Here
. It's much cheaper to pay with an Oyster card or Travel Card compared to using cash on a single fare. If you are traveling within Zone 1 and 2 most of the time then it's about 1/2 as much with the Oyster card versus paying with cash. You will usually find one of the ticket windows open at each station with an actual attendant if you need help with buying a Tube fare. If you have a one way ticket then when you leave the subway the machine will take it, otherwise the ticket will come out of the machine and you need to keep it for further travel. Taking the Tube is the most convenient and inexpensive way to see London.
London Underground Stations - Zones:
A Map of the London Underground
will help you get started with which lines go where. You can download a PDF Map Here
and get your directions and stations located before getting on the Tube. Many of the stops have names where you will want to go like Notting Hill Gate, Piccadilly Circus, London Bridge, or Wimbledon. Follow the map and see which stop is where you need to get off. Each subway train has a map on the inside that will help guide you once on board. Also, when the train stops at each station it announces that location and there are signs on the wall that tell you where you are at. Just get off and follow the "Way Out" signs to get back up to street level. There are 6 different zones for the London Underground - Zones 1 and 2 are close in (downtown) and when you get out to Zone 6 you are as far out as Heathrow Airport. Not all Tube tickets allow travel in all zones so be sure that you purchase the correct fare. If you plan on seeing most of the sights within the main downtown region you will find yourself on the Circle Line, District Line, Central Line, Victoria, and Piccadilly lines most often.
London Underground Map Tube:
Many guide books that you buy on London or England will probably have a map of the Underground. It's a good idea to review the different lines before arriving into London so you have a general idea of how things work. You can download a PDF Map Here
or just look at a GIF Image Here
. Either way you will become acquainted with the various lines and their final destinations. Each Underground Station has a big map on the wall for you to see and each train has a map so you can follow your journey. Just follow the signs once off the subway to the streets or the appropriate platform for your next leg of the trip. The Tube stops every minute or so which means trips across town only take about 10 minutes time.