There’s nothing like London – the theatre, galleries, shops, restaurants, museums, parks – oh, and the distances! When in the capital, you’re going to want to see and do quite a lot. and. even if you’re an avid walker or cyclist, there are doing to be times that you need to get to your destination fast. That’s where the London Underground comes in!
Forget bikes and Ubers, cars and scooters…you’ve got the famous London Underground to turn to. Not quite as pretty as the iconic double decker red buses that trundle the capital’s streets, the tube (as locals like to call it) is, by far and away, the best option if you’re short on time. It’s network is vast – stretching from the city centre as far as Heathrow Airport and out to beautiful green spots such as Epping Forest and Amersham.
So, here’s a few quick facts from us, here at La Gaffe, which will hopefully help you and excite you! After all, you are travelling on the world’s oldest (and maybe most beloved) metro system!
Buying a ticket
In an effort to encourage its millions of passengers to leave cash at home, the cheapest way to travel is to use either an Oyster card or a contactless bank card. (Cash fares are far more expensive).
- Oyster cards can be bought at most Underground stations and at many kiosks and newsagent stores in the city. They are blue and made of plastic and you usually have to put down a deposit of $5 for one, which you can claim back when you leave London. Once you have your card, you can add cash to it and ‘pay as you go’ for tickets, topping it up when you need to. Just tap your card on the gate, as you enter it, and tap it again when you exit.
Photo courtesy of Design and Build
- Contactless cards – these take the fare directly from your bank account and it’s the same principle as Oyster – just tap in and out. -If in doubt, ask one of the staff but you can usually tell if you have a contactless card from the logo on your card.
And if you need to make many trips in a day, don’t worry – your Oyster or bank card will automatically ‘cap’ your card at the daily limit, once you’ve reached the maximum daily fare.
Times vary from line to line but, in general, tubes start running around 5 am to about 12.30 – 1.00 am. The good thing is that, at weekends, five of the lines now run throughout the night – the Victoria, Central, Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly.
Tubes run frequently during the day – as often as once every two minutes in the rush hour. (Warning – it can be very crowded during peak hours, so be prepared to be crushed like a sardine. On the up side, there’s no internet on the tube as yet so if you do manage to get a seat, you can read your book in relative peace and quiet!
London’s Underground is pretty deep. Fun fact: Hampstead tube is actually the deepest in all of London, going down to 58.5 metres! Still, if you do walk up the stairs, you can then take refuge in our restaurant, for lunch or dinner!
And because not all have lifts (elevators), and a lot of stairs are often involved, people use the escalators. In London, it’s a time-honoured tradition to stand on the left, and walk on the right. This is true British etiquette and woe betide the tourist or local who disobeys this unwritten rule!
And finally, here are a few do’s and don’ts, to make your journey comfortable and to make you feel like a real Londoner…
DO’S AND DON’TS OF TUBE TRAVEL…
- Stand on the right, when you’re on the escalator. It’s the London way, as we’ve said before!
- Give up your seat for someone older, pregnant or with a child.
- Have your Oyster or card ready to tap in, when you reach the gate, so you don’t have to fumble around and hold up busy commuters. Be prepared, as the boy scouts say…
- Carry some water in the hotter months – the tube does not have air conditioning!
- Move down inside the carriage – ensuring the driver doesn’t have to repeat over the tannoy for the fifteenth time that day “Ladies and Gentlemen, please move down inside the carriage,”
- Doze off – you might well end up at the end of the line…(and they are all long lines!)
- Eat anything that’s too smelly – you are in a confined space!
- Try and get on the carriage before everyone else has got off Stand aside politely and let your fellow passengers alight first.
- Put your bag on the seat next to you – seats are in serious demand on the tube!
- Strike up a conversation with a stranger. You are in London, not the United States! (Ha ha).
Seriously, enjoy your time in London and go and buy one of those little blue cards now. The capital is truly your Oyster…