It won’t take you long when you travel around London to realise that you can’t walk anywhere. The public transport in London is expensive but you do have a lot of options. There’s the underground, buses, taxis, bikes and even boats, it’s easier than you think to travel around London. This guide will show you the transport ropes – invaluable if it’s your first time in the city.

How to travel around London

Oyster cards

Make sure you get an oyster card as soon as you arrive – this form of ticket gives you close to a 50% saving compared to buying single tickets. You can get them at the airport, train stations or many kiosks around the city. When you pick your oyster card up, you pay a £5 deposit, which you get back after you return the card. Then, before you travel, you have to top up your oyster card with some money to fund your journeys.

When you get to the station, simply touch the yellow reader with your card and walk through the gate to the train. Touch the yellow reader again when you complete your journey. When you change trains you have to touch the pink reader inside the station. This way the correct amount of money is deducted from your balance for your journey. If you have a contactless card, you can use this the same way.

Planning to travel around London a lot during your trip? Pick up a travel card, which you can get for a day, week, month or a year. Day travel cards are available either for use anytime or only for off peak hours. You can keep your travel card on your oyster card.

To check the best travel option for you, you can plan your journey on TFL website or the citymapper app. This one, in my opinion, is the best London travel app

How to travel around London

The Tube, Overground and Docklands Light Railway

The London Underground is the fastest, oldest and one of the most developed subway systems in the world. With 11 lines, it’s also the most popular transport option in London. The city is divided into six main zones and the toll depends on how many of them your journey passes through. You’ll find London public transport prices here and find a London public transport map here. The Overground is an extension of the Underground, but over land. And then there’s the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). This is an automated light railway, serving the Docklands harbour area in east London

How to travel around London

The bus and tram

The bus costs £1.50 per ride BUT you can’t pay with cash on buses or trams. That makes it essential that you have your oyster card with you and keep it topped up, or you risk finding yourself in a situation where there isn’t anywhere nearby where you can add funds to your oyster card. You touch your card only once when you get on the bus, near to the driver. Want more information on London buses and fares? Find it here.

How to travel around London

Taxis and UBER

You will find taxis easily – just look out for the characteristic black cabs you see in films. The cheaper option to travel around London is an UBER, as long as you have an internet connection. Book an UBER and it will pick you up from your location, taking you wherever you ask. You pay through your phone, which is connected with your credit card, for the trip.

How to travel around London

Bike

You will see many Santander Bikes available to rent around London. You have to pay through your credit card to get the bike, but it’s only £2 to access a bike for 24 hours. The first 30 minutes of each journey is then free, and after that it costs £2 per 30 minutes. Besides Santander Bikes, there are many other companies around the city that offer more professional bikes for hire.

How to travel around London

Boat or ferry

There are many ferries available on the river Thames. The most popular is the cruise that takes you from Westminster to Greenwich, and you can even pay with your oyster card! There is one stop at the Tower of London, where you can choose to get off or continue your journey. On the cruise, you will see London’s biggest landmarks like the London Eye, Oxo Tower, Tate Museum, Tower Bridge and sailing boat, the Cutty Sark

How to travel around London

Have you found any routes to travel around London that are super fast or great for sightseeing?

How to travel around London

22 COMMENTS

  1. Great post! I typically opt for the easiest options (in my opinion) – walking and Uber! But it is nice to use other methods of transportation and immerse yourself in the city!

  2. Thanks for sharing this info! This is very helpful to know getting around as someone coming from a city where we rely on the light rail/subway and commuter rail system. Driving and parking can be such a pain in these types of locations. Do they have live postings or a way to track if the schedule is delays or alerts?

  3. When I’ve been to London, the first thing I did it was to buy the Oyster card and get lost into the amazing Tube! It’s so great and fast! I also appreciated the buses, they are so efficient! Thank you for sharing this really useful article 🙂

  4. This was super helpful information! I sometimes find traveling around big cities intimidating so thanks for breaking it down! Will definitively refer to this next time I’m in London 🙂

  5. Thank you for explaining so clearly about transportation in London. I still remember getting so confused at the different types of fares applied for buses, tubes, trains on and off peak and so on when I first visited London last year. All the basic information about travelling around London has been included in this post, which I think should be read by any first-time visitor to London.

  6. I can completely relate to this post because when I visited London, I took help of all the options you mentioned except Uber. European public transport is so efficient. I miss it everyday here in the USA.

  7. Why can’t you walk around London? Because of the size or because the streets aren’t laid out for pedestrian use? I always make sure to get a metro card when I’m in a city for an extended period of time because it’s just sooo much easier than buying tickets every time, especially if machines are in another language.

  8. I wish I’ve read your post before visiting London this Spring. It was my third time in the city but every time I still get so confused about the best way of using public transportation, and of course at the right price. Will keep this for my next trip, cause I’m sure there will be a next one ha ha

  9. This is great! I never would have even thought of some of these options. Oyster cards sound pretty awesome, but I would probably opt for an Uber. It seems simpler. Or walking. I’m amazed at how many options are available though!

  10. Surprsingly, felt London was very walkable. But I’m also from New York so in certain situaions I’ve walked twenty blocks without noticing. This is a great guide when it comes to the public transportation in London though; felt that there subway system was great and had way less issues than the one in New York. Right up there with the Paris metro system.

  11. The bus is a lot more cheaper if you know how to use it. If you manage to use 2 buses in an hour, you pay only for the first one and the second one wont deduct any money from your Oyster card 😉 Also for those who plan on staying longer in London… weekly charge for using the buses only is 20 pounds which is already worth it, if you use bus twice a day (1,5 pound per ride – 3 per day – 7 days per week – 21 pounds) and if you wanna travel faster, if yu buy a week card for zones 1-2 (or any other) you can use buses in any zone for free (well, they are included in your Oyster), so that usually works pretty well too, if you wanna save. Im a big public transport nerd and lover and I lived in London for couple of months, so in case you have any questions… ou know where to find me 😉

  12. I’ve been to London before but it was very useful for me too! Previously we always used trains for our trips but I always wanted to try a boat! So I guess next time I am in the South, boat is what I will be doing.

  13. ah, love this post! i remember when i went to hong kong, i really made sure to try all t heir modes of transportation. haha! thanks for sharing all the information about london’s transportation, at least we’ll get a view of how we can get around! <3

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