How to Get Around in London: Your Guide to Londoner Public Transport

If you’re heading off to the UK for work or leisure, you might find getting around on public transport a little confusing and hectic at first.  But once you get the hang of it, you’ll realise just how convenient it is, and how lacking Australia is in many respects for public transport.

Here’s some handy hints and tips to make your UK and especially London public transport experience smooth and easy.

Book your accommodation close to a tube station

The London underground, colloquially called “the Tube”, is one of the marvels of public transport anywhere in the world.  Opened in 1867, the Tube carries 1.34 billion passengers each year, and the combined track length is 402km.

There are 11 tube lines in London and they are all colour coded and named which makes crossing the city with the Tube very easy. For example, the “Central Line” which allows travelers and tourists to cross Central London from West to East is coloured in red.

Because the Tube has such a significant footprint in London, try to book your accommodation, hotel or Airbnb flat close to a tube station.  That way, you’ll never be too far from any of the great tourist attractions in London.

Get an Oyster card to use on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, Overground and more

The Oyster card is the prepaid/reloadable ticketing system to pay for journeys on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, River Bus and most National Rail services in London. You can buy an Oyster card at any Tube station or corner shops, top it up with money and you’re good to go.

When using the Oyster card for the Tube, DLR and most National Rail services, you just have to “tap on” when you start your journey and “tap off” when you’re finished.  The system automatically calculates the best fares and applies any capped pricing, so you don’t have to worry about buying individual tickets.

When using the bus of tram services, only touch your Oyster card on the yellow card reader at the start of your journey. Don’t touch out when you get off a bus or tram, or you will be issued with a penalty fare!

You can also use contactless payments on your credit card to pay for transport

When you are fresh from the plane you might not want to get in a long queue to buy an Oyster card directly at the airport. One great alternative to the Oyster card is to use your credit card instead.

It works the same way – you “tap on” and “tap off” the yellow card reader with your contactless card.  Contactless payments for transport work on all UK-issued credit cards and also with most Australian and international credit cards issued outside the UK.

You can read more on using your contactless credit card in London Transport on the Transport for London website.

Rent a bike with London self-service bike scheme

If you want to avoid the Tube and get a real feel of the city you can hire a bike for a few hours. London, like most European cities, offers a self-service, bike sharing scheme for short journeys. It only costs £2 to access the bikes for 24 hours, and then the first 30 minutes of each journey are free. Longer journeys cost £2 for each extra period up to 30 minutes.

You can:

1. search for a docking station near you on the Santander cycle map or;

2. you can also download the official Santander Cycles app. 

Download travel Apps for your mobile

There’s lots of apps to download to your Smartphone that will help you navigate around London, and you’ve probably already installed some. The Citymapper app is the bees knees of them all! You can download to your iPhone or Android, or use it on the website.

Simply enter your destination, and Citymapper will give you the directions, incorporating walking, the Tube and buses, with different alternatives for you to choose.  It will even tell you which carriage to get on in the Tube to ensure that transfers are as quick as possible between stations. It really is the one stop shop for navigating London’s public transport system.

Use Free Wi-Fi on the Tube

On most Tube stations, there’s publicly accessible Wi-Fi.  This is great for navigating your way and searching for the station to alight at to reach your destination.  You’ll need a local SIM card to be able to access the Wi-Fi such as the SIM card from UK Prepaid SIM Card.

In addition to unlimited free Wi-Fi in Tube stations, the UK Prepaid SIM Card comes with 12GB of high speed 4G data as well as calling and texting, and a local UK mobile number.  And if you’re venturing to Europe, the UK Prepaid SIM Card also works in 34 European countries. Find out more about our UK Prepaid Card.

Still have a question regarding public transport in London? Get in contact. We’re happy to help.