Top London travel tips for the London Underground
We know a lot about the best things to see in London, and we're pretty good at helping people get around the city. If you're new to using the London Underground, it might seem a bit confusing at first. But don't worry! Just follow these easy tips and you'll find it's actually pretty simple to use.
From escalator etiquette to money-saving tips, find out how to navigate the London Underground like a true Londoner.
Using the London Underground: A Quick Guide
If you're stepping into the London Underground for the first time, remember, it's more than just a train system; it's an institution that helps you travel across London efficiently. This is your fast guide to mastering the tube.
1. Keep right on the escalator
London Underground asks that you stand on the right when using the escalators and leave the left free for others to walk down. If you’re travelling in a big group, or with lots of shopping bags, stand and stay right and let others pass you – it will speed up the process and be a more pleasant journey for everyone!
2. Remember the ‘rush hour’
The London Underground is very busy during ‘rush hour’ with commuters moving around the city. You can expect the trains and stations to be overcrowded between 7.30AM and 9AM in the morning and between 5PM and 7PM in the evening.
3. Have your ticket ready at the barrier
Sometimes there can be a bit of a bottleneck at ticket barriers, especially before 9.30AM and around 6PM during the rush hours. London Underground recommends you have your ticket ready at the barrier so you can move in and out of the station smoothly. Opt for a Visitor Oyster card to make the whole things easier.
4. Don't panic - you can always go back again
If you’ve caught the wrong tube or missed your stop – don't panic! London Underground trains run every 2-7 minutes depending on the line, so just get off at the next stop and locate a printed tube map on the platform to work out your next steps.
5. Choose your ticket wisely
If you're only planning on using the London Underground a couple of times during your trip, then 'tapping in' with your bank card is probably the most cost-effective way of getting around. However, if you're planning on using it throughout your trip, a London travelcard is your best bet. Purchase a handy London travelcard alongside your sightseeing pass, so you can get between the attractions with ease.
6. Let people off the train first
It helps everyone using the busy underground to let people off the tube before you board it; allowing more room for you to get on and passengers to alight the train.
7. Check line closures before you travel
If possible, check ahead and plan your journey to make sure there are no delays or closures on the lines you need to travel – especially at the weekends when maintenance work is common. TFL’s website provides live network updates and will alert you to any disruptions and suggest alternative routes in advance.
8. Carry a bottle of water in the warmer months
The London Underground is over 150 years old and although the trains have been modernised, many still lack air conditioning and cooling units. Make sure you take a bottle of water with you, especially in the summer, as the long tube journeys can get very hot at peak times.
9. Keep your personal belongings safe
Like any large city be wary of pickpockets operating in the busy stations and tubes. Carry a bag with zips and keep your personal belongings and valuable items on you and safely stored away to avoid any incidents.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
London Undergrounds are well-staffed with helpful Transport for London officers who can guide you to the nearest exit, or help you plan your onward journey. Usually, there is one at every main station platform – if not, go up the escalators into the entrance foyer where there will be ticket desks, free maps and information leaflets.
4 Interesting Facts About the London Underground
- The London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world, opening in 1863 (source: Transport for London).
- The shortest distance between two adjacent stations on the network is only 260 metres, between Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line (source: Curious Claire).
- The Tube map, first designed in 1931 by Harry Beck, was revolutionary in its simplicity and has inspired metro maps around the world (source: BBC News).
- The London Underground has its own lost property office, which receives around 200,000 items of lost property each year, including everything from laptops to false teeth (source: The Guardian).
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