London is an enormous city and you’re going to have to do a lot of travelling around, in order to take in all the sights, get to work and of course see your friends, who are probably scattered both north and south of the river. Unless you’re rich enough to take cabs everywhere, you’ll need to rely on public transport. If you do own a car but use public transport during the week, consider hiring out your car when you’re not using it, with easycarclub and make up to GBP 250.00 per month!
The transport system in London is built around an arrangement of 9 zones. The most central of zones, Zone 1, includes the City, Westminster and various part of some inner-city London boroughs.
Zone 2 forms a concentric ring around Zone 1..
Zone 3 forms a concentric ring around Zone 2 and so on, up until Zone 6.
Zones 7-9 are attached to this pattern in north-west of London.
London Transport provides a useful, free map showing the layout of the zones and areas, which is available at tube and train stations.
Look here for information on ticket types and fares for all types of transport
If you would like a list of stations in Zone 2, please read our Where to live in London in Zone 2 article.
Oyster is the travel smartcard method of journeying around London. An electronic card holds your ticket on it. You simply touch the card over one of the yellow Oyster sensors, when you wish to pass through a ticket barrier or get on a bus etc.
It is the most cost effective way of travelling around London.
The tube is made up of 11 different lines, all colour-coded and all named appropriately depending on the areas that they serve.
The lines are: Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, and Waterloo & City.
Tickets for the tube can be bought at a ticket office from an underground station, at a self-service machine in an underground station, or by topping up your Oyster card (see Oyster section above) at a touch-screen machine.
How to use the tube: If you are unfamiliar with the London tube train, then download a TFL app onto your smartphone. Locate your destination station and your departure station and find out which lines they’re both on. Remember that you will sometimes need to take 2 or 3 tube trains to reach your destination. Some London Tube stations have several different tube lines running through them, enabling you to switch lines. For instance, Kings Cross has 6 different lines running through it and is marked on a tube map as being an interchange station (indicated by a white circle with a black outline). 1. At your departure tube station, follow the signs (named and colour-coded) towards the line that you wish to take e.g Central Line 2. Once you have gone down the stairs/escalator, you will need to locate the correct platform of the particular line. Platforms are marked by west-bound, east-bound, north-bound or south-bound. Look at your tube map to determine which direction you are going in. 3. You need to be careful of split lines, which appear for instance on the Northern line or Central line. These lines split into different branches with different destinations once they’re outside of central London. Ensure that you are on the correct train by reading the destination on the front of the train, listening to the announcements and viewing the board on the platform. As with all transport systems, the Tube is sometimes subject to delays.
The bus network is far more complicated than that of the London Tube network. For a full list of bus routes, it is worth looking at the London Transport Bus Routes maps, which are available on the Transport for London website.
Buses are distinguished by their route number and their final destination, which is clearly visible on the front of the bus, along with a handful of major stops along the way. Bus stops along the route will have a bus timetable for the routes that the bus stop serves and sometimes a route map.
There are also many Nightbuses running through the night. These start with the letter N, followed by a route number. Many of these pass through Trafalgar Square, so this can be a good place to catch one, if you’ve been out till the early hours.
When you see a bus approaching that you wish to board, you should hold out your arm to indicate to the driver that you wish him to stop for you.
Tickets for buses can be bought by topping up your Oyster card in advance (see Oyster section above), by purchasing a single journey in cash on certain bus routes, or by using the roadside ticket machine at a bus stop on routes where cash is not accepted.
The London Overground is a commuter rail line currently running from Richmond to Stratford, Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction, Gospel Oak to Barking and Watford Junction to Euston.
The former East London line, which closed in December 2007, joined the London Overground when it reopened at stages in 2010 and 2011. It extends out to West Croydon, Crystal Palace and New Cross in the south and up to Dalston Junction and Highbury & Islington in the north. This is the beginning of an orbital service around London.
The DLR connects the City with the Docklands. The service runs from Bank and Tower Gateway all the way through to the Docklands and on to Stratford, Lewisham, Woolwich Arsenal and Beckton.
The DLR trains can seem a little surreal at first, as they are driven by an automatic system and do not require drivers. However, they are staffed by a Passenger Service Agent, who closes the doors when the system indicates that the train is ready to leave, and also assists with safety, travel information and the checking of tickets.
All DLR stations house ticket machines. You can also use Oyster (see Oyster section above).
Although the tube network covers many areas of London, there are still areas, particularly south of the river, that lack the convenience of the London Underground.
Do not despair though, because there are many train routes that serve these areas.
Trains to the east and Essex depart from Liverpool Street; to the north from Kings Cross, St.Pancras and Euston; to the west from Paddington and Waterloo and to the south from Victoria, London Bridge and also Waterloo.
Young people aged between 16 and 25 are eligible for a discount railcard called the 16-25 card. This was formerly known as the Young Person’s Railcard .
Visit www.nationalrail.co.uk for information or call 08457 48 49 50 for train times.
For further information on transport in London, please read our
Moving to London blog where we have the following London Transport Guide Archive with several posts on public transport, driving and cycling that you might find interesting.