Getting Around London: Guide to Public Transportation
Thanks to its ease and accessibility, London might just have one of the best public transportation systems in the world. Run by Transport for London , the city's mass rapid transit lines and buses allow locals and visitors alike to get around the city without needing a car.
Before arriving in London, download an app called Citymapper . It recommends the best methods of transportation for any desired destination, and even gives you specific bus stops so you don't get lost. Once you have the app, you can start navigating the city like a local.
How to Ride the Underground
London's metro system is called the London Underground, or the Tube. There are eleven Tube lines in total, which connect most areas of the city and are particularly handy in central London. It's a quick and easy way to get around with simple-to-understand transfers.
- Fares: Fares vary based on the distance and time of day. The fare is typically determined by zone, so a traveler using the Tube within Zone 1 will pay less than one traveling from Zone 1 to Zone 5. A single journey within Zones 1 and 2 is 4.90 pounds. TfL also offers one-day and seven-day travel cards for unlimited travel within a specific period. Tickets and travel cards can be purchased from automated machines within all Tube stations using cash or a credit card.
- Oyster Cards: Purchase an Oyster Card to take advantage of lower fares. The plastic card can be filled with any amount of money and allows travelers to tap in and out of Tube stations and buses. A Tube journey within Zones 1 and 2 using an Oyster Card is 2.40 pounds. Oyster Cards also have a daily cap of 8.50 pounds within Zones 1-3, so you can travel unlimited on any TfL Tube or bus once you've paid that amount. Oyster Cards are available for a five-pound deposit at ticketing machines in all Tube stations. Contactless credit and debit cards can also be used in lieu of an Oyster Card to tap in and out of stations for the same fares.
- Routes and Hours: The Tube generally runs from 5 a.m. until midnight, with specific opening and closing times varying by station. On Fridays and Saturdays, five of the Tube lines run on the Night Tube , which extends for 24 hours. These include the Victoria, Central, Jubilee, Northern, and Piccadilly lines, but do not include all stops on each line. Look for the specific Night Tube maps when planning your journey.
- Navigation: Getting around the Tube is fairly simple. Each station displays signs indicating which direction to take each Tube line, so travelers can check they are going the correct way to their intended stop. Signs on each platform also display how long you'll need to wait until the next Tube train arrives, as well as its destination. For extra help, use TfL's "Plan a Journey" service online.
- Service Alerts: Check the official TfL website for current service alerts or delays on the Tube, which can be affected by weather or construction. It’s also advisable to check for upcoming planned Tube strikes, which can result in entire lines being shut down for a day or more.
- Accessibility: Some—but not all—Tube stations offer step-free access, so it’s important to check your route in advance if you need wheelchair-accessible options. The Tube map displays which stations offer these, and there is a specific step-free Tube map available on the TfL website. The Tube trains also feature priority seats near the doors for those who need them.
How to Ride the Buses
The London bus system is extensive, with some buses traveling to destinations that the Tube stations don't reach. It's important to consider the traffic when opting to take the bus since rush hour can mean long delays.
- Routes and Hours: There are over 600 total bus routes around London, with many serving central London. Bus routes that run 24 hours are indicated by a "Night Bus" sign. Determining the best bus can be complicated, especially when looking at a route map, so use Citymapper or TfL's "Plan a Journey" to help decide which is best for your travels.
- Fares: The London bus is a cheaper option than the Tube since one adult ticket is 1.50 pounds. Buses don't accept cash, so be prepared with an Oyster Card or contactless payment card before boarding. TfL also offers the "Hopper Fare," which allows travelers to transfer from one bus to another within an hour for free.
- Transfers: When switching between the bus and the Tube, travelers will need to pay each fare as there are no free transfers between the two. Having an Oyster Card can be useful if you plan to go on several TfL journeys each day because of the daily cap in Zones 1 and 2.
How to Ride the Overground
The London Overground is an extension of the Underground, with above-ground trains running to areas of the city the Tube doesn't reach. There are nine total Overground lines.
- Hours: The Overground has similar hours to the Tube, with each station operating a specific first and last train time. On Fridays and Saturdays the Overground operates 24 hours on stops between New Cross Gate and Highbury & Islington.
- Fares: The Overground has similar fares to the Underground, although the Overground can be cheaper when outside central London. A single journey within Zone 1 is 2.40 pounds and from Zones 2-6 varies from 2.90 to 5.10 pounds. It's best to use an Oyster Card to tap in and out of the stations.
Using Taxis and Ride Sharing Apps
London's black cabs are iconic, particularly since the taxi drivers are deeply knowledgable about the city's geography. The official cabs can be expensive, especially when traveling long distances, so visitors may want to consider using Uber or similar ride share options. Lyft doesn't operate in London, but Addison Lee is a similar app that's popular with Londoners. To use the black cabs, look for taxi stands around the city, or raise your arm to hail one in a safe place.
Getting to and from the Airport
London has several airports, but most international travelers will arrive into Heathrow or Gatwick, both of which are accessible by public transportation. Heathrow, the city's biggest airport, connects to the Underground via the Piccadilly line, so travelers can opt to take the Tube all the way into the city. The airport also offers the Heathrow Express, a train that connects the airport to Paddington Station in only 15 minutes. Purchase tickets for the Heathrow Express in advance online to take advantage of cheaper fares. Gatwick has a similar train, the Gatwick Express, which brings visitors into Victoria Station in about 30 minutes.
Other Transportation Options
Because London is located along the Thames, there are numerous ferry boats that operate along the river. The Thames Clippers are one of the most popular options as travelers can use their Oyster Cards to travel to stops along each side of the river. Those heading to London's art museums can hop on the Tate To Tate Clipper, which connects the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain every 30 minutes.
Leaving the City
Major train lines connect London to all parts of the U.K. via several train stations, including Paddington Station, London Bridge Station, and Victoria Station. Use the Trainline website to search for the best train to your chosen destination when heading out of London. Most train lines will require specific tickets, which can be purchased online ahead of time or in the train stations. For those going to Paris, Brussels, or Amsterdam, the Eurostar operates out of St. Pancras International, which can be accessed by the Tube at Kings Cross.
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Tube Map - London Underground 4+
Tfl map and journey planner., mapway limited.
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Tube Map is the award-winning navigation app that includes the official TfL (Transport for London) Tube Map. Tube Map - London Underground works both on and offline and is the #1 Tube Map with over 22 million downloads! Key features: Uses the official TfL iconic Harry Beck London Underground map design. Includes additional map views for the TfL Night Tube and Rail Network. Plus a bonus map that we have created that is more geographical. An easy to use journey planner that works with and without an internet connection. Check line status for delays, closures and service changes. See what time the next Tube is due with live departures from TfL. National Rail arrivals and departures. Journey planning made easy with real-time routing around closures and delays. Use step-by-step directions in the journey planner to find your way around London. Save your favourite routes for quick selection when on the go. Save your Home and Work stations for up to date station, line and route information. Find your closest Tube station wherever you are in London. Tube Map – London Underground Apple Watch app available. Line status widget Travel Guide Exclusive features also available; First & Last Tube Times, Tube Exits, Premium Line status widget and Priority Support. NEW - Remove advertising subscription With over 60 million downloads worldwide, there's a Mapway app for many of the busiest transport systems in the world including New York Subway, Paris Metro, Bus Times London and Berlin Subway. Plan. Route. Relax. Please note: whilst we endeavour to ensure that Line Status notifications are delivered in a timely manner we can’t guarantee this 100% of the time. There may be occasions when the functionality isn’t available due to technical reasons outside of our control. Continued use of GPS running in the background can dramatically decrease battery life. Tube Map Premium available as an in-app subscription: 99p weekly, £3.99 monthly or £9.99 annually, or as a one-off purchase of £24.99. Prices may vary by location. Cancel at any time, for any reason. Payment will be charged to your iTunes Account at confirmation of purchase. Subscription automatically renews unless auto-renew is turned off at least 24-hours before the end of the current period. Your account will be charged for renewal within 24-hours prior to the end of the current period, at the cost of your chosen price tier. Subscriptions can be managed and auto-renewal may be turned off by going to Account Settings in your iTunes Account. Any unused portion of a free trial period, if offered, will be forfeited when a subscription to that publication is purchased, where applicable. Read our terms in full at https://www.mapway.com/terms-conditions/
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Ratings and Reviews
Great app for London Tube travel
Just got back from our first trip to London and using this app made getting around London to see the sights via the tube so much easier. It can show you the nearest tube station to your location and all you do it put in the location of the station you will be starting from and where you want to go and it does the rest. Gives you what t train to take and tells you what stop to get off. If you have to switch trains, it tells you the stop you get off ti switch the train and the next train to take and what stop for your final destination. This was great and the tube is so nice to use to travel around London. Highly recommended to anyone going there and planning ti use the tube. Much, much less expensive than a taxi.
Developer Response ,
Hi. Many thanks for the five stars and comprehensive review. Best regards, Team Mapway
I used this app extensively on our recent trip to London. The route feature tells you exactly which lines to take and where to change lines. For a small fee it even can tell you which exit to take and whether to try to sit near the front or middle of the train (the fee was well worth it in my opinion). I did not find the adverts overly distracting. A cool feature is that once you've plugged in your route, you can switch over to a familiar Underground map and it will highlight your stations so you know where you are in the city/system. 5 stars from me. I downloaded another paid London map app that was worthless but this app is fantastic. Thank you for making my trip much, much easier!
We have loved reading your comments thanks so much for the review!
Forget the map - get this app!
Simply stated, unless you are very familiar with the London "tube", this app is a must have! No need to puzzle over maps, or ask guidance from an English-challenged employee. Just open the app, go to route planner, and enter your beginning & ending stations. It'll show you the lines and changes to get there! You can even put a location like "Hard Rock Cafe" in for your destination, and it will route you to the nearest station! The only catch is you must have cell service and be willing to use it. Just make sure you get a good plan on your phone!
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How to use London Buses
Buses in London are plentiful and best of all, if you ride the buses instead of always taking the underground, you see more of the city. Some visitors to London are scared of using the buses, but there’s no need to be wary.
Another big benefit of taking the buses in London is that, apart from the London Cycle Hire Scheme , it’s the cheapest way to travel around London – £5.25 per day or £24.70 per week for unlimited travel all over London (there are no zones for bus travel).
London bus route maps
The simplified bus map (pdf) shows London’s main tourist attractions and the most useful bus routes for visitors.
Bus spider maps show bus routes to and from a particular area.
Paper bus maps
Apparently, the paper bus maps will probably not be updated. TfL’s visitor centres might have some copies, but as some routes have changed paper bus maps should be used with caution.
London bus route planner
To find out how to reach a particular destination, use the TfL Journey Planner .
Type in your departure and arrival points. Click ‘Travel Options & Accessibility and deselect all options except ‘buses’. The planner gives you the route number, departure times and estimated journey time.
If you prefer to use an app, try Citymapper or TfL Go
London bus times
Many buses in central London run 24-hours. If they don’t, special Night buses (prefixed with an ‘N’) start running after 11.30pm.
Buses in central London run frequently during the day and you normally won’t have to wait more than 5-10 minutes. For early departures or travel at night, check the timetables on the Transport for London website . There are timetables at bus stops as well.
Most bus stops have a screen telling you when the next bus is due to arrive.
You can also find live bus departures and arrivals on the TfL website, just type in a street, postcode, route number or bus stop code or via the TfL Go app
London bus stops
To find the location of a bus stop, use the TfL Bus Map . Type in an area, a place of interest, a street or a postcode and it shows you a map with the nearest bus stops. You can also use it to find bus stops on a particular bus route.
Each bus stop has a letter at the top of the flagpole. Look at the Destination Finder on the bus stop wall. If the same letter is listed next to where you’re going, you’re at the right stop. If you’re not, it tells you where to catch your bus.
A simpler way to find a bus stop is with an app. TfL Go or Citymapper finds your location and shows you the closest bus stops along with the times of the next buses from each stop.
The final destination of the bus and the bus number is displayed on the front and side of the bus. Check this before getting on. Not all buses travel the full route.
Knowing when to get off
Buses in central London have displays and announcements telling you the name of the next stop. You’ll also find journey time estimates at each bus stop. And if you’re still not sure, ask a fellow passenger. Londoners are very helpful when it comes to giving directions.
If you miss your stop, don’t worry, you won’t have far to walk. Distances between stops in central London are not that great.
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Last updated: 5 March 2023
Getting around London
- How to use the London underground
- How to use London buses
- London cycle hire scheme
- Walking in London
- London trains
- London taxis & minicabs
- Plan your journey
- London transport zones
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Guided tours are a convenient way to explore London, but you can save a lot by using public transit to get around and see the sights and attractions in the city. Plan your own routes and tour at your own pace and schedule. Visit what you want when you want. The truth is, guided tours don't offer that kind of freedom. Another advantage is that you get to experience the city more like a local.
See our London Travel Tips to save money and help your trip go smoothly.