London is a big city and if you’re not a marathon runner or a really enthusiastic walker, you’ll have to use one of the means of public transportation. For most, London underground or “The Tube” is still the best way to get around.
London underground is the oldest of its kind in the world. First part was already opened in 1863. Today, there are 270 stations in and around London connected with 402 km of rail tracks, which also means that it’s second biggest network right after Shanghai underground.
There are currently 11 lines under the streets of London that connect almost every part and every attraction in the city. Each line has its own name and colour that makes orientation easier.
If you want to ride the underground, you will need a ticket. You can buy a regular paper ticket, which costs 4,90£ per ride. Expensive.
Most popular is “Oyster card”, a card which you can top up with as much money as you wish and use public transport with it. You can fill it on machines or at the service desks at underground stations with all “big” payment cards (Visa, Mastercard,…) or cash. A ride with Oyster card in “peak-time” (6.30-9.30AM and 16.00-19.00PM) and “off-peak” (9.30-16.00 and after 19.00) costs 2,40£ (zone 1 and 2). Because of the capping system, you can ride the whole day for just 6,60£. What’s capping? It’s the maximum amount of money that is taken from your card in one day. It doesn’t matter if you ride 3 or 20 times. You will only pay 6,60£ altogether.
Best option for tourists is so called “travelcard”, which can be weekly, monthly of yearly. There was also a daily travelcard, which was cancelled in 2015. Since tourists don’t really go to London for a month, we’ll compare prices of a weekly travelcard. Price of it is 33,00£, if you would buy 7 daily peak or off-peak cards costing 6,60£, that would sum up to 46,20£. So a weekly travelcard is a good option if you are in London for 5 days or more ( 5 x 6,60 = 33).
Ticket prices depend also on zones in which you are driving in and out. Most of the attractions are in zone 1 and 2 and luckily, prices for this two zones are the same. Starting with zone 3, prices increase.
You can read more about the price changes in 2017 here.
Changes in 2016
Stratford station, which was in zone 3 until 2016 is now on the edge between zone 2 and 3 which means that is cheaper to get there since you can use zone 2 ticket. Especially helpful if you arevisiting Olympic Park or Westfield shopping centre.
Fares freeze until 2020
Londons new mayor Sadiq Khan froze some fares until 2020:
- All bus and tram tickets
- Rides with PAYG ticket and a ride with paper ticket on DLR
- Santander Cycles
- Emirates Airlines
In reality, orientation is really simple. After a day or two, you will feel just like at home. All the stations are visible and marked from the outside with the famous “underground” sign. To enter and exit you have to touch the scanner (if you’re using Oyster card) or slide paper ticket through scanner. All the stations have big maps and extra markings of the lines that are going through the stations.
There are also maps of the train lines on the train itself, which makes it easier to count the number of stations to your destination.
Don’t miss the famous “Mind The Gap” sound, which became almost an attraction and can be found on many souvenirs. Its primary purpose is to warn about the gap between the train and the platform.
It is true, you see more of London with a double-decker bus, but you do lose a lot of time in London traffic. Underground is fast and gets you almost to the entrance of all main attractions.