London has one of the most elaborate modes of transportation in the world. With its public transport carrying 50 percent of commuters, travellers find the transit system to be exceptionally efficient and cost-effective. Handled by the Transport for London, London’s Underground, Overground and buses are the pillars of the transportation system. And it wouldn’t be wrong to say that neither locals nor visitors prefer cars over the public transportation system in London.
While London Underground, Overground and buses are transports common to almost all cities, however, adding to this variety are riverboats and bicycles. Each of these transport systems is looked after by the TFL and in cases of doubt, one can easily access information about routes, hours and fares about each of them. If one is aware of TFL’s website, then it is even hard to get lost in London. And while it is very easy to get around the city, one should always keep apps with maps of the cityscape or maps specific to the mode of transport chosen. It is a popular notion that London is expensive to live in, however, with public transport one can manage to travel across the city, without burning a hole in one’s pocket.
So, the article below discusses the major modes of transport in London. Shedding light on how each of them can be used to make transportation easier and the important things to keep in mind before opting for them.
1. London Underground
London Underground, also called “the Tube” offers an efficient means to travel around London. Being a rapid and well-regulated means of transport in London, the London Underground is divided into 9 zones and 11 lines. Running between 5 am to 12 am, the Tube extends its services to 24 hours on some Friday and Saturday evenings. While it is pretty to board the London Underground, it is advisable to check TFL for current service alerts, delays, step-free tube maps and night maps.
Fares: Tube fare depends on the distance you travel, time of the day and use of a single fare paper ticket or payment card. The fare is usually determined by zones, and a commuter in zone 1 would be paying less than someone commuting via Zone 5. Tubes are equipped with automated machines from which tickets and travel cards can be purchased using cash or credit card. TFL has also made unlimited travel within a specific time period feasible with one day and seven-day travel cards.
Oyster Cards: Oyster cards are a cheaper and time-saving alternative to fare paper tickets. Travellers can easily deposit any amount of money in the car and check in and check out of Tube stations and buses. Oyster cards have a daily ceiling of $8.50 in Zones 1-3, so commuters can travel unlimited on any TFL tube or bus after they’ve paid the amount.
For travellers, the biggest perk of taking buses over the London Underground is the destinations that aren’t on Tube routes. However, that doesn’t mean this means of transport in London doesn’t face the typical traffic problems during the rush hour.
Routes: With over 600 bus routes and a large number of buses running between them, travellers can be assured of almost any destination getting covered via these. However, some buses run 24 hours, making matters even more complicated. So, using routes and maps mentioned on TFL must be a regular practice for commuters.
Fares: Starting with a base rate of $1.50, buses are an economical alternative to the London Underground. However, getting an oyster card or a contactless payment card is mandatory for bus journeys. TFL to encourage bus travels also offers Hopper Fare, which allows travellers to shift from one bus to another free of charge, within an hour.
3. London Overground
Apart from buses, London Overground has strategically filled the gap created by London Underground. As the name suggests, it is the above-ground counterpart of the Underground. Just like buses, it has made those destinations accessible which aren’t reachable via London Underground. There are in total 9 overground lines.
Hours: London Overground shares the same running hours as London Underground. On weekend days, specifically Fridays and Saturdays, Overground extends its running time to 24 hours between the stations of New Cross Gate, Highbury, and Islington.
Fares: Unlike Underground, fares of London Overground are lower, especially outside Central London. For cheaper transport in London, having an oyster card is a must and that goes for London Overground as well.
For a more privatised experience, travelling in the classic black cabs of London is preferred by many. One of the primary reasons to opt for black cabs is the drivers, who are well-versed with the topography of the city. Travellers can only hire the black cabs when the yellow TAXI sign is on and being a metered transport in London, the base rate is 3.20 pounds. For more information on taxi fares, travellers are advised to keep checking TFL fares for taxes and minicabs.
Minicabs are often cheaper than black cabs and are available on most high streets. As they aren’t metered, costs can be decided beforehand by negotiation with often the rates offered to be reasonable. A little precaution that must be taken while going for minicabs is avoiding unbooked cabs. It is illegal and dangerous if one decides to go with a driver offering service without booking first. Car hailing apps like Uber are also cheaper as compared to black cabs, especially when travelling long distances.
With London’s public bicycle hire scheme, travellers are provided with yet another means of transport in London, that not only gives them the freedom to go wherever they want but also promotes a healthy lifestyle. The cost of Santander bikes starts from $2 for 24 hours with the initial 30 minutes being free. There are more than 800 docking stations and 12,000 bikes in London, which can be purchased directly from the stations or Santander Cycles App, through cash, debit or credit card. Travellers can use TFL’s find a docking station page to pick or drop bikes or learn about the availability of bikes at the docking stations. Keep in mind that a charge of 300 pounds is levied if one fails to bring the bike back within 24 hours or if there is any wear and tear.
Travelling via the river is a great way to commute, as stunning views come in handy. However, as far as this transport in London is concerned, there is no doubt that riverboats are an efficient means of commuting. As you board the Thames riverboat service, get ready to sight all the famous landmarks of London while on this journey. Considering from a daily travellers perspective, riverboats aren’t just meant for river tours but are great for daily commutation as they link major London locations between Putney and Woolwich across 4 different routes. Both Oyster Cards and contactless payment cards can be used with Uber Boat by Thomas Clippers, the renowned riverboat service provider in London.
After London decided to boot out Uber, there was a mass scepticism about how London’s economy would survive. However, it didn’t take much time for everyday travellers to find their alternatives. Now, apps like Gett, Addison Lee and BlaBlaCar have taken their place in their lives and smartphones. Instead of single-person rides, travellers are more than willing to adopt car-pooling in their lifestyle.
The above-mentioned guide on transport in London provides a thorough understanding of how to travel like a local within the city. However, there are other means of travel too, including trams, cable cars, and DLR. Walking remains to be an obvious mode of commutation, however, switching it with bicycles is the smarter way to travel via road and at one’s own pace. The efficient system connecting different areas of London is equally efficient in connecting London to other parts of the UK and the world.
Airports like Heathrow and Gatwick are the biggest airports of London, receiving both domestic and international airlines. A traveller can easily take a quick tube ride after the flight, as both these stations are connected by their respective express lines, namely Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express.
Railways connect London to parts of the UK and Europe. Stations like Paddington, London Bridge, and Victoria can be accessed to travel to other regions of the UK with tickets available for purchase online. Overall, London’s transport system has made it the centre of the world, which one can reach within a blink of an eye.