Getting Around in London: Your Best (And Cheapest) Options
For the uninitiated, getting around London can be intimidating, but this guide aims to provide you with all the information you need to confidently navigate the city.
Oyster cards & contactless
On the TfL (Transport for London) network, contactless cards are also accepted; they work in the same way as Oyster cards, in that you simply tap in at the beginning of your journey and tap out at the end; the only exception is when purchasing longer-term travel cards, which require Oyster.
Daily fare caps
Daily fare caps apply to bus, Tube, and Overground journeys and are calculated from 4:30 a.m. to 4:29 a.m., so you can often get home for free after a night out if you’ve maxed out your Oyster.
The London transport map is divided into zones, which roughly equate to how central a location is. For example, Oxford Circus, in the heart of the city, is zone 1, while Richmond, 9 miles from Waterloo, is zone 4. Some stations, such as Stratford zones 2/3, are on the border of two zones.
Planning your journey
CityMapper is your best bet for speed and efficiency, with a sophisticated algorithm that considers how frequently different trains or buses depart, and even tells you which Tube carriage to board for a quick exit. Google Maps is also useful, especially if you’re walking.
The Tube (the London Underground network)
Most lines are open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. every morning and all hours of the night, serving 5 million riders per day and covering 270 different stations. The majority of the central stops are underground, but 55% of the network is above ground, and most lines are open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. every morning and all hours of the night.
London buses, which are mostly double-decker buses and are generally slower than the Tube, are brilliant at connecting the dots between train lines and other parts of the city. There are 8,500 buses in London, and it’s easy to get confused if you’re not careful.
The Overground primarily serves zone 2 and further afield, and while it lacks the frequency of the Underground, it does provide views of the city, air conditioning, and wider trains, all of which are appreciated on busy days.
Various Trains in London
There are also train networks that run through the city that can save time on long journeys, such as the Thameslink, which takes 28 minutes to travel from Kentish Town in north London to Herne Hill in south London.
Thames Clipper (ferry boats)
The Thames Clipper ferry network connects London’s two boroughs, running from Putney in the west to Woolwich in the east and taking in some of the city’s most famous landmarks along the way.
Emirates Air Line (cable car)
The Emirates Air Line is a cable car that takes passengers on ‘flights’ across the Thames; it’s a relatively uncommon mode of transportation, with only two stops, but it’s a lot of fun. Passengers travel from Emirates Greenwich Peninsula to Emirates Royal Docks.
Bikes in London
Cycling is a great way to get around London, and there are dedicated bike routes all over the city. Renting a bike costs $32 per day, but trips under 30 minutes are free.
The world’s largest municipal wayfinding system, ‘Legible London’ maps, are provided by Transport for London (TfL) and show where you are and where you’re facing in relation to nearby streets and attractions, just one of London’s many claims to fame.
How can I make my tube cheaper?
Use the same card for multiple journeys to save the most money; contactless users get a daily and weekly cap. Don’t forget to touch in and out on the yellow reader at the start and end of every Tube, DLR, and London Overground journey to ensure you get the best fare.
Is it cheaper to get a Travelcard or use Oyster?
A Travelcard is generally more expensive than an Oyster card or a Contactless payment card, with the exception of making three or more journeys for six days or more in a seven-day period; otherwise, an Oyster on a Pay As You Go basis or a Contactless payment card is less expensive.
Is it cheaper to buy a tube ticket or use contactless?
Both offer cheaper fares than buying a paper ticket, but contactless has an added bonus: you get not only a daily cap, but also a weekly cap from Monday to Sunday, which means you won’t pay more than a weekly travelcard. This is a significant benefit of the scheme.
Why is the tube so expensive?
‘While the operating costs of the London Underground are entirely covered by fares and other commercial revenue in London, they are covered in other countries by a combination of fares, commercial revenue, and government subsidies raised through taxation.’
Can I use my debit card on the tube?
To travel on the capital’s underground, trams, DLR, and overground trains, you no longer need a paper ticket or an Oyster card; you can now board buses and tube trains in London by simply swiping your credit or debit card.
What is the daily cap on an Oyster card?
The daily cap for zones 1-2 travel (very central London) is u00a36.80; the daily cap for travel further out during the day is u00a38. If you’ll be in London for 5 days or more and will be using public transportation frequently, it’ll be cheaper to load a 7-day travelcard (probably zones 1-2) onto your oystercard.
Is Oyster card free?
With an Oyster photocard, you can travel for free on our transport services if you’re 60 or older and live in a London borough.
How much is a day Travelcard on Oyster?
After 9:30 a.m. Monday to Friday, the cost of a Day Travelcard (paper ticket) for unlimited journeys for adults is u00a313.90 for Zones 1 to 4, and u00a319.60 for Zones 1 to 6.
What age do you pay for a child on the London Underground?
Children aged five to ten years old can travel free in London on the Tube, DLR, London Overground, and some National Rail services (where pay as you go is accepted) as long as they are accompanied by an adult who has a valid ticket (up to four children can travel free with one adult) or have a 5-10 Zip Oyster photocard.
What are Zones 1 to 6 in London?
All London Underground, National Rail, London Overground, TfL Rail, and Docklands Light Railway stations are divided into six fare zones, with zone 1 covering the central area and zones 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 surrounding it.
Can I use my Trainline ticket on the tube?
Yes, if you need to complete your journey on the London Underground (the tube), we’ll combine the costs of your Overground and Underground tickets for you.
Is Oyster better than contactless?
Supports travelcards: One of the main benefits of the Oyster card is that it accepts travelcards; if you’ll be in London for seven days starting any time other than Monday through Sunday, and you’ll be traveling enough to make the travel card worthwhile, it’ll be a better deal than a contactless card.
Is contactless same price as Oyster?
It is widely advertised that using contactless to pay for travel in London is the same as using an Oyster card; however, if you have a railcard discount (or similar) applied to your Oyster, it will always be cheaper than using contactless, as discounts cannot be applied to contactless payment cards.