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How to find your way around London
Published: 27 Jul 16
Anyone moving to London benefits from a transport network which is extremely organised and one of the best in the world. It has been constructed and designed with convenience and speed in mind, and the range of different ways to make your way around the city ensures there is a mode of transport for every kind of traveller. Here’s everything you need to know:
Don’t Forget your Oyster
And no, we don’t mean the seafood. Everyone who lives in London will most likely need an Oyster Card. This is the key to transport in the city and ensures you can travel by train, tube and bus with ease. It’s a simple plastic card which holds pay-as-you-go travel credit and offers a contactless payment method, so you don’t need individual train or bus tickets – you just tap in, and tap out.
You can get your Oyster at any train or tube station or online. Also, if you have friends and family coming to visit you, you can get them a Visitor Oyster for their stay, which means they’ll benefit from cheaper travel rates too.
- Sign up before you arrive in London
- Set up auto top-up so you’ve always got travel credit
- Get your 30% student discount with use of an
- Add a season ticket to your Oyster in order to save more pennies
- Watch out for card clash – if you have a contactless payment card and Oyster card in your wallet when you tap in or out, you may not be let through the barriers. This is because the card reader doesn't know which one to charge. Solution: take your card out of your wallet to tap in and out
- Finally, try not to lose it…
Other Ways to Pay
Contactless payment cards
Increasing in popularity, many Londoners choose to use their contactless credit or debit cards. This enables you to pay in the same way as an Oyster Card (tapping in and out) and it costs you the same as a regular Oyster fare. Beware, however, as paying with your debit or credit card means you are charged the normal fare so any concessions such as student discount or season ticket discounts cannot be applied.
You can buy a range of different tickets in every train and tube station. Choose from day, single or multi-trip and the number of zones you need to visit. Machines are available to purchase tickets using cash or card and some larger stations also have ticket kiosks if you need a bit of help.
A Word about Zones
London is broken down into a number of separate zones. The zones are numbered 1 to 6, with extended zones 7 to 9. The key thing to know is the lower the number the more central the location. All Chapters are conveniently located in zones 1 and 2 so you’ll have a central base to explore London from.
Travelling by Tube
The London Underground is probably the most popular method of transport in the whole of the city. This is due to its speed, the number of stations and their convenient locations. There are multiple ways to get to most locations and the station staff are all trained to help travellers navigate around the tube, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice if you’re not sure which tube to get. You can pay by Oyster, contactless debit/credit card or buy a paper ticket at the station.
The Night Tube
From 19th August 2016, London will have a 24-hour tube service on the Central and Victoria lines every Friday and Saturday. The Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines will also become 24-hour services on Friday and Saturday in the coming Autumn – great news for those who like to party hard.
Travelling by Bus
The bright red London Bus is one of the city’s most famous icons. The original Routemaster buses are no longer on the roads (except for tourist purposes) but many of London’s double decker buses are still bright red keeping the tradition and adding to the experience of choosing bus travel.
Buses are also normally a cheaper travel option than choosing the tube in London and are a great way to get to know the city. The tube may be convenient but you can miss out on many of the sights and hidden gems of London whilst making your journey underground. You can board London buses using an Oyster card or contactless payment card. Some will also still allow you to buy individual tickets but this is rare.
London Night Bus Network
London is a city that never sleeps and the transport networks never sleep either. The London Night Bus Network runs every evening between 11pm and 6am and there are 51 night bus routes at present, ensuring travellers can get to and from home whatever time of night it is. It helps ensure a safe journey home whenever you may be out and about, so it is worth always being aware of the night bus routes in and around your Chapter.
Overground trains, the DLR and trams
Travelling above ground is also a good way to get your bearings in your new city.
There are several overground stations in London such as Waterloo, Victoria, Euston and Charing Cross. Use these for connections out of town to other major cities in the UK. It’s a great way for international students in London to see more of the country. King’s Cross St Pancreas even has links to Paris and other cities in Europe. Just make sure you book your train tickets in advance to get the best price.
This serves south London and runs from Wimbledon through Croydon to Beckenham and New Addington, covering seven National Rail stations and more than 50 bus routes. Should you ever need to travel in those directions, it’s a great option to have.
The DLR (Docklands Light Railway)
This is a rail line that reaches north to Stratford, south to Lewisham, west to Bank in the City of London and east to London City Airport. This will be your go to if you live at Chapter Lewisham as it's the easiest way to get into the City.
Travelling by Taxi
Taxis are probably the most expensive way to travel around London. However, there will be times where a taxi is your best option so knowing how and where to get one is important. You will recognise the classic London black cab but this is only one type of taxi available in the city and you may find it is more expensive than alternatives available.
Classic Hackney Black Cabs
Dating back to 1621, you will still see these all over the city. If you need to get one, look for one with the orange “Taxi” sign on the top lit up and hail it down – normally a simple wave does the job.
All taxis in London which are not classic black cabs are known as mini cabs and they are often a slightly cheaper option. You must always ensure you only get into a pre-booked, licensed mini-cab for your own personal safety and one easy way to do this is with the . Cabwise has been developed by TFL (Transport for London) to ensure travellers have instant access to licensed mini cabs.
Wherever you’re from, you have probably heard of and may have already used . 30,000 people in London download Uber and order a car for the first time every single week so it is a growing taxi option in the city.
Travelling by boat
Introducing the . These are speedy hop on, hop of boats that run on the River Thames and act like buses on water - perfect for days where you want to be out in the fresh air. With a range of routes, you can get to and from many places in the capital, making these a great way to get around if you fancy a change. You can pay by Oyster, contactless debit/credit card or use their very own to pay online.
Walking in London
There is no reason your own two feet can’t be your main form of transport. It’s by far the cheapest travel option and with a classic London A-Z map in your pocket or a couple of good apps you’re ready to go.
Transport for London has invested in which makes travelling on foot around the city convenient and easy. It is a system of map-style street signs which ensure you can get from A to B without any issues. You may even find travelling by foot is quicker and more convenient than other options and there are currently Legible London signs in almost every London borough, with even more promised in the coming years.
Cycle hire scheme
If you want to get fit and see the city on two wheels, the cycle hire scheme offers bike points across London. It works by picking up a bike from a station and riding it to another stopping point. After paying an initial £2 bike access fee for the day, the first 30 minutes of each journey are free. If you want to take a longer journey on the same bike, it will cost £2 for every additional 30 minutes.
No Excuse to Explore
Whatever method or methods of transport you choose to use to travel around London, you will soon come to love the excitement the city offers. Within a few short weeks of your arrival you’ll be a pro at navigating the tube, hopping on and off buses and taking a gentle stroll around your favourite local hotspots.