Traveling Around London like a Local
Like any capital city, London is teeming with life and is busy at all times of the day. This can make traveling around the city a somewhat daunting task. This article aims to give you a few tips and pointers to help make your journeys as smooth as possible.
Perhaps the most iconic method of traveling around London are on those double story red buses! They are a symbol of London all over the world and it is a great novelty to be able to travel inside one. If you are new to London, traveling by bus is a great way to see other sights whilst on your way to your destination. You get a real feel for what London life is like as you watch the city unfold from the view from your window. This is a luxury which the tube does not offer. But if you choose to take the buses, you are of course susceptible to the infamous London traffic. It could take you a while to get from A to B.
Traveling around London like a local definitely includes the tube.
Note that it is not called the subway, nor the metro, but the tube. This is very important, true locals will take it personally if you call it by the wrong name.
If you really want to conquer the tube like a local then you need to keep moving at all times. Don’t block the passageways by stopping to look at the signs and the maps. Of course, if it is your first time in London then this will be nearly impossible, but preparation is the key. Know whether you are traveling northbound, southbound, eastbound or westbound and what the final destination of the train you want to take is. This will hopefully prevent you from having to stop and ask a less-than-friendly businessman for advice.
Download an app
There are a number of really useful apps which can help you to plan your route while traveling around London, and will give you all of the information you need to know about any given journey. For the tube, there are apps which let you type in your starting station and your destination, and they will calculate the fastest way of making the journey, at which stations you need to change and how long the overall journey will take you. Transport for London make the most comprehensive journey planners.
If you are going to be in London for a while then an Oyster card will probably work out being the most cost effective (and fun) way to get around. You can buy one of these cards from a machine in all major stations, and you top it up with cash at any oyster point around London.
The cards are limited, so there is a maximum that you can spend per day but you will still get unlimited travel across all of the tube lines and zones. You can use them on the buses as well, and you just tap the card against the oyster logo at the station gates or by the driver on the bus and the card is charged wirelessly. The novelty of hearing the beep and the gates opening automatically doesn’t wear off even for the locals!
The black cab is another classic icon and makes for a great way for traveling around London.
If you are only planning a couple of journeys a day and there are 4 or 5 of you traveling together, then cabs can actually work out cheaper per person than taking the bus or a tube. Talking to the driver can also be a great way to get up close and personal with the cockney accent, although cabbies aren’t always from London, of course.
All cab drivers in London have to pass a rigorous exam called ‘The Knowledge’ which can take up to 3 years to prepare for. It is by no means easy to pass, and in order to get qualified all drivers must have an impeccable knowledge of the city. You won’t be ripped off in a London cab; all of the drivers know the fastest routes between any two given points in London and will take you directly to your destination.
Traveling around London is so much fun and you can easily to do it like a local. The easiest way is the tube. But, even during rush hour times, be prepared to wait for a few trains and squeeze into any available spaces. All of the other methods of transport function perfectly well but the tube is definitely the form of transport which is the most direct, most efficient and easiest to get to grips with.
One book that was highly recommended to me by a friend of mine living in London is Fodor’s London 2015 (Full-color Travel Guide).
This book came in super handy every time I travel around London. I’d totally recommend it.
However, if you’re looking for some great outdoor enjoyment, nothing beats the buses! Sitting up on top is an automatic throw back into a far off time!
Enjoy your stay!