Transportation in London - The Complete Guide

With almost 20 million tourists traveling in London every year and by being one of the most populous countries in Europe, transportation in London is demanding and busy all the time. There are various modes of transport for one to choose between public and private transports. London is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and it has one of the largest urban transport networks in the world, with an integrated bus, river, and road systems spread across the city’s 32 boroughs. It is home to some of the great architectural works and buildings. River Thames, Big Ben Tower, Oxford Street, Tower Bridge, Westminister Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St.Paul’s Cathedral and more places in London city attract tourists from all around the world. You do not need to think too much about which option to choose while you are in London because the city has it all sorted out with advanced and easy commuting options. 

1. London Underground - The Tube

The London Underground

The London Underground rail network is an integral part of most of the Londoners’ daily life. The Tube is a great way to travel for tourists and locals too. As the underground does not have traffic and streets, one does not have to worry about it. It is the most efficient way to get around London. It is the oldest underground metro network in the world and a few parts of this system have been operating since 1863. Distinctive London underground logo makes this system easy recognizable. The London Underground carries more than a billion passengers every year and it spreads across 270 stations and 250 miles of track. However, an interesting fact is that only less than 50% of the track is actually underground. Trains arrive within 10 minutes or less and you can find an underground stop nearby in the majority of London, especially in Central London. The London Underground services usually operate from 5:00 in the morning till midnight but some lines offer 24 hours service. If you are a tourist, it is better to avoid the rush hours on weekdays as it gets very busy and crowded with London commuters. These rush hours are generally between 7:30 am to 9:30 am in the morning, and from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm in the evening. Also, The Tube is the most cost-effective travel option from Heathrow Airport to Central London as it offers direct terminals from all the terminals to the city centre. 

2. London Overground

The London Overground

The overground is similar to Underground but it is completely above the ground, unlike the Tube which is only less than 50% underground. However, The Overground is newer than The Underground system and it was started in 2007 to cover the locations that the Tube does not and to fill those gaps left by it. The Overground has the same pricing as the Underground and also follows the same zone-based rules. The Overground logo is similar to the Tube too except the colors and the name. You do not have to touch in and out if you own an Oyster card or if you use any other contactless payment while changing from Overground to Underground services because they fall under the same fare zone. Still, there are a few stations where this might be required. 

3. Docklands Light Railway (DLR)

Docklands Light Railway

The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is London’s innovative and driverless service in the East and Southeast parts of London. This is one of the many options you have for traveling in London city. The Docklands Light Railway, otherwise DLR, as most people call, is an automated rail system. It specifically covers the docklands area of London, and the big difference it makes from other travel services is that it is fully automated, which is without drivers. The DLR has links from London City Airport to the rest of the tube network and you get to use this while taking trips around the east and southeast parts of London. If you want to reach ExCel, a hub for trade shows and events, DLR is the best option. This comes under the overall London fare zone too, just like The Tube and The Overground. In fact, some tube stations have DLR stations too. Just like the case with shifting from Overground to Underground, you don’t need to touch in and out if you are using an Oyster card or contactless payment when switching from any tube station to DLR station. However, it is important to note that many DLR stations do not have barriers, so you must touch in and out or have a valid ticket with you. 

4. The Bus

London's double-decker buses have been iconic for decades and are also a quick, convenient and also, cheap way to travel around London city. A great advantage of choosing this commuting options is that you get plenty of sigh with plenty of sightseeing opportunities along the way. Most of the people think or indeed believe that The Tube is the most used form of public transport in London. That is not a bad guess as the Underground has over a billion users a year. But it is definitely wrong though because over two billion journeys are taken every year on London buses. There are a huge number of bus routes in London and you can get literally anywhere on the bus as they serve to all locations. The fare is also very cheap regardless of the distance, with a fixed price of £1.50 for Oyster users per journey. London buses also have an option called “hopper” fare for customers using Oyster card or contactless cards for which every bus journey taken within the first hour of touching is included in the £1.50 price. It helps customers to change buses and not pay more but it is important to note that this option still needs you to touch in when getting on a new bus. If you think it is also the fastest commuting option, they are wrong because they are generally slower than other options because of road traffic which is terrible in London. 

5. Rail Services

Apart from underground and overground, and DLR services, London also has actual rail services too. It includes suburban rails that link central London to its suburbs and the fast trains that link London to the rest of the country, and of course, the world too. These rail services also provide direct rail links to three major airports in London, namely Heathrow, Stanstead, and Gatwick. As trains moving in and out of London are separate from the usual London transport system, you can’t use Oyster card on most of the national rail services and have to buy a separate fare. 

6. London Tram

Tram service in London is known as London Tramlink and is available in south London, specifically from Wimbledon, through to Croydon and Beckenham. It extends into four lines and has 17 miles of track. It is not a huge transport network compared to other commuting options but it is very well-used in the regions that come under the Tramlink. The payment terms with Tram services are just like that with the bus services in London. There is a fixed fee per journey and you have to touch-in with your contactless cards or Oyster cards while boarding on to the trams with your ticket. However, touching out is not necessary when you disembark. Just like the bus system, Tramlink also has the Hopper fare system for its customers.  

7. Emirates Airline Cable Car

Emirates Airline cable car is a different kind of transport option in London. It is not exactly a transport service in all major parts of London but is for those who want to get across the River Thames, from Greenwich to the Royal Victoria Dock. This cable car is the only urban cable car in the United Kingdom. There are two stations for the Airline, one at each end. The Airline cable car is also an easy way to reach the ExCeL exhibition center and the O2 Arena. The most beautiful thing one gets to experience by traveling through the Emirates Airline cable car is the stunning panoramic views of the city while crossing the line. The Air Line also accepts payments through Oyster cards or contactless cards. 

8. Boat

London has the beautiful and old River Thames running through it and this waterway is used as a public transport system. Thames Clippers operate the services available under the TfL license like any other transport system in London. There are four routes in it starting from the west of the city in Putney and goes up to Woolwich in the east, which means from one end of London to the other end. The routes by this river are serene and are also fun. They are less busy too when compared to other transport options. Rush hours can be busier as local commuters travel by boats too. You can pay by Contactless card or by Oyster card, touching in and out while boarding and disembarking. You can also buy tickets online and use the print out as your ticket or you can just buy your ticket in person at the pier. However, it is important to remember that online payments can be expensive, Thames Clipper is more expensive than other services like the tube or buses, but they are mostly used for their fast and point to point services. The views of the city from the river is anyhow worth it all.

9. Bicycles

London initiated a new public transport option in 2010, the bicycle! Public cycle points are available all around the city. This option is becoming popular day by day with an increase in cycle lanes. Hiring a bicycle for your short trips is easy too and it costs only £2 for a day of access after which every 30-minute ride or less than 30-minute ride is free, while you have to pay £2 for every additional 30-minute segment. You can literally ride the city for just £2 if you could make sure to check in each bike within 30 minutes. It is important you have a credit or debit card to avail the services of the cycle hire system.  As there is a need to guard against heft, the system does not accept Oyster cards. 

10. Taxis

Out of all the iconic transport options in London, from the famous red bus to the tube, the black cab has the same London vibe too. With Hackney Carriages in 1662 when drivers have a detailed London map in mind to GPS taxis today, drivers came a long way. The famous black taxis in London is an experience that one must not leave without it.  Taxis stop near you when you just wave at them and the vehicles’ lights illuminate if they are available. However, they are a bit expensive compared to other modes of transport as they can’t be beaten when you travel in groups as they prove to be pretty cost-effective. It is important to note that taxis in London don’t accept Oyster cards, so you must have cash in hand or have a credit card with you. 

This post was published by Sravya Ronanki

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