london underground


A guide to getting around on the London Tube

Published June 28th, 2013

The London tube. It’s a part of every Londoner’s experience. From royalty, celebrities and the common man, pretty much everyone in London catches the beloved Tube. It’s cheap, relatively clean but more than anything it’s quick, making it the ideal alternative to walking, catching the bus or even riding in a limo. So if you’ve got plenty to see on your up-coming London holiday, then you’re going to want to catch the tube. Here’s the low-down on the city’s favourite form of transport.


What to know

In London, there’s the Underground (commonly known as the tube), the Overground and the Docklands Light Railway. For the most part you’ll be catching the tube, but for some areas like Hampstead Health or Shepherd’s Bush, you may also need to catch the overground which uses the same ticket. Tickets are based on zones with zones 1 and 2 spread across Central London and zones 6 to 9 covering the outer city region. To work out where you’re going, you can pick up a map from any tube station. Tourist information centres are also on hand at the major stations and at Heathrow Airport.


What to buy

All stations on the tube have a ticket office/machines where you can purchase tickets for various times and zones. If you’re staying in London for longer than a day (and you should) a better purchase may be a travel card or Oyster card. The Oyster card in particular is incredibly popular, allowing you to pay as you go.


What to expect

Peak hour times on the tube are from 7:30am to 9:30am and 4:30pm to 6:30pm. If you can avoid catching the train during this time, do. It can be very crowded with every man for himself trying to board. Despite the crowds, peak hour on the tube is very quiet with most passengers preferring it that way. During the day and on weekends though the tube is much more relaxed with kids everywhere and people making their way to sporting matches in their team’s colours. For night time travel, the tube is still relatively safe and often quite crowded with the midnight tube on the weekends often packed with jovial pub and party goers heading home.


What to avoid

Don’t board a train without a valid ticket or card. If you are caught you will be liable for an on-the-spot fine. Also avoid eye contact, loud conversations, listening to your music too loud or creating unwanted attention on the tube, particularly in peak hour. Tube travellers like things to be quiet and stress-free so you should keep it that way. Also, don’t be that person who runs onto the tube as the doors shut. If you delay the train, you’ll be faced with a lot of stink eyes for the rest of your commute.


Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.