How To Use The London Underground: The Complete Guide

How To Use The London Underground The Complete Guide

The London Underground is one of the world’s most used public transport systems and was actually the very first of its kind to open. It is used every day by millions of Londoners and tourists to easily manoeuvre around the city.

That’s one side of the coin.

The other side is one of confusion, busyness, crowding and really difficult to read maps. This is how first timers often feel when using the tube. There are many things to love about London; the culture, the architecture, the food- all of which attract people from all over the world.

But the very first time you descend below the streets the claustrophobia begins to set in, the chaos builds and things can spiral out of control pretty quick- not to mention the smelly guy invading your personal space.

If it’s your first time in London then don’t let the underground be the stopping point of your holiday- it’s the key to the city. Make the most of your stay in the Park Grand Paddington Court London, one of the best hotels near Hyde Park, and see as much of the city as possible.

Follow this guide and be fully ready for your first tube trip!

Quick Facts

  • The Tube first opened in 1863 making it the very first underground passenger rail system in the world.
  • There are 272 stations, covered by 11 lines and a little over 400 km of tracks!
  • An estimated 1.35 billion trips are made on the tube every year- that’s around 5 million journeys a day.
  • Waterloo is the network’s busiest station with 100 million passengers per year!
  • The longest escalator in a station is a whopping 60 metres- found at Angel Station.

How to Pay for the Tube

There are several ways to pay for the tube, each is designed to make the process as smooth and fast as possible; so be prepared with your ticket!

Tap-on, Tap-off

You can actually tap your debit card at the ticket gate of every station. You will then be charged by the zone in which you are travelling.

If you have an international card, or a UK bank card that utilises contactless then this is the cheapest, quickest, and easiest way to pay.

If you are going to be making lots of journeys over several days then check out the options below, but just tapping on and off is an easy way to pay for a couple of days.

If your Trip is 5 Days or Less

Purchase your ticket to your accommodation; in this case one of the fantastic London Shaftesbury Hotels.

Once you arrive at the station closest to your hotel, grab yourself an Oyster Card. This will allow you to tap-on and tap-off in much the same way as your debit card, but it also gives you discounts on fares and outlets across the city.

You’ll also be capped at a certain price for the day, so for tourists travelling between zones 1 & 2, you’ll be able to keep costs down.

If your Trip is 6-7 Days

If your trip is longer, then follow the same steps to your nearest city centre station.

This time you’ll need to grab a 7 day, Zones 1 & 2 Travel Card. This will set you back around 30 pounds, but it’ll be worth it by the time you’ve explored the entire city!

8 Days or Longer

If you’re staying for longer than 7 days, simply add an extra day for £10, or 2 extra days for £15, at the end of your 7 day travel card. Simple.

How to Navigate the City

This is the main stumbling block for most first timers.

You’ve descended into the station and it’s chaos. You don’t know where to go, there are people everywhere and the maps look like someone has thrown multi coloured spaghetti at the wall.

Well, hopefully these tips will help you to navigate the city smoothly!

Entering and Exiting Stations

The first thing you’ll see at most stations when you enter is the rank of ticket gates.

With your pre-loaded Oyster Card, debit card or travel card at the ready all you have to do is walk up and tap it on the large yellow circle. Easy!

Sometimes, when arriving at a station outside the city centre there may not be a ticket gate, so look out for the grey posts with the same yellow circle on- use this to tap-on/ off.

Know your Line

Knowing the correct line that will get you where you’re going is super important- especially if you’re at a station like King’s Cross where you can access 6 of the 11 total lines.

Try and remember the name and the colour!

Know your Direction

Once you know the right line for you, getting the right direction can be tricky.

The trains are laid out using the compass points, north, south, east and west. There will be two platforms for the line you are riding on so knowing your direction is important if you want to reach your end destination!

Split Lines

Some lines split at certain stations in the city. If this happens there may be two trains on the same line going to different places.

As if it wasn’t already complicated enough.

Get the right train by knowing the end destination and cross referencing it with the train as it pulls into the station- it will say on the front and sides of the carriage where it’s going.

Helpful Apps to Help you Navigate

If, after all this, the stress is too high and you don’t think you can cope, then try downloading one of the apps that can help with route planning.

There are several out there, and they might save you some trouble.

Tube Etiquette

Some things to bear in mind when you ride!

  • Stand on the right: You’ll spend a fair bit of time on escalators during your exploration, and standing still on them is fine- if you stand on the right. Leave a clear passage for others to walk by you on the left.
  • Walk on the left: As a country we drive on the left hand side of the road- this applies in the stations as well. Walk on the left and avoid the oncoming stream of people.
  • Move down the platform: When you arrive on the platform, move away from the entrance- there will be other people joining you down there, so make room!
  • And the train: The same goes for boarding the train; move away from the doors so others can get on!
  • Let people off first: Don’t just barge your way onto the train, stand clear of the doors and let people disembark first.
  • Don’t block the passages: Stopping in the narrow passages is a bad idea. It’s very likely that there will be someone behind you, so keep moving until you find a space to stop.

Exploring London Like a Pro

So there you have it- a complete guide to exploring London using the tube.

Spend your time relaxing in your gorgeous discount hotel, London is made accessible by the tube, but you shouldn’t be spending all your time down there!

It can be complicated, but don’t be put off; the tube gives you stunning access to the entire city so make the most of it and enjoy doing so.