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So you’ve chosen to visit London! Fantastic idea, it’s an exceptional city, with enough activities to keep you hustling for a long day. London is a city with a fantastic public transport system. But the abundance of choice can be a bit strange for the first-time visitor. Navigating the London Underground was a perfect activity to do when roaming the city.

Looking at a map of the London Underground is the most intimidating part of your first few days in London. Don’t surrender! It’s a lot easier than it looks. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you not panic during your Tube travels. First step: call it the “Tube.”

With 11 lines, 270 stations and 5 million passengers a day, the iconic London Underground (aka the Tube) is essential for navigating the English capital. It’s often faster than taking surface transport through traffic-clogged streets and years of investment to the tune of billions of pounds means it’s never been in better shape.


The Tickets.

High-priced paper tickets can still be bought for the Tube, but made more or less obsolete by a cheaper electronic service known as Oyster. You can now use a contact less debit or credit card in the same way as Oyster Card.

There are a couple of options for oyster cards the one is Pay-As-You-Go where you load your card with money.  It is deducted each time you swipe at a station and for weekly unlimited passes. For shorter visits, (think 1-2 days) a couple of one-day unlimited passes are more cost-efficient. Cards or single tickets can be purchased at machines in any underground station. Many stations also have kiosks with employees that can help you with your purchase.

The Tube Maps.

The London Tube Map has evolved remarkable and is now one of the most universally distinct maps in the world. The lines of the London Underground map only go in three directions– horizontal, vertical, and diagonal at 45 degrees. Transport for London (TfL) produces free maps and guides to help you get around. You can pick up a London Underground Map upon arrival at any London Tube station.  The map divides into nine different zones to help separate sections of the city. It is for more efficient and cost-effective travel. The London Underground signage is accurate. Tube routes are also on Google Maps, your new best friend if you’re traveling with your smartphone. Ensure to remember the name of the Tube station closest to your destination. The closest Tube stations to many major tourist attractions are certain, such as Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, London Bridge and Westminster (for Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament).

The Tube Etiquette.

It’s not just the not talking or surrendering your seat to expectant mothers, there are other matters of etiquette to be observed on the Underground network.

People on the tube generally keep themselves to themselves. There’s not a lot of conversation between strangers, and people don’t generally greet you when you board the train. Remember though, this is not out of unfriendliness, but just polite respect for people’s right to peace and quiet. 

When entering a car on the London Underground, remember to stand to the side and let passengers exit before you get on– it’s just common courtesy and makes the whole process of boarding so much smoother. When you are trying to get off the train later you will be so grateful for this rule!

Don’t put your bag on a seat. If you want to draw the righteous ire of tube passengers, try putting your bag on a seat. This is particularly true when the tube is busy, as taking up a seat with your bag is interpreted as a flagrant disregard for your fellow passengers’ wellbeing. Be kind and considerate

Take your backpack off. backpacks take up much less space when you put them on the floor by your legs. If you keep them on your back, the subsequent jostling they cause might irritate some of your fellow passengers.

Dealing with Rush Hour

There are three real rush hours in Central London — before work from 7:30-9:30 a.m. after work from around 5:00-6:30 p.m. . And after the theatres get out each night (especially weekends) from 10:00-10:30 p.m. . You can avoid these times, but as long as you’re not bothered by a few extra friends on the Tube with you, rush hour isn’t too bad.

The Underground Challenge

Your first or second night in London, you may go to your nearest Tube station, get on a line and transfer at least twice. Get off at a random stop (make sure to stay in zones 1 and 2) and find a place to eat. On your way back, challenge yourself to get back to the hotel via a different route. This challenge will help you feel more relaxed navigating the city; after this, you can do anything. And it’s a pretty fun way to learn about new parts of the city!

Ask for Help!

Keep in mind that don’t be afraid to ask for help. Londoners are almost always willing to guide you in the right direction as you go on your way.

Don’t panic. There are always tube maps posted inside the train cars. If you get on and don’t know where your stop is, don’t worry! Make your way to the map and track your location.

With this information, you have everything you need to navigate London like a local! Get out there and as always, mind the gap.

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