By Kate Arnold
The Tube is very easy to navigate once you have a map and you know where you want to go. It’s a cheap and quick way to get around central London as well as getting out to further away towns and attractions. If you’re going to London, getting yourself an Oyster Card is an absolute must. Your Oyster Card will allow you access on, not only the Tube but the buses (yes, the double-decker buses) and trams, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), the London Overground, the Transport for London (TfL) Rail as well as most National Rail services.
Trains in Central London run about every two to ten minutes during peak hours. The Victoria, Piccadilly, Central, Jubilee and Northern lines run 24-hours on Fridays and Saturdays.
See a larger version of the Tube map here.
There are two types of Oyster Cards that you can get if you are a tourist in London. The Visitors Oyster Card must be bought in advance and mailed to you before you arrive in London. It will cost you £5 plus postage. When you order your Visitors Oyster Card you can pre-load it with ‘pay as you go credit’. If you’re staying for two days it’s recommended that you top your card up with at least £15, for four days, load the card with £30. You can top up your card if it runs out at a machine at all Tube stations. Pay as you go is much cheaper than buying single ride tickets or even a Travel Day Card, plus rides are capped per day. If you are travelling within zone 1 and 2 your Oyster card will be capped at £6.80; a Travel Day Card for the same zones will cost you £12.70. If you get the Visitors Oyster Card you can enjoy some special offers such as 2-for-1 West End Tickets, up to 25% off museum entrance tickets as well as food, drink and experience discounts and more.
If you don’t order your Visitors Oyster Card before you leave then you can buy a regular Oyster Card at a TfL centre at Heathrow. You won’t get the special discounts but you have the ability to load a 7-day Travelcard to your Oyster Card, which will allow you to travel as much as you want during the week for a flat fee, which can save you some money. Everyone needs to have their own Oyster Cards if they are travelling on the Tube, Overground, buses, etc., including children over the age of 11.
Avoid travelling during peak times (Monday – Friday: 6.30am – 9.30am and 4pm – 7pm, excluding public holidays). You will save money on your train fares and the buses and trains will be much less crowded.
Connector stations are the lifeblood of the Underground system and there are so many around Central London that getting around is so easy. Here are some of the main connecters and the lines that they service:
Kings Cross/St. Pancras
Piccadilly, Victoria, Hammersmith & City, Circle, Metropolitan, Northern
Bakerloo, Metropolitan, Circle, Jubilee, Hammersmith & City
Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee, Waterloo & City
Central, Bakerloo, Victoria
Piccadilly, Victoria, Jubilee
Central, Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City
Northern, Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City
District, Hammersmith & City, Bakerloo, Circle,
Northern, District, Circle, Bakerloo
Heathrow Airport is serviced by the Piccadilly line. The Eurostar leaves from St. Pancras International Station, which is connected to Kings Cross. International buses (to France, Spain, Italy, Prague, Germany and more though Euro Lines) leave from Victoria Station, which is on the Embankment, Victoria and Circle lines.
Take your Oyster Card back when you’re leaving and you’ll get back the £5 that you paid for it plus any spare money you have on it. If you have less than £10 on the card you can get this money plus your £5 deposit from the ticket machine at Heathrow airport. If you have more than £10 on the card you get the refund from the TfL Visitor Centre, which is outside Terminal 1, 2 and 3 of Heathrow and is open daily from 7am to 8:30pm. All refunds will be in cash. The £5 deposit refund is not available to you if you have purchased the Visitors Oyster Card but you can get back any money that you have left on the card.
Get yourself a map of the Underground and an Oyster Card and you’ll be travelling around like a born Londoner in no time. Heading to New York? Check out our article on the New York Subway System. What are your tips for using the London Underground? I’d love to hear your insights!