Getting Around London Using Public Transport

Posted on November 24, 2015

One of the major considerations when you’re deciding where to live in London, is how  to get around. Depending on your preferred mode of travel and where you want to get from/to, your journey time can vary considerably.  The public transport system in London is facilitated by rail (overground as well as underground), road, and river so we’re almost spoilt for choice.   Read on for a little snippet about each of them:

Oyster Card

If you plan to use public transport on a regular basis then you will benefit from an Oyster Card.  This is a form of electronic ticketing and it’s valid for  use on most forms of public transport across London such as Trains, Buses, Trams and even River Boat services.  A standard Oyster card is a blue credit card sized contactless smartcard which passengers must touch onto an electronic reader upon entering and leaving the transport system.  Cards can be pre-loaded with funds and /or topped up online.  They can be purchased from any station, from many shops/’garages throughout London or ordered online.  Here’s a link to Oyster’s webpage where you’ll find out everything you need to know.  A recent alternative to Oyster is a contactless payment card. These are accepted everywhere where there is an oyster card reader – just touch in and out as you normally would with an Oyster.


  • London Underground Commonly referred to as “the tube” – it’s the oldest and second largest such network in the world.  This rapid transit system serves most of Greater London and extends into Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex.  It’s by far the fastest way to travel if you need to cover a reasonable distance in London.

The Tube network is split up into 6 zones with zone 1 in the centre encircled by zone 2, and so on.  The cost of your fare will depend upon how many zones you wish to travel through and when you wish to travel.

The Tube does not (yet) operate 24hrs – each line starts and stops at different times but as a rough guide don’t expect trains to run before 5am or after 1am.
Map – Timetables

  • Docklands light Railway The DLR is an automated light rail system covering several areas in East London – it reaches north to Stratford, east to London City Airport, Beckton and Woolwich Arsenal, south to Lewisham, and west to Tower Gateway and Bank in the City of London financial district.

The DLR operates from 5:30am to 12:30am daily and you can expect a train every 5 to 10 minutes.

Map – Timetables

  • London Tramlink The tram network centres around Croydon in South London.  Consisting of 3 main spurs reaching Wimbledon,  Beckenham Junction and Addington, and includes a one-way loop going around Croydon Town Center where the trains arrive roughly every 1 to 6 minutes.

Map – Timetables

  • London Overground London overground is a suburban network in London and Hertfordshire and currently consists of six lines.  30 percent of all Londoners are less than a 15 minute walk from an Overground station.

Highbury & Islington – West Croydon/Clapham Junction/Crystal Palace

Richmond/Clapham Junction to Stratford

Gospel Oak to Barking

Watford Junction to Euston

Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, Cheshunt and Chingford

Romford to Upminster

Map – Timetables


  • Bus Nowadays London Buses are not necessarily the bright red double deckers with a conductor that most people think of – they have now been replaced with cheaper to operate versions, with no conductor.  All London buses are now cashless – you pay at the front when you board.There are different ways to pay for your bus fare:A pay as you go adult fare is £1.50 with Oyster, Visitor Oyster or a contactless payment card. UK issued contactless payment cards are accepted, just look out for the contactless symbol.

The regular red bus service runs from 6am till midnight daily – outside of these hours there is a restricted “night bus” service.

To catch a bus you should go to a bus stop on the correct side of the road for the direction you wish to travel.  Many are “request” stops so you need to put out your arm to indicate to the driver that you wish to board, if you don’t the bus will drive on by.

There are many different routes serving the same stop so check the destination on the front of the bus and most importantly, study a local bus map and timetable.  Here’s a link to a website where you’ll find all the routes, maps and timetables for buses throughout Greater London.  Alternatively, there are Apps like this one which might help: London Bus Stop Checker

  • Taxi Black Cabs London is famous for its black cabs which are purpose built taxis seating 5 passengers.  Most are black although they do come in a range of other colours – all will carry a yellow “For Hire” sign on the front and a white licence plate on the back.  If the “For Hire” sign is lit then the cab is free – hold out your arm and gesture to the driver (we call him “Cabbie”) to hail a cab.  Alternatively you can use an app like this one: Hailo.  be warned though – this is an expensive way to get around unless there are 3 or more of you to split the fare.
  • Minicabs A cheaper alternative to black cabs – Mini cabs cannot be hailed in the street but must be booked by phone.  There is no official training scheme for mini cab drivers therefore no guarantee that the driver will be reliable, honest or know his way around.  They don’t usually have meters and the price to your destination should be agreed before starting your journey.  Minicabs should be licenced, you should see a licence plate on the back of the car and the driver should display a photographic licence inside the cab. Beware of unlicensed cabs!
  • Bicycle A public bicycle sharing scheme (Santander Cycle Hire) was launched in London in 2010.  The bicycles are often referred to as Boris bikes, after Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.  You can hire a bike from as little as £2. Simply go to any docking station with your bank card and touch the screen to get started.  There’s no need to book – hire a bike, ride it where you like, then return it to any docking station.  Regular users of the scheme can register on the Santander Cycles website and sign up for one of three levels of access: daily, weekly or yearly. Users are then sent a key in the post to operate the docking stations – a key costs £3.  Map of Docking stations
  • Carclub If there are odd occasions when you need a car then Car Clubs are an ideal solution.  Cars can be pre-booked or used last minute and are available by the hour, day or week.  You just pay for the time you use the car and the fee includes everything such as parking (at marked bays), insurance and fuel.  There are now several car clubs operating in London.  You need to register with a particular operator to use their cars.  Here’s a link to London Car Clubs website where you’ll find details of where all the operators are located, which one is closest to you, how to register and anything else you might want to know.


  • River Services River transport is often overlooked as a means of getting around London.  If your route follows the River Thames or you need to get from one side to the other then a river ferry or river bus can be a very pleasant way to travel.  Be warned though – it’s expensive and most services do not operate throughout winter.

River Bus Guide/Map/Timetable/Fares

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