The first time I visited London, I was very surprised as to how long it took to get from one point to another. We were staying near the Tower of London and it took us over 30 minutes to get to the centre where all the action was.
That was my first lesson about London – it’s huge. Learning how to get around cheaply and effectively is key to having a grand time in this city.
There are several modes of transport available, so today I have curated all the information for you. From these options below, I would recommend walking, the tube and the bus as my preferred transport options.
By now, you might know that I am a big fan of walking as much as possible to truly discover the soul of a city. London is no exception, except that you need to be prepared for the rain (it will happen, there is no getting around it). London, however, is too big a city to not rely on its excellent transport system. Read on for my tips on how to use the transport system in London.
The London Underground aka The Tube
The Tube is by far one of the best options to get around London. If you are going to be using the Tube, make sure to buy an Oyster Card. There is an upfront fee of £5 which is refundable when you return your card upon your exit from London.
I promise you that the Tube is not scary to figure out. It is surprisingly easy with a few tools.
My post on apps to navigate London will give you more in-depth details on how to navigate the underground in London.
Tube from Airport
When we landed at Heathrow and had claimed our luggage we were instantly approached by a salesperson trying to sell us tickets for the Heathrow Express. I am always a bit wary when I am approached in that manner, so we decided to walk to the information booth and ask “what was the best way to get to town”. That is where we found this little gem.
There is actually a tube serving Heathrow. You can buy an Oyster card at the airport and take the Piccadilly Line right to the centre of London. The trip takes approximately 55 minutes and costs just £2.50.
By the same token, the Heathrow Express costs £25 (one way). The Heathrow express terminates at Paddington station whereby you will need to purchase an Oyster card and take a tube to your final destination. The Heathrow Express is the faster option and will reach Paddington station in 16 mins. You still have to take into account the amount of time to reach your final destination.
If you are travelling off peak (not between the hours of 7-10 and 16-19 Monday to Friday), you can pre-purchase your one way ticket online for £15.
The Tube worked best for us because we were not in the mood to fork out £50 to get to our hotel.
The best option for you will depend on the location of your hotel. Google Maps will give you an indication of whether you should use the Heathrow Express or Piccadilly line and you can determine whether the cost is worth it.
I would not advise using taxis while in London. They are prohibitively expensive and while the experience is cool, the dent to your wallet is definitely not. Scott and I used Uber on a couple of occasions last time we were in London and while more expensive than in other places, it was definitely doable especially compared to taxis. The other problem with both Uber and taxis is the horrendous traffic, so keep that in mind.
Hop on Hop off bus
While not a big fan of tour guides, I do like the hop on and hop off bus. Especially so in London where there is so much to see and do. If you are short on time, the hop on and hop off bus is a good way to see the sights in the most efficient manner. Tickets are for 24 (€29) or 48 (£38) hours
The Thames Clipper is a ferry service that connects East London (Docklands area) to West London (Westminster area). The most popular use is from the London Tower to the London Eye. This trip takes approximately 30 minutes (the same as the tube).
It is a different and exciting way to see the city.
The Thames Clipper is a different service to the Oyster card and the use of it does not lend towards the Oyster daily cap. A ticket costs £6.30 when bought using your Oyster card. You can tap your Oyster card on the card reader situated on the boarding ramps. Note: there is no top-up facility at the pier, so make sure to have funds loaded on your Oyster card before you go.
The bus system in London confused me slightly and to be honest I am still learning how to use them. Discovering this app though has made my life a lot easier. The bus is a very picturesque way of getting from Point A to B in London. And let’s face it, the red double-decker bus is as much a symbol of London as the Big Ben. So I would highly recommend that you take a trip on a typical London bus. Just make sure to avoid peak hours which are between 7 to 9 and 5 to 6.
If you are only going to take one bus while in London, take line 11 from Victoria Railway station to Liverpool railway station. This line has the advantage of going past most of the major sights.
The Oyster card can be used on buses and in fact the bus is cheaper than the Tube.
I hope that you found this post useful. If this is your first time to London, make sure to check out my London sightseeing guide for some of my tips.