A brief, informal look at London's transport system. It's pretty quick to
understand and, once you do, you'll wonder why you were ever confused.
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TFL (Transport for London) represents the collection of all major forms of transport in London including the bus network, trains and the underground
service (referred to in Britain as the 'Tube'). The official source for most of the information displayed below is http://www.tfl.gov.uk and we
recommend you use it. Here are some general tips on how to make the most of the London transport system:
Plan your Journey
Firstly, before setting off anywhere in London, it would be wise to plan your journey. TFL has an excellent journey planner on its official website
(see above). This is an extremely useful resource that will help calculate journey times and specific routes. It also has other useful information such
as any ticket pricing and live travel updates which will notify you of any disruptions to transport routes.
To Tube or bus?
With the numerous travel modalities in London, it may sometimes be difficult to decide whether to use the bus, the Tube or the overland train or. What
is the right answer? Well, there really isn't a single correct answer and it mostly comes down to how fast you want to get there, and how much you're
willing to pay.
If time is of the essence
Use the journey planner to figure out the quickest route (note: it's not always that accurate but is a good starting point if it's an unfamiliar route).
It is my personal belief that using the Tube within central London should land you where you want to go faster than the bus, however, one cannot
dispute that a well planned out bus trip with the destination being on the bus route can easily be quicker than taking the underground. Bear in mind
that buses can be annoyingly unreliable, whereas the Tube arrivals are relatively punctual and regular.
Always remember that the Tube service is not 24 hours! Different Tube stations have slightly different closing times so be familiar with your local
station. As a rough guide, final journeys on the Tube are usually between midnight and 00:30.
A single bus fares is cheaper than a Tube fare. Therefore, if you plan ahead for your journey and take a slightly longer bus route, you may end up
saving substantial funds over the long run.
You pay the same price for a bus journey (£1 on oystercard as of Nov '09) whether you get off after one stop or fifty.
Tube journeys are priced according to zones (see underground map for zoning: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/gettingaround/1106.aspx). If you start and end
a tube journey within zone 1/2 for example, you pay the same price, no matter how many trains you take while you're down there.
Great ways to save money:
- Buy an Oyster card!: this will give significantly reduced travel rates plus faster and easier use of transport services. This is a no-brainer. It will
involve a small deposit fee and some paperwork. You can do this at a tube station or online: https://oyster.tfl.gov.uk/oyster/link/0005.do
- Get a travel card: weekly and monthly travel cards (unlimited travel during that time) can save valuable funds. You can get separate ones for bus
only, or both bus and rail. You will need to calculate whether you travel enough to make full use of it. Get one at a Tube station.
- Student oyster card: All 18yrs+ students qualify for this oyster card which will gain you a 1/3 discount off all weekly and monthly travel cards.
Upload a photo and apply online! http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/faresandtickets/1014.aspx
- Young person's railcard: Similar to the student oyster, this card can get you 1/3 off rail travel. It will cost you £26 for a year's card (Nov '09). Go
to your nearest railway station to apply, or simply click here: http://www.16-25railcard.co.uk/
- Travel during off-peak hours: Travelling during off-peak hours on overland rail services will save you a lot of money! You'll need to research what
the peak/off-peak hours are for the different services.
Hope this information helps. Happy travelling!
A whistle-stop tour of TFL