More commonly known as “The Tube”, London’s underground is a modern rapid public transit system that originates from the Metropolitan Railway, one of the world’s oldest metro networks and the oldest underground railway. The Metropolitan Railway started operating in 1863, and today the Underground boasts 270 stations, 11 lines and 402km of track. Interestingly, only 45% of the Underground is actually underground, with the rest of the track running above the ground.
Underground stations are located throughout the city and are readily accessible by taking a quick walk. Most lines operate from 5am to midnight, and certain lines that form part of the Night Tube run for 24 hours.
The Underground can get you to most destinations within London city, but if you are looking to travel out of the city, the Tube is not your best option.
If you are planning on using the Tube frequently during your visit, we recommend getting an Oyster card for the most cost-effective Underground experience. To save even more time, you could get a visitor Oyster card preloaded with travelling credit delivered straight to your door before you leave for London.
- London Overground
The Overground is similar to the Underground, but as the name suggests, it runs completely above ground. It was launched in 2007 with the aim of connecting travellers to more locations outside of central London.
According to Arriva Rail London, the operator that runs the underground on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), 30% of Londoners are less than a 15 minute walk away from an Overground station. There are currently six routes that cover approximately 167km of track:
- Richmond and Clapham Junction to Stratford
- Watford Junction to Euston
- Gospel Oak to Barking
- Highbury & Islington to New Cross, Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace and West Croydon
- Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters) and Chingford
- Romford to Upminster
The Overground follows the same pricing structure and zoning as the Underground, and you can use your Oyster Card to pay for trips.
London’s classic red buses are certainly one of the city’s most iconic modes of transport. As a bonus, their slower travelling pace and the fact that they actually use the roads allows you to enjoy more sights on your way. The downside of this, however, is that bus travellers are at the mercy of London’s traffic, which means they aren’t the best option if you are in a hurry to get somewhere.
Many bus routes run 24 hours a day, which also makes them a convenient, affordable option for late night travelling. Night buses run less frequently than daytime buses. Once in london, you can find out more about night bus schedules at Trafalgar Square – the night bus hub.
You have to use either an Oyster card or contactless card to pay for bus rides – no cash allowed.
As a fun and active alternative to motorised transport, you can hire a bicycle to make your way across town. Santander Cycles is London’s official cycle hire scheme, and from as little as £2 you can hire a bike for 24 hours. Within that 24 hour period, you can make as many cycling journeys from different docking stations as you wish, and the first 30 minutes of each journey is included in the £2 fee. If any journey exceeds 30 minutes, you will be charged an additional £2 for that journey.
There are over 11,000 bikes and 70 docking stations around London. This means you can enjoy sightseeing across multiple locations for a minimal fee, and enjoy the outdoors at the same time. The bikes are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
You can hire bikes at the docking stations using a bank card, or download the official Santander Cycles app to hire a bicycle directly from your smartphone.
The above transport options are user-friendly and when used in combination, cover a large part of the greater London area. Of course, a city as big and busy as London has many other transport options to offer. Some additional options to explore include:
And if all else fails, the city’s safe, pedestrian-friendly layout makes walking an enjoyable (and free) option too!