At 609 square miles, London is a large city. Luckily, London also has one of the best public transportation systems around, and the organization of the city makes finding your way that much easier. Check out the Transport for London website for more information.
Surprisingly for its size, London happens to be one of the most pedestrian friendly cities in the world. On foot you’ll avoid traffic and get to see some of the city’s greatest attractions. If you’re walking to work, be sure to check the weather before you leave. Chances are, rain boots and an umbrella will come in handy more times than not.
Additionally, remember to look both ways as you cross the street, especially if you’re not used to seeing cars drive on the left side of the road. Pedestrian crossings are called ‘zebra crossings,’ not crosswalks. A charming quirk of being a pedestrian in London is that you can cross the street at zebra crossings without traffic lights – these are called Penguin Crossings (and in some places, Puffin Crossings). Traffic stops for you as soon as you put a foot onto the street at these crossings – though it sometimes takes nerve to put that first foot forward.
The Tube: The London Underground ("the Tube") is the oldest metro system in the world – which might explain why it is also one of the best! It is efficient, simple to use, and will take you all around London and beyond. There are six zones in the London Underground, with Zone 1 being Central London and Zone 6 being the farthest away from the center.
There are stations all over the city, meaning that you will never have to go very far to find the most convenient one. When different zones are delayed or stopped (which is rare) notices go up around the station immediately, as well as being available online. One thing to note is that the Tube closes at midnight, so be sure to make different travel plans if you’re planning to be out late at night.
Prices vary on the Tube, depending upon where you are going, what kind of ticket you use, and at what time you are traveling. You can purchase paper travel cards, but we recommend using an Oyster Card. Oyster Cards can be loaded and reloaded (topped-up) as needed. Oyster Card prices are always cheaper and easier to keep track of. There are Oyster Card top-up facilities all over London, and you’ll never have to worry about having the required exact change for various public transportation vehicles. Check out the Oyster Card website for more information.
Bus: The classic double-decker London buses are a very popular way to travel and are generally just as efficient as the Underground system. Buses make more stops around the city, but they allow you to see all of the fantastic sights London has to offer on your way to your destination. Additionally, while the Tube closes down at midnight, buses run during the daytime hours and at night. Night buses generally follow the same routes as daytime buses, are safe and less expensive than a taxi. You can pay for your bus trip with your Oyster Card as well!
Trams: London has a streetcar/tram network called Tramlink that opened in 2000 and operates in South London. The trams on this network run during the day Monday through Saturday from Wimbledon, Elmers End, and Beckenham Junction every 10 minutes. In areas where they are available, trams are a great way to travel because of their accessibility. They are treated as a part of the bus network, and tickets cost about the same.
Taxis: The quintessential image of London always includes the classic black taxicabs that you’ll find all over the city. You’ll never have a problem hailing one on any street and there are taxicab lines at Tube stations, the airport, and hotels. The minimum fee is about 2 and a half pounds, and cabs take cash or credit cards (with a surcharge).
Depending upon where you’re going, cabs tend to be expensive, especially when traffic is at its worst during rush hour. You can combat these high costs by riding in groups. Watch out for unlicensed or off duty cabs (gypsy cabs – as the native New Yorker / Londoner would say), as they are illegal.
Uber also operates in London at cheaper prices than the standard black cabs, but this may not last much longer due to taxi strikes and political disputes.
Biking: Biking is becoming more and more popular in London as the number of cyclist commuters rises and changes are made to the city roads to be more cyclist friendly. Folding bikes are allowed on public transportation and there are specific places for bike riders throughout London traffic, including bus lanes.
The Transport for London website offers cyclists maps, the best routes around London, etc. An important consideration for cyclists in London is safety – make sure to wear proper reflective clothing and have lights attached to your bike. London recently introduced the Cycle Hire Scheme – for a 45 pound annual fee, you can join the London Santander Cycle Hire Scheme, which allows you to use the bikes left around the city at specific locations. Your first 30 minutes are free!
Car: Traffic in London, especially during rush hour, tends to be pretty bad. Renting or hiring a car is expensive, as is parking and petroleum. If using a car is your preferred option, then there are a few things to keep in mind. Your non-UK driver’s license is valid in the UK 12 months after you first arrive. There are several places to rent a car; manual cars tend to be much less expensive. London also has access to ZipCar, and there are several ZipCar locations around the city. There is a “Congestion Charge” in some areas, and parking restrictions are applicable usually on Monday – Friday from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm.
Parking: One option, if you are planning on traveling by car in London and renting an apartment, is to apply for a Resident’s Parking permit from your borough. This will allow you to use one of the many parking spaces available in your borough, and they are relatively inexpensive. To find out how to apply, check your borough’s specific website – Check out Direct.Gov.uk for more information.
Airports: There are five main airports that you can fly into London – London City Airport (LCY), London Luton Airport (LTN), Gatwick Airport (LGW), Stansted Airport (STN), and Heathrow Airport (LHR). LCY is the closest airport to Central London, but each airport has connections to public transport, including taxis, coaches, trains, and railways.
Perhaps the most well known of the four, Heathrow Airport is also the largest. LHR is serviced by the Tube, The Heathrow Express, National Express, and taxis. LGW features Gatwick Express, which takes thirty minutes and runs every fifteen minutes into Central London. LTN is accessible by Train, shuttle bus, or a Coach that can be pre-reserved online for 2 Pounds one-way. Luton Airport is also known for being the least expensive of the four airports and is great for budget-minded travelers, but is an hour away from central London by car with no traffic. Another inexpensive London airport is Stansted Airport. Many of the popular inexpensive airlines, like Ryanair and Easyjet are serviced at Stansted, which is also about an hour away with no traffic
Traveling Around Europe/Britain: One of the great things about living in London is the easy access to other exciting European countries and cities. London offers easy and cheap access to Europe through budget airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair. Additionally, London St Pancras station has the Eurostar trains, which go to Paris, Brussels, and Marseilles. Tickets are available online. Megabus is a great option for traveling around the UK; it’s a budget inter-city coach operator that goes to about 50 locations at a relatively low cost, as low as one pound with special offers.