Getting around London is relatively straightforward, although the payment system deserves its own essay. Note that London is divided into 9 fare zones; central London being zones 1 and 2.
Luckily, fares are paid the same ways: buying individual tickets, using a contactless card, an Oyster card or a travel card.
Visitor Oyster cards can be bought online or at any station/Oyster ticket shop. Simply tap in and out of subway gates; tap when you get on buses and trams, but no need to touch out when you exit.
Visitor Oyster cards cost £5, cheaper than the regular version. They also have daily and weekly spending caps, so you won’t overpay your travels.
You’ll mainly get around London via the Underground, buses and on foot.
Operating since 1863, the “Tube” is the oldest underground metro with 270 stations across London.
Underground stops are typically within walking distance in majority of London, with train intervals of 10 minutes or less.
As service runs from 5AM to midnight (some lines are 24 hours), it’s the most convenient mode of transportation.
Covering fare zones 1-6, the Underground treats zone 1 as the inner circle and zone 6 as the outermost.
The further out you go, the higher the fare. As a tip, you also want to avoid weekday rush hour (7:30AM – 8:30AM, 4:30PM – 7PM) as it’ll extend your commute time exponentially.
The Overground is the upside equivalent of the Underground but a lot newer, built to fill in the gaps.
As the Overground shares the same fare pricing and zone-based rules, you don’t need to tap in and out when switching between the two services – in most cases.
The stations that require additional charges will say so.
London also has the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and direct rail links to the city’s major airports.
You’re unlikely to use these often unless traveling around the docklands areas in east and southeast London, or traveling further out of central London.
Another area-specific mode of transport is the London Tramlink. Four tramlines run through south London (from Wimbledon through Beckenham and Croydon) to serve the region.
Similarly, it’s a fixed fee per journey and part of the “Hopper” fare system.
You would think the Underground is London’s most used transport system, but it’s actually the bus network.
Cheaper at a fixed price of £1.65 for any single journey, London’s buses can take you anywhere at minimum cost.
Oyster and contactless cards also offer a “hopper” fare feature, meaning you can change any number of buses within the first hour of tapping in; no additional cost needed.
Do remember to tap in on the new bus though, or your valid ticket falls through.
London’s black cabs are famous, maybe even more so than the red bus. Dating back to 1662, these Hackney Carriages have a long-established reputation of knowing London’s streets like the back of their hands.
They’re definitely the priciest option, but a solid option for convenience and rushed itineraries. Pay by cash or credit card.