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The Tube: Top 10 Etiquette Tips for the Tourist on the London Underground

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We’re crazy about the Tube here at Londontopia. So, in honor of our latest shirt over at Anglotees – Mind the Gap – we thought it would be useful to put together some etiquette tips for riding the Tube so that you don’t make a pillock of yourself on the Tube.

1. No talking

Never talk to anyone other than in your own party and even that will be frowned upon, if you must, do so quietly. The Tube is not really a place to try to pick up a lady. People live in their own personal bubbles when they ride the Tube and Londoners prefer it that way. Many like to read so don’t disturb their quality reading time.

2. Give up your seat for an old or pregnant woman

If you see a pregnant woman or a woman wearing a ‘I’m Pregnant’ pin, do the honorable thing and give them your seat. This was a lifesaver for my wife when she traveled the underground network while she was pregnant. The same goes for an elderly or disabled person.

Hell, even if you want to be a gentleman, give up your seat for any lady (even if she’s not attractive).

Just don’t try to talk to her after you do.

3. Though it is quite tempting, don’t read over other people’s shoulders

One of my favorite things about traveling on the Tube is you get an idea of what’s popular reading with Londoners. That said, don’t be tempted to read over anyone’s shoulders – people can feel your eyes on their stuff and it will make them uncomfortable. It’s especially tempting if they’re reading the newspapers (most especially Page 3 of the Sun).

4. Let passengers off the train before trying to get on

I know you’re excited to get on the Tube – but please let people get off first before you try to get on. You won’t miss the train and if you do – there will be another one in a few minutes. This gets a little tricky when the train is really busy but try to keep in mind that everyone is trying to get where they’re going. A little courtesy goes a long way.

5. Your bag or suitcase is not entitled to a seat, especially if the train is crowded

This is a biggie. In Chicago (where Londontopia.net is based) it’s pretty common to avoid getting to close to your fellow passenger by using your bag as a seat partner deterrent. Do not do this on the Tube. The Tube is overcrowded and most people have to stand so if you take up a seat with yourself and another seat with your bag – expect steely stares. If you insist on riding the Tube during rush hour with all your luggage – stick to the back of the cabin where there’s room for luggage.

6. Watch out for pickpockets

Pickpockets are everywhere in London but they particularly love Tube stations because they’re loud and noisy and its easy to pick pockets in all the confusion. Keep your valuables in difficult to access places (for thieves that is).

7. Stand on the Right on Escalators

You’ll be reminded of this on every escalator but it bears repeating here – always stand on the right on the escalators. People who are in a bigger hurry than you will speed past you on the left. Best not to get in the way. If you do – you may get a courteous ”Scuse me Love” or a not so courteous “get out of the way.”

8. Wear Deodorant or Cologne. Please.

The Tube is hot and crowded in the summer. The network is 150 years old and was not designed for air conditioning. It gets hot in the fall and the spring too. No one wants to stand in a crowded Tube car or platform near someone who smells. So, wear some odor protection. But don’t overdo it!

9. Have your Oyster Card or Ticket Ready

The novelty of going through a Tube station can be confusing to new travelers in London. That confusion causes much delays for fellow passengers. Always have your ticket or Oyster Card ready when going through the ticket gates. That includes going in the station and out of the station. You have to have a valid ticket to get out – so never throw your ticket away and always have it ready.

10. Don’t Eat on the Train

When surveyed about annoying Tube Habits, Londoners said this was the one that bothered them the most: eating smelling food anywhere on the network. Your lunch or dinner is not a shared experience so avoid turning anyone’s stomach by not eating anywhere on the network unless it’s in a train station in a restaurant.

Did we leave something out? Leave your favorite Tube Etiquette tips in the comments below!


There’s still 48 Hours left to get our exclusive Mind the Gap t-shirt dedicated to the London Underground. Available in Men’s, Women’s, V-neck and Long Sleeve starting at $16.99. All orders must be in my Friday, May 16th at Noon CST. Click here for details.

Author: jonathan

Jonathan is a consummate Anglophile who launched Anglotopia.net in 2007 to channel his passion for Britain. Londontopia is its sister publication dedicated to everything London.

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  1. I think you should stand to the LEFT instead of the right if you are going slowly. I noticed on the Tube, especially on staircases in the station, that people were moving in the same way cars do in the streets, i.e., they “pass” on the right.

    • No no – all the signs tell you to stand on the right. If you stand on the left, you’re going to be pushed out of the way or get a ‘Scuse me love’

  2. While reading over his shoulder on the train….I then noticed that he had written to ME – “What was I doing tonight?”. That made me turn away quickly! I was young and innocent then, he was old, bowler hat and all!!!!

  3. If possible, traveling with large pieces of luggage should be avoided during morning rush hour.
    For tourists, especially large groups, traveling non-rush hours will be more comfortable for both you and the daily commuters.
    In the London Underground it is the practice and perfectly acceptable to leave a newspaper (often the free morning papers or the Evening Standard) on the seat or on the ledge behind the seat for others to pick up and read. You can pick up one from the seat and leave it behind or take it with you for recycling.

    • Good advice! I’ve made that mistake. Not such an issue when there aren’t many people on the tube, but when it’s crowded, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid bumping someone with your pack when it’s one your back – even a small one.

  4. I’d like to add: Please, if you travel with children, make them behave. Once I was sitting next to a little girl who insisted on constantly kicking my knee and clean trousers with her dirty shoe all the LONG way- and it hurt, too. And when I asked the parents, to make it stop, all I got was an angry look.

    • If you get unruly children on the tube I find a short sharp kick back when the mother or father isn’t watching is a good idea, then look all innocent, only the child will know who it is, because they are guilty of kicking you! They might tell mummy but, of course you just act like you didn’t mean it, whilst giving the child a good glare when their mother turns around again. Kids who are unruly and parents who don’t care deserve a good kick every so often.

  5. You missed by far the most important rule: DO NOT stand still at the top or bottom of escalators, or in front of the ticket gates, as you’ll get knocked over and you’ll cheese everyone right off.

  6. It’s quite likely that people with baggage on the Underground are including Heathrow in their journey at some point. Yes, the Piccadilly Line goes there but it can be a fraught experience in the rush hour as it’s only a ‘Tube’ train. The situation isn’t helped by sky-high prices for a taxi instead and the Heathrow Express train from Paddington (OK a lot cheaper than a taxi) is still expensive. What a lot of people miss is the Heathrow Connect service, also from Paddington. Unlike the Piccadilly Line, this only stops in a handful of places, and has a ‘more sensible’ everyday fare structure, unlike The Express..

  7. Feet on the seats. Don’t do it. You don’t do it at home, don’t do it on the Tube. In fact, don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do at home – in front of your Mum.

  8. Turn down your personal music. If you think no one else can hear it with your ear pieces YOU ARE WRONG!!!

  9. Do carry a bottle of water with you, it can be stifling. In the stations especially when the platforms are crowded. It’s not unusual for people to faint.

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