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London Underground: Our 25 Top Tube Usage Tips for London Travelers

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Here’s our list of handy Tube Tips for making the best use of London’s Underground. These tips, learned from twenty years of travel in London, will turn you into a Tube pro in no time!

This list originally appeared in London Tube 101: History, Culture, and Travel on London’s Transport Network, available from the Anglotopia shop or from booksellers everywhere.

  1. Don’t Use Covent Garden – This station is too small for the amount of people that use it – so don’t. Use Leicester Square down the street; it’s literally a few hundred feet away. You’re going to walk the same distance anyway.
  2. Forget your Oyster Card? They’re no longer needed; you can tap in and out of the Tube with any Contactless credit card, and you will be charged the same rate you would for an Oyster Card
  3. Get a Tube App – Get the official Tube App – it will help you plan your journey and give you a Tube map to guide you along the network.
  4. There’s WiFi and Cell Service Now – There is WiFi network-wide on the Tube now, and there are now several cell networks also working through the Tubes. Don’t count on it, though.
  5. Stand on the right – Always stand on the right on escalators so people can get by you if they’re in a hurry.
  6. Mind the Gap – Be careful of the gap between the platforms and the actual trains; it’s a trip hazard, and you can get seriously hurt.
  7. Avoid Changing at Bank – You may end up walking through seemingly miles of tunnels; as you connect between lines, they’re farther apart than you think. It might be better to walk on the surface streets!
  8. For Trafalgar Square, use Charing Cross.
  9. To get a great view of the Palace of Westminster, take the Tube to Waterloo and then walk along the Thames path to Westminster Bridge; you can see the whole lovely Palace and Big Ben (bonus book market under Waterloo Bridge along the way).
  10. There is no longer any open ticket office at Tube Stations; you have to use the automated machines (though with contactless – see above – you don’t need to buy a ‘ticket’). There will be staff wandering around to help you if you’re confused.
  11. The Tube is only just starting to operate for 24 hours, and even then, only on select lines and routes. Double-check the opening/closing times for your journey to make sure you’re not caught out without a train. Otherwise, it’s the night bus for you (like in Harry Potter).
  12. Most Tube stations won’t have a bathroom, but the mainline railway stations that the Tube shares will usually have public bathrooms (now most are unpaid).
  13. The entire network is not step-free, so wheelchair access depends on the station and the route. Check the Tube Map, as it will tell you which stations are step-free. The new Elizabeth Line is completely step-free.
  14. The Piccadilly Line is the cheapest way to get from Heathrow to Central London. It’s rather slow, though. However, you can now take the Elizabeth directly from Heathrow to Central London, but it costs exactly double the price. It’s much faster, though!
  15. You cannot take the Tube to Gatwick Airport, but you can take the Gatwick Express (or National Rail, which is usually cheaper).
  16. There are several abandoned Tube stations along the network for various reasons. There are regular tours offered through the London Transport Museum called the Hidden London Tours, which take in these special stations. They are very much worth doing.
  17. Watch out for women wearing the baby on board button; its proper tube Etiquette to give up your seat for them (or the elderly, for that matter).
  18. The open door button is a lie. The doors are going to open automatically. You never need to press it. Though pressing it provides some kind of impatient relief.
  19. The Tube gets very hot in the summer months – for several reasons. While some newer trains and lines may be air-conditioned, most still aren’t, and neither are the stations. It’s going to be hot and sweaty underground. Drink plenty of water and be prepared to get hot.
  20. Weekend trains aren’t nearly as frequent as peak weekday trains, so be prepared to wait for the next train (and the dot matrix display will always tell you when to expect the next train).
  21. Avoid Rush Hours – This is when the Tube is the busiest as people are trying to get to and from work. Avoid the Tube at these times: (7.30 am–9.30 am and 5.00 pm–7.00 pm). Locals will thank you, especially if you have luggage.
  22. Don’t try to bring a bike on the Tube; you’re not allowed on many of the Tube lines. And certainly don’t bring a ‘Boris Bike’ on the Tube either.
  23. Luggage – Try to avoid using the Tube with a ton of luggage, especially at Rush Hour. There’s simply no room on the trains for luggage.
  24. Let people off the train first before trying to get on.
  25. Keep personal belongings close to you and keep credit cards and valuables in a place that is hard for a pickpocket to get to.
jonathan
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 COMMENT

  1. If changing lines at Green Park, always go up the escalator to Exit and then down the next escalator to the line you want. Walking via the signed ways means you have to walk up to Scotland and round again and it takes a long time!

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