Getting around the capital
Bus, train, tube, you name it, London has it - public transport in London is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to get around.
To plan your route online use the VisitBritain journey planner.
When travelling on public transport in London you have several ticket options. You can pay a cash fare, use a pre-paid Oyster card or buy a paper travelcard. The price of your journey depends on which ticket type you choose, which zones you travel in and what time you travel at. Oyster card prices are always cheaper than paper tickets.
For more details about current tickets and fares check the tickets page of the TfL website.
The London Underground, or 'tube' as we usually call it, is the oldest underground train system in the world. With nearly 300 stations and the network expanding all the time you're never far from a station. The underground network is supplemented by The DLR (Dockland’s Light Railway) which connects the City of London and the Docklands to the east.
Check out Tubeplanner.com to find the nearest tube stations to tourist attractions.
Trains and platforms are described as eastbound, westbound, northbound or southbound depending on the direction of the line. Trains travelling from left to right on the tube map are eastbound, from right to left are westbound, from top to bottom are southbound and from bottom to top are northbound. The front of the train and the platform indicator show the train's final stop - often the last station on the line.
First and last train times vary depending on the station, direction, and final destination. For timetables for each tube line, visit London Underground - first and last trains.
London's tube system is split into 6 'zones' which appear in concentric circles. On the tube maps, central London is zone 1 (the middle circle), and the further away you travel from central London, the higher the zones get.
Travel is cheaper in zones 3, 4, 5 and 6 than in zones 1 and 2. However, you need to pay for all zones you travel through during your journey.
Transport for London produces free maps and guides to help you get around. You can pick up a London Underground Map upon arrival at most tube stations. London Travel Information centres sell tickets and provide free maps. There are centres at all Heathrow Airport terminals, major stations in London and the Britain and London Visitor Centre.
To see all stations and zones, download a London Underground map (pdf 326KB).
You can also travel between Heathrow Airport and all parts of London by tube. The westbound Piccadilly Line (dark blue) has 3 stations for Heathrow, one serving terminals 1, 2 and 3, one for terminal 4 and one for terminal 5. This is the cheapest way into central London from the airport and the journey time takes under an hour.
For more information on tubes check the TfL tube pages.
London has one of the world’s largest urban bus networks and buses are a convenient way to get around offering plenty of sightseeing opportunities on the way. Don’t miss the 2 heritage routes (buses 9 and 15) that are operated by classic Routemaster double-decker buses and take in some of London’s most famous landmarks.
If you’re travelling from one of the outer zones to another part of London (which isn't central London) you may have to take 2 buses, one into central London and another out again. Some bus services only run during the day, from about 06:00 to 23:00. However, many routes run a 24-hour service.
Night buses - prefixed with the letter 'N' (e.g. N24) - run during the night and offer a good alternative to the tube, (which closes around 00:00), and taxis which can be expensive. Some night buses follow a daytime bus route while others have completely new routes or follow tube line stops overground. The London night bus system is one of the best in the world and provides access to many parts of London.
You need to raise your hand to tell the bus to stop as it approaches the bus stop. All travel cards are valid within their period of validity. For information on cash fares, visit Transport for London.
You can check which bus routes provide 24-hour and night bus services at bus stop information boards and at night bus information.
Most routes in Central London require that you buy tickets before you board. Ticket machines selling single fares and daily bus passes are located next to the main bus stops on these routes. You'll need the exact money as the machines do not give change. Many newsagents sell bus passes and also have Oyster top-up facilities.
For more information on buses check the TfL bus pages.
Overland trains are a popular way to get around many parts of London and the London Overground Network serves many of London’s outlying suburbs. London Overground runs on the Richmond to Stratford, Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction, Gospel Oak to Barking, and Watford Junction to Euston lines. Check the TfL website to see a map of the network (pdf 112Kb).
There are 3 tram routes in London:
Trams don't travel directly through central London, but most stop at Wimbledon, so you can easily take a tube or bus from there to your destination. For a route map, see TfL's tram routes.
London River Services operates a mixture of tourist and commuter boat services along the River Thames. Commuter services operate 3 routes:
Leisure services include:
Bankside - Waterloo - Millbank 'Tate to Tate'
Embankment - Waterloo - Bankside - Tower - Greenwich
Greenwich Sunday Evening Sightseeing Cruise
London Eye - River Cruise Experience
Multi-lingual Circular Cruise
Richmond - Kingston - Hampton Court
Westminster - Kew - Richmond - Hampton Court
Westminster - St Katharine's Hop-on, Hop-off circular service
Westminster - Waterloo - Tower - Greenwich
Westminster - Greenwich - Barrier Gardens
For full details of all the services available on the River Thames check TfL's river pages.