You are ready for a flawless London holiday. The flights, hotel, and experiences are all booked! But how are you going to get around once on the ground?Renting a car in a big, foreign city can be daunting. However, the London streets are home to arguably the best network of public and private transportation in the world. You can explore the city by tube, bus, taxi, bike, or foot to get a real feel for how Londonites get around. Use our guide below to navigate the London streets like a local!
First things first, you will need to purchase an Oyster Card to use any form of public transportation while in London. At all London Underground stations, you can find electronic kiosks that sell your key to the London streets. Purchase an Oyster Card with a prepaid amount, that will work on all public transportation until the funds run out. Or you can purchase an Oyster Card with unlimited rides for a given period of time. Only in London for a day? Go for a day pass! Plan on walking a lot? Add ten euros to your Oyster in case your feet get tired and you want to take a bus back to your hotel. When you are ready to get on a bus, train, or tube, simply hold your Oyster Card up to the card reader and be on your way! Wherever you purchase an Oyster Card, there will likely be some maps of the London streets you can pick up to familiarize yourself with the city.
There’s no faster, more direct way to travel around the London streets than by descending into the city’s underground network of high speed trains. Similar to the New York City subway, or the Metro in Paris, the London Underground has become more than meets the eye. Over four million people use the tube every day, consequently the city could not function without it! From a film star to a design icon, some say the tube is a representation of the city itself. ‘Mind the gap’ as you board one of the eleven lines and travel anywhere in the city. Be sure to stand on the right side of the long escalators in the tube stations to avoid the ever present rushed traveller running up the left side.
London has been patiently awaiting for the tube to be up and running at night time. During the weekend, five lines run carriages throughout the evening, however much less frequently than during the day. If you will be out past midnight, we suggest looking into other ways of navigating the London streets.
The traditional red double decker buses fill central London streets. It may seem like a movie scene to tourists, but for London locals, double decker just means less time waiting for a bus during rush hour. While the London streets do have some smaller, single level buses, you are likely to hop on atleast one big red bus during your trip. Even if it’s not necessary, riding at the top of a double decker bus across the Tower Bridge to catch the London skyline is worth the swipe of an Oyster Card. Other cities have mimicked the revolutionary two-story buses but none can rival those on the London streets.
London also offers night buses that run all evening. Go out and explore London’s nightlife without worrying about how you will get home! Not all routes are active after hours, so plan out your journey ahead of time. Look for the buses labelled with an ‘N’ for night service.
Have a true London experience and take a ride in one of London’s renowned black taxis. Official black taxis can be hailed from anywhere on the street, most easily at tube stations or designated taxi areas. Make sure the taxi has a yellow taxi sign lit up before you chase it down. The fluorescent sign means the taxi is available for new passengers. If you know you will need a cab beforehand, you can call for one ahead of time. You can’t use your Oyster Card on a taxi ride, but fares are metered starting at £2.60 and you can pay with cash, credit, or debit.
London also offers private cars called minicabs that are only available to pre-book. Minicabs are great for travel to and from the airport. You must book them in advance, but they may be a bit cheaper than a black taxi. Your hotel or airline may have their own minicab service, so be sure to ask the concierge about transportation. Minicabs can not legally pick up passengers off the London streets, only city official taxis can be hailed without a booking.
Bikes on London Streets
If you are lucky enough to be visiting London without any rain, you may consider biking from sight to sight. Santander cycles service the entire city. With stations docked in center city all the way out to the edges of the city, it’s easy to pick up at one station and return at another. In London, everyone rides bikes, even heading in for a day at the office! Again, you can’t use your Oyster Card on the Santander cycles. But for only two pounds, you receive unlimited access to your bike all day. Use the machines at the docking station by inserting your card and information, then receive a receipt with the code to unlock your bike and start discovering the city.
We recommend renting a bike and riding from Hyde Park to Kensington Gardens for a glimpse of the city’s biggest green areas. Stop for an ice cream bar along the way, or turn your bikes in and visit the exhibits at Kensington Palace. Keep your eye out for Prince William and the royal children!
Walking the London Streets
Pack your comfortable shoes, and rain boots just in case, because London is highly accessible on foot and our preferred way of travel! Your best bet at seeing all the sights and getting a local experience is a walking tour. Londoners often opt for walking over a car, as city traffic can be crazy. Save up the money you would spend on cabs for a luxury ride on the London eye or shopping on Oxford street.
Unless you are a London expert, you may want to look up a self guided walking tour or hire a guide to show you exactly what you want to see in the city. Discover art, shopping, literature, or even Sherlock Holmes with a walking tour around the London streets.
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