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A Complete Guide to Public Transports in London

Posted by Mark Smith on 13/02/2016
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More than 3 million people use public transport in London every single day and the reason why is very simple: because it is so easy a system to utilise.  If you want a quick way of navigating your way around the city in order to explore at your own pace then making use of London’s fantastic and comprehensive public transport network is one of the best ways to do this.

No matter where you choose to stay in the city, whether you deliberately pick somewhere central or book one of the London last minute hotels, you will almost certainly find some form of public transport is available just a short walk from the front door of your chosen accommodation.  Whether you are a first time tourist about to visit the city and worrying over how you are going to manage to get around or you’ve been before but have always stuck to one method of transport and want to try something else then read on.  We will briefly discuss all the different means of transport available when staying in London and how it is so simple to make use of them:-

Underground or ‘Tube’

London Tube
photo credit: alice-photo via shutterstock

This is perhaps London’s best known means of transportation.  It is a network of underground trains which crisscross all over the city travelling out from the centre right to the edges of London’s neighbourhoods.  The tube is very popular with commuters in London and for that reason it can be busy during rush hour periods which some people may find off-putting; having said that it is also one of the most convenient ways to get around if you want a fast way of travelling from A to B.  There are more than 270 tube stations all across London which means you are really never more than a short walk away from one wherever you might be in the city itself.  Think of it like this: you could choose to say in any of the Shaftesbury hotel collection and only be 15 minutes walk from the next tube train.  Trains come every 2-5 minutes and run until well into the evening with some lines even running into the early hours over the weekend. 

Bus

London Buses
photo credit: samot via shutterstock

Another fantastic and reliable public transport option is London’s bus network.  It is one of the largest networks in the world with more than 6,800 buses operating over 700 routes.  Plotting a route via bus is very easy; visit the Transport for London website or download a route planner app and you will be able to see your exact proximity to the nearest bus stop as well as knowing when and where to get off at your chosen destination.  It is worth bearing in mind that you cannot pay with cash when boarding a London bus; you must have a prepaid Oyster card or a travelcard (which can be purchased from any tube or train station in advance) to swipe as you board. 

DLR

The Docklands Light Railway
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The Docklands Light Railway or DLR is an automated metro system which operates between parts of East and South East London.  It connects with the tube network as well as providing access to London City Airport and the Emirates Air Line, London’s cable car.  It costs the same as a tube fare and has similar operating hours.

Emirates Air Line

Emirates Air Line
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London’s only cable car operates over the River Thames linking Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks.  It is a unique way to cross over the river and offers a panoramic view over some of the city’s most well known landmarks, including the river itself of course.  You can purchase one way or return tickets and it takes approximately 10 minutes to cross over.

London Overground

London Overground
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Directly opposite to the London Underground is the London Overground; a rail network which covers the majority of the Greater London area as well as reaching out to parts of nearby Hertfordshire.  There are approximately 110 stations along its routes.  It is managed by Transport for London and was created to provide better connections for people wanting to travel further afield, outside of the Central London area.

Cycling

London Cycling
photo credit: bikeworldtravel via shutterstock

Sometimes referred to as ‘Boris Bikes’ if you enjoy combining sightseeing with exercise then you might prefer to travel around the city on one of the 8,000 bikes which are available for rental.  The correct name for these bikes is ‘Santander Cycles’ and you can hire a bike for as little as £2.  Bike docking stations are located all over the city and there is no need to book, you simply hire a bike, ride it to where you like and then return it to the nearest docking station.  Payment is made using your bank card at the touch screens present at the docking stations.  This is a quick and easy self-service, bike rental service which is used by commuters and tourists alike.

Boat

London by Boat
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Another popular way to travel across the River Thames is by boat.  There are dedicated river cruises which take you along the river and show you some of the major sights but it is just as easy (and cheaper) to catch a Thames Clipper which are basically water buses.  The clippers stop at various docks on either side of the river and a return journey will take you past some of the major landmarks such as the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge and Greenwich as well.

Tram

London Tram
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The tram network is perhaps one of the smaller options when it comes to London’s public transport covering parts of South London between Wimbledon, Croydon and Beckenham.  However the services run frequently and are very accessible so you may find it convenient to travel by tram if your chosen accommodation happens to be in this area of the city.

Woolwich Ferry

Woolwich ferry
photo credit: david burrows via shutterstock

The Woolwich Ferry is a free ferry service which crosses the River Thames in East London.  It can carry pedestrians, cyclists, cars, vans and lorries.