Disclosure: I may earn a small commission from the companies or products mentioned in this post.
The London Underground can seem like a daunting place. It is the oldest metro system in the world and now serves over 270 stations over 250 miles of track.
Plus, not only do users have to grapple with the pure enormity and complexity of the London underground system but we also have to get our head around its unique set of rules and the all-important tube etiquette.
So to help you out, with the assistance of some fellow Londoners, I’ve put together a list of top tips for surviving the London Underground…
Invest in an Oyster Card or use contactless payment
Don’t bother buying paper tickets. Even if you’re only in London for a week, a £5 investment in an Oyster Card will pay for itself within a few journeys, with cheaper fares and daily caps.
I also find Oyster Cards are a lot easier to keep track of. No more losing those stupid paper tickets that disappear the minute you take your eye off them.
Alternatively, if you have a contactless payment card you can also use this to tap in and out instead of an Oyster Card.
Travel at off-peak times
Of course, this isn’t feasible if you’re using the tube to commute to and from your 9-5 job. However, if you’re visiting London or simply travelling around town during the week, try to avoid the peak times of 07:30-09:30 am and 17:00-19:00 pm Monday to Friday. Not only will the tubes be much busier at these times but you’ll be paying peak fare prices.
Use Citymapper to make your journey easier and quicker
If you’re in London and don’t already have Citymapper on your phone then download it ASAP!
Citymapper is a handy little app that not only helps you plan your route across the city by tube, bus, bike and taxi, but it also gives you live service updates and even tells you which part of the train to sit on to be closest to the exit at your destination.
Thanks to Amanda from The Boutique Adventurer
MIND THE GAP
This may be an obvious one but you’d be surprised by the number of people who either fall into the gaps between the platform and tube or drop their possessions down them and end up delaying an entire line trying to retrieve them. Don’t be that person.
Thanks to Scarlett from Diary of a Londoness
Stand on the right, walk on the left
As a Londoner, a pet hate of mine is tourists who stand on the wrong side of the escalator. And I do mean tourists. There can’t be a Londoner out there who doesn’t stick to one of the most sacred rules of the London Underground. If you’re standing on the escalator make sure you’re on the right-hand side, and that your large bags and suitcases are too.
Don’t be afraid of the night tube
There seems to be an all too common misconception that the night tube is a dangerous or scary place, where London’s gangs run wild and criminals lurk in the shadows. Well, I can safely tell you that this is certainly not the case… it’s just the London Underground… but at night.
As a young (ish) female, jumping on the night tube to get home on a Friday or Saturday night makes me feel much safer than other methods of drunkenly stumbling home. Plus it’s cheaper than a taxi.
Keep an eye out for the elderly and pregnant
Whether you’re sitting in the priority seating or not, everyone should know that there are simply some people more in need of a much-coveted seat on the tube.
So if you’re engaged in conversation with a friend, buried deep in a book or nodding off at the end of a long day, just remember to keep an eye out for the elderly, pregnant, disabled or anyone else who needs that seat more than you.
Often Brits are too polite to say anything, but the gesture will certainly be appreciated!
Bring a book for longer journeys
Many people opt for the headphones instead, but I find that a good book makes journeys go a lot quicker, and even makes them somewhat enjoyable. Plus reading is a great way to obey important tube etiquette and avoid eye contact with every other person in your carriage!
Carry hand sanitiser
A lot of my friends think I’m slightly odd for this one, but ever since living in central London, I will never leave the house without a small bottle of hand sanitiser in my bag.
If you’re spending a lot of time travelling around the city on the tube, chances are at some point you’ll want to stop and grab a quick bite to eat, and with London’s many delicious street food markets you may not be able to find a bathroom to wash your hands in first.
So then what are you going to do? Touch your food with the same hands that were just grasping onto that dirty tube rail that thousands of other people touch with their sweaty hands every day. No worries, that won’t be an issue again because you’ve got your hand sanitiser.
Wear layers in Winter
It may be freezing outside, but the moment you get onto the tube you’ll immediately regret that giant woolly jumper and padded winter coat. Tube carriages can get extremely hot and stuffy, especially at peak times when they are rammed full with commuters. If I’m wearing a coat or big jumper on a cold and rainy day in London, I’ll always wear a t-shirt underneath for travelling on the tube.
Bring a bottle of water
On a similar thread to the last point, the London underground can get hot, no matter what time of year it is! If you end up getting stuck on the tube for a while due to a signal failure or passenger incident ahead – and the likelihood is that you will at some point – the worst thing is to be left dehydrated and desperate for water. Listen to those announcements and make sure you have a bottle on hand at all times.
Thanks to Vicky from BeingTillysMum
Do you have any top tips for surviving the London Underground? Let me know in the comments below…