How to Get Around London30 November, 2021by Bounce
Similar to New York City, getting around London can be a bit tricky, especially if you are not a native. The most convenient way to move throughout the city is the London Underground, although there are places throughout London that do not have stations for the underground tube or subway. The second-best way to move about London is by public bus. And the best way to see London from the air is by using the Emirates Air Line cable cars!
You will also notice a lot of people bicycling or walking throughout London. Why not avoid the traffic jams and try that mode of moving about? There is also the train as a method of public transport. Several of the National rail services stations share stations with the London underground. Taxis, private vehicles, buses, and even river cruises are other choices for getting around.
Visitors sometimes have a hard time trying to figure out how to get around London. Drop your belongings at one of our luggage storage spots in London. Then, use this guide to help you move freely through the city to see more of the historic landmarks and architecture that makes London absolutely fabulous. Places like Tower Bridge, The London Eye, Picadilly Circus, and Canary Wharf are within reach!
How to get around London by train
London Tube Underground Network
With 270 stations that make up the underground tube network, over half are located at ground level, making them a little easier to access than the ones that are completely underground. Each railway line has a different name and is designated with a specific color so you can easily identify the train you need.
Morning rush in Central London can be a bear, so if you can, avoid using the underground network from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The same is true for the afternoon rush from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. If you have to travel into Central London during these times you will want to avoid tube stations and take a bus or taxi.
Download the free app Citymapper or TubeMap to help you move through the city and find the tube stations in a more economical and efficient way. You do not have to be stuck in a crowded car or on a crowded platform waiting for your train. Have your Oyster card or contactless card ready when you enter the station.
There's always plenty to do around every tube and train station in London – here are some of our favorite options.
St. Pancras International
This is quite possibly the most famous train station in the world and its elaborate architecture is absolutely astounding. St. Pancras is a warm, welcoming, and historical station that you will want to visit, even if you do not need to take the train. Take a few hours and wander through the station.
With over 50 million visitors, this is one of the busiest stations in London. Come check out the coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, and several artisan shops. The station first opened in 1868 and has been beautifully maintained.
This trendy and stylish station is located in Camden, a borough of London, and it is adjacent to St. Pancras International. The Great Northern Railway opened King’s Cross in 1852 and it quickly grew into one of the biggest stations in the region.
This station was renovated in the 1970s to accommodate high-speed trains. The original station roof is still intact and is an absolute marvel. King’s Cross even made an appearance in the Harry Potter books with its famed 9 ¾ magical platform and was the starting point for the Hogwarts Express.
After you've had fun at King's Cross Station, check out London street food at the Camden Market!
While not as elaborate as St. Pancras International or King’s Cross, Paddington is still a fantastic station to visit. Take a stroll along Platform 1 and look up at the balconied windows that once led into the Great Western Railway boardroom. The steps at the end of the platform will take you to the underground station.
There are several great cafes and small shops to check out along the way. You can also meander across the walking bridge leading to the underground station steps. The bridge has been enclosed in glass and is a great spot to stop and snap a selfie or two.
While not a beautiful station, Waterloo is functional and is the largest station in London. It is also the busiest station in Britain. The sterile aesthetic of this station really has nothing to recommend for those sightseeing, but it is still worth visiting because of the magnitude of passengers that pass through each year.
The Waterloo station during rush hour is similar to herding livestock through the chutes; people push their way through the crowd trying to get onto a train car before it takes off from the station. The platforms fill quickly. If you visit, steer clear of rush hour so you are not pushed and shoved along with the masses.
How to get around London by bus
London has something to brag about it when it comes to buses. Their fleet of 9,000 buses is wheelchair accessible and 17,000 stops are served by these buses, all equipped with an electronic wheelchair ramp. You do have to press a button alerting the driver of your need for the ramp. They don't leave their seats to assist you, but it is great to note that customers in wheelchairs ride the bus for free.
Be sure to check the bus maps before you plan your trip by city bus. There are specific London bus routes, destinations, and bus numbers so you want to board the right bus to get to your destination the quickest. If you are just trying to get from point A to point B you will want to avoid the double-decker sightseeing buses that grace the streets of London.
If you are hoping for a little sightseeing along the way, take Bus Route 15 which goes right past many of the city’s iconic landmarks such as The Strand, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, and the Tower of London. Use your Oyster card or contactless card to quickly board London buses.
The Oyster card is really the best way to pay for public transit when in London since every tube and bus service in London accepts this card. Purchase your Oyster card online and add money at most ticket offices or save money online for great discounts. You can of course still use your credit or debit card to tap pay.
How to get around London by car
Taxi cabs seem to be universal these days and London is no exception. Famous for its black cabs, you can hire a taxi when you see a yellow sign in the window and fares are metered so each fare is different. Generally, there is an initial fee and then the cost increases per mile and/or time it takes to travel the distance.
London does offer minicabs which are cheaper but do require you to book in advance. You can make your reservations either at a cab office or make use of ride-sharing apps. Taking a taxi is a great way for visitors to get a feel for the city as cab drivers in London are generally more cheerful than in New York City.
As for renting and driving your own car, this is not a popular option at all. After all, London has a bevy of options for transport!
Can I get around London by foot?
Of course, you can always slip into a pair of comfortable shoes and walk through the streets of London to get to your destination, provided it is not more than a few blocks away. You will need to use public transport to get from one of the London airports. There are plenty of train stations near the airports that you can easily get to on foot.
Grab a map or download an app and hit the streets for some sightseeing! Take a hike in the area or stroll along to find the best shops and restaurants in a particular London neighborhood. Walking in London is a great way to get out and meet the locals while mingling with other visitors.
You can also consider the fun option of biking around the city. There are designated bike paths located throughout London and if you are not sure where they are, download the CityMapper app. You can even rent a bicycle at Zone 1 Santander and pick up your bike rental at one of their cycling docks, then you can return your rental to any of their docks.
Google Maps also is a great resource for finding the best bike paths in London. Bike rentals can be pricey if you do not return your rental on time, otherwise, it is pretty inexpensive for a day’s rental. You can even rent a bike for free if your trip is shorter than 30 minutes.
A fun option for getting around London
Emirates Air Line cable car link
You do not want to miss the opportunity to ride the Emirates Air Line, a fantastic cable car that takes passengers on a picturesque aerial journey over the River Thames. There are only two stops on this cable car line and it is a great way for those trying to get to work to use and avoid the underground tube. It is also wheelchair accessible.
You can take the Emirates Greenwich Peninsula in North Greenwich to Emirates Royal Docks in East London. It is a relatively short ride and is much more expensive than public transport in London, but it really is worth the extra cost with the unobstructed views of the Thames and landmarks along the river.
Accessibility to public transport in London
There are only around a quarter of the public train stations in London that offer step-free service throughout the station making it easy for handicapped people to use those stations. However, with the aging infrastructure that has not been updated to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, it can be frustrating and futile for those with mobility issues to ride the train.
Many of the buses in London have adapted to offer wheelchair accessible buses with lowered floors. You can check the bus route list for those buses that are more accessible for wheelchairs to ensure you are able to board the bus without an issue.
There are also some underground metro stations that offer direct street access without any stairs to navigate. But these stations seem to be far and few between. Check the full map for handicap accessible stations so you can plan your trip accordingly.
Tram stops, Emirates Air Line, and DLR stations offer step-free access. If planning to ride in a taxi, it should be noted that all black cabs are wheelchair accessible but if you have a larger power chair, you may not be able to properly fit in the cab; headroom is limited and the area for wheelchairs is also tight.
Central London, South London and Beyond
Whether you are planning to utilize the public transport system of London such as taking a bus journey where the bus fares are cheaper, riding the underground tube, taking advantage of the cable cars, hailing a taxi, or taking a stroll, there are plenty of ways to get around London that are safe and effective. You can even rent a bicycle and ride along the streets of London to get where you need to go.