For our guide to the rest of the UK, including details of how to tour the UK by train for under £60 per person see our 'Rest of UK' page

If there's one topic that unites Londoners it's the transport system. The former Mayor of greater London, Ken Livingstone, was elected solely on the basis of his prior record in handling this huge creaking system. Large parts of it close every weekend for maintenance - see the TfL website for details.

"If you think this is bad, wait until the Olympics"
lift operator at Russell Square Feb 2012

We've been criticised for our negative attitude to public transport in London. True, we wish it were much better, but in general the average visitor won't be too much troubled unless on a tight schedule.

Travel in London is 2 -3 times the price it is in other capital cities and is often dirty, unreliable and congested. According to the latest Government report 25% of main roads are jammed for an hour a day, the fuel tax is the highest in Europe, rail fares the third highest in Europe. The average British family spends 15% of its income on transport - but only 12% of journeys are made on public transport - Britons also walk and cycle less than other Europeans.
To cap it all, public transport is often full of rowdy travelers after 11pm, especially at weekends. Little effort has gone into providing safe cycling lanes or pedestrianisation, and rollerblading is all but banned from the areas it flourished. The good news is that travelling by river has got cheaper and easier - the excellent Thames Clipper will take you from Tate Britain to Canary wharf, and back with unlimited stop-offs for £7.50 or £16 for a whole family - there are discounts if you have a travelcard. Well worth spending a day on the river...

The Oystercard has heralded the biggest change in London transport since the war. it's valid on buses, trains and tubes and on the river it gets you discounts. It's a good idea to buy one before you arrive so you can just breeze onto the transport system - bus, train (not private airport services) tube etc without having to queue at your arrival point. Use the image below to buy an oystercard in advance and get it delivered to your door:

Visit Shop

For how to get out of London for a daytrip or longer, and a guide to some of the many places worth visiting in the area, see our Trips page.
Also, new on the web is an interactive map with photos, well worth taking a look, it's HERE

If you want to get from anywhere in the UK (or Europe) to any other place, by car, use the free RAC route planner.   
For everything about trains (not only in the UK) see the excellent Seat61 website, truly a labour of love. Do verify prices at the national rail website though.
We've also got very very cheap fares from Megatrains which also has a sister bus site. The same fares on the same trains booked the normal way have been 8 times the price...
An independent users' guide to the underground, written by fans/enemies of London Transport goes under the name of Going Underground

If you want to know the best way to get from one point in London to another by public transport , 24 hours a day, ring the Transport for London Guideline 0207 222 1234 or use our travel widget:

Transport for London
Journey Planner













All the airports have good rail links into the centre - Heathrow is on the tube, it takes about an hour and costs about £4. High speed rail links have been built to Heathrow and Gatwick and Stanstead, and as they are run by private companies they're very reliable and clean. However they are expensive and often not much quicker than normal trains - which are rarely advertised, but run in parallel - often on the same tracks.
You can buy an Oystercard (valid on trains, tubes, buses but not private rail links like Heathrow Express) in advance HERE which will save you time on arrival. 

Below is a picture of the queues to buy a tube ticket at Victoria station. Saunter past with a pre-booked Oyster card...

tube queues

Our advice is unless you're arriving at Heathrow to buy a 'Network Railcard' on arrival (from the train station at the airport) - you then get cheap rail travel (as long as your outward journey is after 10:00, see below) for a year - for four people. This could pay for itself on one journey, but it'll also save you money if you use the rail to travel out to Hampton Court, Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton etc. Remember ONE card covers FOUR people traveling together. You don't need a photograph. If you arrive by boat then all the ports have stations where you can use a Network Southeast Card. HOWEVER there is a £10 minimum fare mondays to Fridays. So it you're merely going to tube it in from Heathrow and spend your time in the centre it's not worth it. However it still pays for itself in one trip by a family of four to Oxford. Also if your destination journey only costs £9, buy a ticket to the next station and get off where you intended to, if that's over £10 - the saving will make up for it! (or buy a return, which with the discount could cost less than a single...)

Normal scheduled rail services run into town, Stanstead - Liverpool Street, Gatwick - Charing Cross/London Bridge, Luton - King's cross or to to Brighton via Gatwick, they run up until about 2330, after which you'll have to use the more expensive Private trains. The tube from Heathrow is the Piccadilly Line which runs straight to the centre of London, via the South West Hotel Corridor.

To get between airports can be difficult and time consuming - try National Express.
Luton: direct by train to Gatwick, train to King's Cross then tube to Heathrow, bus to Stanstead.
Gatwick: direct to Luton by train, to Heathrow via coach shuttle or train to London Bridge, Jubilee line to Green Park and then Piccadilly line, to Stanstead, train to London Bridge then tube to Liverpool Street, then train to Stanstead.
Heathrow: bus to Stanstead, tube/train to central London for interconnects to Luton/Stanstead/Gatwick, there's also a shuttle coach to Gatwick.
Stanstead: has a coach station with good interconnectivity.

If you're arriving in rush hour and taking a commuter train/tube be aware that after a few stops the train will get very crowded and your presence with 5 heavy suitcases will not be particularly helpful. Getting a taxi to Heathrow in particular in rush hour can be a slow and expensive business and getting a fixed-price service can be better. Also some tube stations served by lifts (eg Russell Square) get overcrowded and claustrophobic when it's busy - often Bank tube station and London Bridge can suffer temporary shot-downe due to overcrowding on platforms and the dangers that poses. Rush hour is 0815-0951 and 1730-1830. On a Friday afternoon and evening most routes out of London get very very congested.
From Luton and Stanstead options are more limited, but flights are usually cheaper by compensation.

Underground Website.    Train Timetables and booking   Coach timetables   

There are also good bus, minibus and taxi services, but these start to get expensive. Some minibuses will drop you at or near your hotel.   


Slow and sometimes unreliable (sometimes not their fault, they share the roads), London's buses are part of the landscape - you will often see more than 20 of them nose-to-tail down Oxford Street, with pedestrians passing them at twice the speed.. but they will get you anywhere you want to go, if a bit slower than the tube, but you do get a chance to see the scenery on the way.

The best way to travel by bus is to buy an Visit ShopOYSTERCARD which is a rechargable ticket - just load it with money at a tube station or other outlet. Tickets bought with an oystercard are half the price of those bought with cash. After you reach the 'travelcard' rate the system stops charging you for all journeys made on that day. Two bus journeys will save you more than the £3 deposit for the card. As a tourist you're unlikely to get your deposit back quickly as a cheque is posted about three weeks after you hand it in... still it will definitely save you a LOT of money. You can also elect to donate the deposit to a charity. If you don't want an oystercard the next best deal is a Travelcard if you intend to make more than a couple of journeys by bus or tube (or commuter train) a day. Night buses run from Trafalgar Square - a Day Travelcard (and Oyster equivalents) is valid on the night bus system.

It's generally a safe way to travel after midnight, less raucous than trains. Remember many of the passengers will be going home from pubs and clubs and will be suffering from their revelries...
Since 2003 you have to pay for a ticket BEFORE you board most buses - there are usually machines at bus stops, but it can be a trauma finding the right change. Our experience has been that these machines work less than 50% of the time. A day bus pass is easier and can work out cheaper.

Bus conductors on the much-loved Routemaster buses (traditional, open-decked) are a mine of information, but are being phased out now they no longer collect fares. Bus Information     -   Coaches   


The London Underground (affectionately known as the tube) was the first, and is the most expensive in the world (250% more expensive than even Tokyo). Escalators are often out of service (some of the lines run very deep below the streets) but that's no consolation for those with bags or wheels. Most weekends there are huge service outages for upgrades or repairs for the Olympics (or whatever excuse is fashionable, passenger safety and comfort, being less honest excuses), sometimes half the grid is closed down, and bus replacement services are usually inadequate.

Buy an Oystercard if you are making frequent journeys, Zone 1 & 2 should cover all your needs, but ask if in doubt. You can buy day, weekend and weekly travelcards. They also cover buses and trains. But you're still better off buying an Oystercard (see above, buses). But be careful: the system was designed for a unitary ticket system, with one price only. Its default is to charge you the maximum possible fare: so if the reader at your exit station breaks down, or you don't touch it to the reader properly you will pay the maximum fare even if you do a short journey. Check the readout on the exit gates that you have been charged the right amount, if not see one of the attendants.

The tube map is an icon of clarity:

Most lines have been straightened out in the centre, but it is topological - it bears no relation to the distance between stations or their exact location. A famous trap is Queensway and Bayswater stations which are actually right next door to each other, but way apart on the tube map. Fares £2 a journey in the centre ( roughly within the circle line), £3 to cross London, with Oyster card, much more without!

Some of the stations are rather beautiful for example the Art Deco St John's Wood Station, for the more recent 'Alien' inspired design try changing between the Jubilee and Circle lines at Westminster, or visit any of the stations on the Jubilee Line south of the river. They won the coveted architecture design award for 2000, beating buildings all over the UK. However older stations can be really grubby. Watch out for mice which have colonised the platforms, and also the mosquitoes which live in the damp, warm conditions.  


London black cabs are justifiably famous. 'The Knowledge - the exam to become a cabby - takes years of study and has been actually shown on scans to increase brain size, such is the amount of geographical information needed. That said, many cabbies dislike going south of the river and their knowledge seems to become a little hazy south of the Elephant & Castle.

Fares are more economical if you share. To go from one end of London to the other should cost about £50, shorter rides are about £15. We have found that on a good day, inside London a black cab can be cheaper than minicab companies, which price by postcode.

London taxi fares are the most expensive in the world, and go up after 20:00hrs. Some taxi drivers make £70k/$100k a year at least, so don't tip them unless you earn significantly more then they do.  Some, especially in outer London will make £30k.
That said, for all the 'honourable rules of the trade' there are some complaints. We've watched black people ignored by taxis who pull up opposite the next white person who hails them. Taxis HAVE to stop if they see you hail them (however they can claim they didn't see you if they don't like the look of you). Once stopped, they can't refuse to take you within 6 miles of the centre - if they do, take their number and report them. Generally for every 'bad' cabby there will be ten who will be polite and helpful.


This includes all 'taxis' that are not official licenced taxicabs. Most have a 'Minicab' licence which means they're complying with the Council's code. They are not allowed to solicit on the street and have to be booked by phone or by going to their office. See the tfl minicab guide for numbers and howtos. The Mayor's site is also very useful with a safe taxi textback system for minicabs. A commercial equivalent is here . Or try Taxi Reservations who specialise in airport transfers - bookable online and in advance.

However you are likely to be pestered around the major tube and train stations late at night by unregistered drivers - there is no way of knowing if they're safe or reliable. Agree a price first - there are no meters. Although there are many reputable firms, there are more dodgy ones, no fixed prices and their knowledge of London is often scanty. They may be cheaper than official black Taxicabs but they're more risky.

If in doubt use the Yellow Pages or the tfl website (vide supra) to find a large company. Here's a few of the firms used by large companies like the BBC, City banks, and big hotels:
Minicabs: Lancaster: 020 7727 3113 , Nivens: 020 8963 3101, Premier: 0207 657 7777, Wyndhams: 020 8752 8040. We've personally used all of these and can recommend them.
Chauffeur driven cars: Centurion: 0208 848 7000, Europcar: 0207 834 6701, Heritage: 0207 538 4444. 


Not really up to the volume of commuters, but ok for tourists. Buy your ticket before you board the train in most cases, as you will either be fined or made to pay the full fare (if you have a NSE Card). However within the London travel zones you can use an oystercard (not to Gatwick...).

It's worth remembering that the train system (which is cheaper than the tubes, especially if you have a NSE card) serves a large part of London, especially the Southeast where there are no tubes.

For longer, intercity journeys, and daytrips book at least 3 days in advance (7 days is cheaper) or the fares will be high (higher than flying), you can do this on the internet (much cheaper as ticket machines don;t offer best value fares and there are queues for ticket offices) here (booking fee).   Timetables here (no booking fee) - remember to press the 'check fares' button and look out for the 'cheapest fare' box which will calculate the cheapest ticketing - and check later/earlier trains too. We have got a ticket down from £120 to £30 by buying judiciously, and once went first class for cheaper than second class. In April 2010 we got to Chichester and back for £6 on Southern Railways (normal price £26), who offer online booking discounts...
There's a whole website on how to do this and it's a must if you're planning getting round the UK by rail. Remember that sometimes buying two singles may be cheaper, and once the allocation of cheap second class tickets has run out, there may still be discount first class available. If the cost is astronomical try splitting the journey, notionally changing at an unpopular station (eg Nuneaton...) You don't have to get off the train as long as it stops at your intermediate station. London-anywhere tends to sell out of cheap seats quickly. Once you've found out the cheapest fares it this site redirects you to an operator who can sell you the tickets - keep note of the train times as you'll have to fill them in all over again.   A good site for planning journeys in the UK is here  


Not really the safest means to get round London, where the pavements and roads are uneven, have large potholes and cycle lanes are scant. That said, biking is the quickest way to get around the city. Some road intersections can be really dangerous, but on the whole drivers are considerate - watch out for the motorcycle couriers though.

Unlike European cities, where bicycle lanes are separated from the roads, London councils think that painting a picture of a cycle on the road will lend a protective magic to cyclists journeys. This fantasy was shattered when, in March 2010, a medical student was killed right on one of these talismans, on a 'safe bike route', ploughed into by a by a juggernaught - on the Mayor's Bicycle safety day. We have three friends who've been knocked off their bikes, one crippled, one literally run over but who escaped with sprains, and one who lost all their teeth and parts of their jaw (due to poor road maintenance). So ride defensively.

'Boris Bikes' - a copy of Paris' velib system is now in operation. The idea is to use them for short (ie less than 30 mins) trips. The bikes are heavy and solid but if well maintained, ride well. Check the bike before taking it out of its stand as if it's faulty you'll have to wait 5 minutes before getting another one out. Check brakes (some too tight) lights and tyres. See HERE for details.

Paradoxically London councils have over reacted to an accident involving rollerblades and the activity is banned from most of the parks except in small designated areas. For everything there is to know about blading/skating in London, including the Friday Night Cavalcades, lessons and hire see Cityskate's excellent website

Bikes can be hired from shops at London Bridge or Victoria Stations or in Gabriel's Wharf on the South Bank See our Active page for details. Rollers can be hired from shops on Queensway and Kensington Gore, both near the stations, for skating in Kensington Gardens. For a list of hire shops see our Activities Page


We don't like driving round London - there's heavy congestion in the centre and tempers can often get overheated. Traffic regulations are designed to swell the coffers of local councils, not ease congestion.

The old 1980s system of making the centre impossible to navigate, with one way streets (this was a serious policy - the annoyance factor) has just been judged a failure and is slowly to be rectified. Parking is often impossible - it's calculated that 20% of all cars in London at any one time are looking for somewhere to park.

Parking regulations differ from borough to borough and many get towed or clamped unwittingly around the borough boundaries. At night (the definition varies across London) parking is free except on double yellow lines, and there's no need to feed the meters, though YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CHECK THE REGULATIONS BEFORE LEAVING YOUR CAR - even Londoners regularly get caught out. You can't stop, even for a second on areas designated as 'red routes' or urban clearways, and there are always traffic wardens or licenced clamping units on the prowl.

A recent investigation highlighted many abuses by the parking control attendants - whose real job is earning money: sometimes they just jot down random numbers of cars as they go past on the street and issue tickets.

If you're abroad there's little you can do about it in the way of appealing later when the car hire firm charges the ticket to your credit card.   That said, about 80% of appeals are upheld (and we've won plenty) - but the process is slow and cumbersome; most people end up caving in to avoid the bother. That's what they're banking on.

Parking in the centre of London is about 5 times as expensive as Rodeo Drive, Beverley Hills.... allow £12 an hour.

Car hire is OK for trips outside of London, though there is very poor signposting in the suburbs - we suggest tubing out to a car hire firm well away from the centre. Don't even think of driving between 15:30 and 21:00 on a Friday, we've often got so stuck we've abandoned the car and come back after 2000, it's deadly.

The congestion charge has reduced the traffic in the centre a lot (but buses still move along Oxford Street at slower than walking pace) and made cycling a bit less hazardous. It costs £8 a day to drive in London weekdays from 0700 - 0600. One wrong turning can result in the charge being levied as your number plate is picked up by cameras. There is a 'safe route' through the centre, via Victoria, Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch, but pay strict attention to the signposting!

You can pay at many newsagents (where the red C sign is displayed) and unless you do by 2200 the same day the price goes up. There are lots of mistakes (people getting fined £80 when they've paid their charge already) and it's likely to affect the tourist who won't stick around to sort them out.

The central zone is roughly the circle line - there's plenty of information on the transport for London website. If hiring a car make sure the charge is included if you collect it from within the zone, or hire from a base outside the zone. If/when the money raised starts improving the public transport that could raise the public's support for the scheme. It has resulted in higher prices inside the zone and the closure of many smaller businesses faced with higher rents - eg in Soho. All the usual car hire companies operate here and are listed on our A-Z page. If you're new to driving on the left then take the time to get a little practice in a sidestreet first - tempers can get frayed very easily. Also invest in an A-Z map of the city, as finding your way around can be very difficult, with strange one-way systems, and deliberately unlabeled routes. Or hire a satnav...  


This used to be the main form of transport East-West in London as the streets were crowded and filthy. In the 21st century it's becoming increasingly possible with clipper services running up and down all day, most giving a reduction if you have a travelcard or such. They can actually be much faster than the tube, especially the new THAMES CLIPPER catamarans, based on the Dover-Calais ferries... see  HERE.   There are full details, as always at the TFL website. You can download a River services map   HERE.   The fastest trip is to be had by taking a RIB tour - rather costly, though.  
Main services go from Westminster Pier, Blackfriars (south side, near the Globe), London and Tower Bridges. You can go as far as Greenwich and beyond, though it's better to stay on the boat past Greenwich and see the O2 and Thames Barrier from the water.


Our favourite method of transport in London. Follow one or more of our walks or simply wander. Cars HAVE to stop if you step onto a crossing and most will stop even if you jump out into the road. Jaywalking is not an offence, but natural selection can operate if you get too foolhardy. Walking down the south side of the Thames will take a couple of hours from Westminster to Tower Bridge, depending on how often you stop, and give you access to most ofthe best attractions: Shakespeare's Globe, Tower Bridge, St Pauls (via the 'wobbly' bridge) Parliament, the South Bank, etc.

It's worth remembering that London is built on a curve in the river (actually it's shaped like a banana) and simply walking in what looks like a straight line is often not the best route! 


Not as good as it should be, it is possible to get around with a wheelchair or frame - however you'll need to get help with many lifts, where they exist, especially in tube stations, and even then there are lots of stairs between platforms. The tube seems to be very bad at lifts and help, and more focused on collecting fares. Many taxis have wheelchair ramps, and an increasing number of buses. The bus and tube websites mentioned above have good disablilty information and the Interactive London Travel map has a station-by-station access guide. The new TFL Access site is  HERE  and there's another good site HERE  

Travelcard: Buy one from a Tube or Train station or participating newsagents, check the zones on the maps in tube stations. Heathrow Airport is in Zone 6. You cannot buy travelcards, or reduced tickets (with a Railcard) once you are on the train or bus. A £6.50 travelcard gives you unlimited travel in zones 1 + 2, which is all you'll probably ever need. Alternatively just get an oystercard - you can;t be charged more than a day's travelcard when using it. remember that when you change modes of transport (train to underground, bus to tram) you pay again....

Top trips outside of London  Guidebook to what to see and do in London

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