It’s difficult to imagine London without the Tube. Since the London Underground passenger railway opened beneath the streets of the capital in 1863, it has helped transport millions of people from A to B. Commuters, locals and tourists have come to rely on the vast network, which now consists of 12 lines, 270 stations and well over 100,000 miles of track. The Tube is as much a part of London as Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
But if you are making your first trip to London, or paying your first visit for some time, you might well find the prospect of travelling on the Tube a little daunting. There’s certainly nothing to fear from taking a train ride, but there are a few tips and etiquette points to bear in mind, This is why we’ve compiled this beginners’ guide to taking a trip on the London Underground.
Here are our top tips for riding on the Tube:
1. GET USED TO THE MAP
At a first glance, the London Underground map can seem somewhat complicated. But once you’ve worked out which line is which, and at which stations you can make connections, things start to work themselves out. It’s important to remember that the map is not to scale – it is a visual representation of where stations are situated, rather than a geographical documentation. When planning your first route, find the station you are departing from and your intended destination, and then trace the lines between them. You can’t go too far wrong.
2. CONSULT THE MAP REGULARLY
Maps are posted around the London Underground, in station lobbies, connecting tunnels and on platforms. There are also free printed versions available which can fit into your pocket, and it makes sense to acquire one of these if you’re not entirely sure how to get to your destination. Each Tube train has a station list for the line printed inside the carriages above the windows, so you can check your progress during your journey.
3. BUY AN OYSTER CARD
Although you can still buy printed paper tickets for journeys on the Tube, it makes greater financial sense to acquire an Oyster card. This is a passenger debit card for the London Underground, which travellers can use to swipe in and out of stations. You are charged per journey, with a maximum daily fee applying for the benefit of people who make multiple journeys. It costs a small £5 deposit to acquire an Oyster card, but this price is worth paying. It entitles you to discounted travel around the London Underground and ensures you don’t overpay for public transport around the capital.
4. KEEP YOUR OYSTER CARD TOPPED UP
It’s important to add credit to your Oyster card, which you can do quickly and easily at the many ticket machines located at stations around the London Underground network. If you’ve got no money on your card, you won’t make it through the security gates, which can cause you to miss your desired train. It only takes a minute or so to perform a top-up, so it’s worth adding a few extra pounds when you get the chance. You can check how much money is in your account every time you exit a London Underground station – your account value is shown on the screen at the ticket gate. Once you are done avail the extra benefits of having a visitors oyster card.
5. LEAVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME
At peak times, such as the morning and evening commuter rushes, the London Underground network can get very busy. At some stations in the centre of the capital this can lead to queues and delays, so it’s important to ensure you allow plenty of time for your journey. Services come regularly, every few minutes at peak times, but if you are in a hurry there are no guarantees you’ll be able to get on the train you aim for.
6. FIND A SEAT ON THE TRAIN
You might be tempted to stand on the train, particularly if you’re only travelling a few stops. But it’s generally better to find a seat and relax during your journey. If you’re stood up you need to cling onto a handrail, otherwise you can easily lose your balance when the train brakes or accelerates. At peak times, there may be limited room for standing passengers, which can make for a cramped, uncomfortable journey.
7. BUT ALWAYS BE CHIVALROUS
Of course, this doesn’t always apply. At times, there may be passengers standing who could really do with sitting down on their journey – more than yourself. We’re talking about elderly people, pregnant women, parents with small children and those with disabilities. Sometimes, a little good deed goes a long way – imagine if you were in somebody else’s position.
8. FORGET ABOUT YOUR SMARTPHONE
You may be glued to your phone at most times of the day, but – for now – Tube trains offer sanctuary from voice calls and the mobile internet. Wi-Fi is now available in the majority of stations and on platforms, but once your train heads into the tunnels, you’ll be very lucky to get a signal. So don’t waste your time trying to call or get online, you’re better off burying your head in the newspaper or a good book instead.
9. LET THE DOORS OPEN THEMSELVES
There’s no need to press the ‘Open Door’ button on the London Underground as the doors on Tube trains now open automatically. If you press the button when the train arrives into a station, you’ll simply mark yourself out as being a novice passenger! Simply let the train do the work for you.
10. WAIT TO BOARD THE TRAIN
It is polite – and also practical – to allow passengers to depart from Tube services before you attempt to jump on your train. This ensures there is no clash of people traffic, heading in different directions, and that there is the maximum available room in each carriage. If you attempt to jump on the train while people are still climbing off, you can expect to receive a few unimpressed looks and even a harsh word or two from other passengers.