What you need to know before using the London Underground

Liverpool station

The London Underground is easily the most convenient and cost-effective way of getting around the English capital.

Widely referred to as ‘The Tube’, the Underground consists of 270 individual stations connected by more than 250 miles of track across 11 separate lines.

Liverpool street station
Around 1.34 billion passengers travel on the network every year, which means it can be very congested and overwhelmingly hectic at certain times.

But with these handy tips, you will be well prepared to tackle the Tube with confidence.

Pre-order an Oyster Card

If you’re not due to travel to London for another few weeks yet, then order your Oyster card as soon as you’ve finished reading this article.

An Oyster Card – the ultimate Tube-travelling ticket – is a contactless card that you top-up with credit and is really handy if you plan on travelling a lot during your trip to London.

By pre-ordering, you will be able to have a Visitor Oyster Card delivered right to your door. This means you’ll be able to use the Tube as soon as you arrive in London, rather than have the hassle of finding somewhere to buy a ticket. The Visitor Oyster Card is cheaper than a regular Oyster Card too.

Figure out your route beforehand (get a Tube map)

Before you hit the Tube, note which stations you need to change at and which lines they’re on.

The last thing you want to be do is dig out a map, looking hopelessly clueless, while hundreds of busy commuters whisk past.

If you’ve ever used the Metro in Paris or New York Subway, it’s a similar concept and you should get to grips with the London system very quickly.

For those staying at the Grand Royale London Hyde Park Hotel, the nearest Tube stations are Queensway (Central line), Lancaster Gate (Central) and Bayswater (Circle, District).

Travellers on the lookout for discount hotels near Hyde Park should consider Park Grand London Hyde Park, which is near the Royal Oak (Circle, Hammersmith & City) and Lancaster Gate stations.

Stand on the right

This is a big one. When using the escalators, stand on the right. Commuters and frequent Tube users who know exactly where they’re going will walk up the left-hand side of the staircase at a brisk pace and you really don’t want to get in their way.

This fundamental part of the Underground’s culture helps keep the network flowing and moving efficiently.

On a side note, when you reach the end of the escalator, move along. Standing at the top or bottom means you will become an obstacle for other people leaving the escalator and could cause a potentially dangerous build-up of people.

Have your ticket ready at the barrier

A basic one and similar to the last point, but it can frustrating for everyone when bottlenecks form around ticket barriers. Keep your Oyster card secure but easily accessible; this will help you get in and out of the stations quicker.

Mind the gap

You’re stood on the platform and your Tube train is due any second, stand at least a couple of metres space away from the edge of the platform because those trains can whizz in at some speed and injuries – even deaths – aren’t uncommon. Also, move down the platform; it’s likely to be less cramped down there.

‘Mind the gap’ is practically the Tube’s catchphrase and it’s always sound advice.

That gap between the train and platform may be small but you’d be surprised how many people get caught out by it. Always take extra care when stepping on or off the train, and wait for alighting passengers to leave the train before trying to get on.

On the Tube

When you’re actually on the Tube train, you may be wondering when your stop is coming up. Look above the carriage window and you’ll see all the stations on your line laid out. The train driver will also announce the upcoming station and which station it’s travelling to next.

If you realise that you’re heading the wrong way, don’t panic. Just get off at the next stop and get to the other side of the tracks.

Avoid rush hour

If you can avoid travelling on the Tube between 7.30-9.30am and 5.00-7.00pm, you should, because rush hour isn’t always pleasant as thousands of commuters head to their place of work.

If all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask

Some people may be in a rush but many will be ready and willing to help if you need pointing in the right direction.

Underground stations are generally well staffed so officers should usually be on hand to help.

If you’re struggling to find anyone, head to the entrance foyer where you’ll find free maps and information leaflets.