London Transportation from A to Z(ed)
I’ve been in London for almost three weeks now and I’m amazed by how fast the time has flown. Every day, I unearth some new cultural quirk, an idiosyncrasy about the UK that I didn’t see coming. Just yesterday I discovered that despite my misgivings, beans on toast is actually quite delicious, and pretty soon I think I’ll be able to pay for my groceries without having to read every single coin I give to the cashier.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks zig-zagging across the city and I realize now that getting to a city can be stressful but how you get around it is no walk in the park–well except for when it is. So below I’ve compiled a list of the most popular and frequently used modes of transportation around the city.
As you walk around the city, you’ll undoubtedly notice the long racks of bicycles with bright aqua blue wheel covers. Boris bikes, affectionately named after Boris Johnson (the London mayor in office when the bike program began), are available for public use and you simply pay for the time you ride. To borrow a bike for the day you simply swipe your credit card in the machine attached to the rack. When you’re done you can return the bike to any other Boris bike rack around the city (they’re all over the place) and with a final swipe of your credit card you can be on your way.
An hour or less on the bike only costs 1 pound, but the rate increases by about 4 pounds for every half hour after that. Also, be warned that bikers in the city must ride on the streets with traffic so you’ll be sharing the road way with taxis and the double decker buses. I’ve never been brave enough myself to give a Boris Bike a try but perhaps you’ve got more guts than me.
It is crowded but clean, fast, and reliable. These are not trains that just commuters use or those of us on a budget. Everyone—old young, professional and student alike on the tube. Make sure to check the tfl.gov website to make sure all of the trains you hope to ride are available for the day. The Tube is kept so nice because different parts of the line are often closed for cleaning and repairs. Note: The tube starts in the wee hours of the morning but stops running at midnight so if you’ll be out late, make sure to have alternate mode of transportation ready
These iconic red, double-decker buses will get you all over the city, and if you’re sitting on top, you’ll get some great views. Unlike, the tube, the bus system doesn’t shut down completely at night. Many night-buses still run through until the morning but be warned that if you’re riding at night it’s best to ride on the lower deck where the driver can keep an eye on things. It’s not terribly dangerous but often at night rowdy riders will stay up top and will cause a ruckus or be a bit intrusive making the ride uncomfortable.
Only taxis (black cabs) can be stopped by customers and can pick you up off the street. Even minicabs lined up outside pubs and clubs are breaking the law if they accept your fare without a booking being made first. You may be approached by minicab drivers seeking passengers or offering a service. Avoid these as they are unsafe, unlicensed, uninsured and illegal and you put yourself in danger if you use these services.
London is a very walkable city, consult a map or the internet to really find out how far spots are from each other. Many times I’ve waited for a bus or train when I could have walked the distance in a faster time. Plus while walking you get an up close and personal view of all the beautiful buildings,and must-sees. Hoofing it gives you a better sense of the city and you can stop to explore small shops or other fun places you might find along the way.
Other tips: Get an A-Z (pronounced Zed in the UK): it’s a map that indexes every street in the city even down to the smallest alley plus all of the tube stations are marked. It comes in handy while exploring the every confusing streets of London. (The medieval layout of the city has been maintained since Medieval times so a reliable map is a must. Londoners themselves trust most. It’s a couple of pounds and well worth the money as it will most definitely help you).
Also, an Oyster card can be used on the bus and tube. You can either buy a pass for a few days, a weeks, or a month, or simply purchase a card and add money to it as you need it. It’s much faster and sturdier than purchasing a paper ticket every time you want a ride and it will save you a lot of money if you plan to use the transportation system frequently.
London Transportation from A to Z(ed)