January 20

How to Use the London Underground


It’s the oldest in the world and its map resembles rainbow-coloured spaghetti, but don’t be intimidated. It’s easy to use the London Underground.

Top Tips for Using the London Underground

1)      Get a Map. Every station gives them out for free or you can find maps of the London Underground online here.

2)      Know which exit you want. Many of the central stations have several different exits, but they all have an ‘overland’ map available before you step above ground. The exits are labelled according to street names and famous attractions. Make use of the information!

3)      Closing time. The London Underground closes earlier than you might expect – just after midnight in many cases. Use this guide to check the first and last train for each line.

4)      Understand Zones. London Underground ticket prices depend upon which zone you want to travel through, numbered from 1 to 6 from the centre of London to the outskirts. Most attractions lie within zones 1 & 2. All London underground maps show these zones, so that you can tell in advance which zone you are in, which you want and how much you should pay.

5)      Understand the Lines. Each line has its own colour and name (eg Bakerloo in brown, Circle in yellow). Directions are described in terms of north or south, east or west, although each platform has a large map showing you where you are and which stops the next train will call at.

6- Queues. Queueing has been described as a British institution. If you’re not sure what ticket you need, join the queue. If you DO know – then use an automated ticket machine.

7- How long will it take? Start with an estimate of 10 minutes per journey, plus 2 minutes for each station in between. Allow around five minutes to change lines – and if you’re travelling for something important, then allow at least an hour overall, regardless.

8- Keep hold of your ticket. You need to feed it into the machine at the start – and then again at the end of your journey.

9- On the wrong train? Doesn’t matter. Every train has a map listing the stations for the line you are travelling on, plus a map that gives an overview of the whole system. If you’re heading in the wrong direction, get off and change platforms without passing through the ticket barriers. Head back the way you wanted.

10- Stand on the right on escalators – or risk the wrath of harried locals.

11) Avoid eye contact

while on the train. It’s just what you do.

12) Let people off the train before you try to get on to it (it depresses me that anyone needs this spelled out to them, but that’s the way of the world.)

13) Move right inside the carriages…in rush hour, space is tight. Walk on, walk on.

14) Ask. The streets of London are filled with people racing past you, doing anything to avoid eye contact. Don’t ask them. Instead, ask the station staff.

15) Enjoy. Using the London Underground is one way to really get to know the capital and its people. Look out for buskers, poetry, history, fashion and everyday life as Londoners travel across their city.

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