Practical Life in London

Transport in London

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As one of the most popular destinations in the world, London is well served internationally and locally. It is well connected by road, rail and air. Transport for London offers a guide to all aspects of travel, as well as traffic updates, discount cards, and trip planner.


London's public transport system is touted as one of the best in the world and offers locals and tourists many options. The system revolves around the Underground (the Tube) which is the oldest metro system in the world, opened in 1863. More than 3 million passengers travel on the Underground every day, amounting to over 1 billion passenger journeys per year. It serves 270 stations and has 402 kilometers (250 miles) of track, making it the second largest metro after the Shanghai Metro.

Trains run from around 5:30am to 12:30am. They are the fastest way to travel in London, but the expense (fares are amongst the highest in Europe) and occasional stoppages are frequent complaints (in a very short time, anyone will become use the the "signal failures"). Rush hour (7:30-10:00 and 16:30-19:00) can create very crowded conditions and summer travel can offer very warm conditions.


Tube maps are available from any station, most tourist offices and are prominently displayed in stations.

    Line Names & Map Color
  1. Bakerloo line - Brown
  2. Central line - Red
  3. Circle line - Yellow
  4. District line - Green
  5. Hammersmith & City line - Pink
  6. Jubilee line - Silver
  7. Metropolitan line - Dark Magenta
  8. Northern line - Black
  9. Piccadilly line - Dark Blue
  10. Victoria line - Light Blue
  11. Waterloo & City line - Turquoise
  12. Overground - double orange lines (although part of the Tube, trains are different and not... underground)


Tickets are sold at staffed ticket offices and through ticket machines. Some ticket machines accept coins, notes and credit cards, some accept coins only, and some accept cards only.

Single tickets are charged £4.00 flat fare for journeys within or beyond Zone 1, or £3.00 for journeys outside of Zone 1. This is the most expensive way to travel as travelcards and oyster cards offer much better rates and this method is rarely used, and anyone will prefer to use an Oyster card.

    Pricing is devised according to the zones of London
  • Zone 1 - central, with a boundary just beyond the Circle line
  • Zone 6 - outermost, and includes London Heathrow Airport.
  • Zones 7–9 - Stations on the Metropolitan line outside Greater London

Travelcard - Travel ticket for unlimited use on the London Underground, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway, Tramlink, London Buses and National Rail services in the Greater London area. Travelcards can be purchased for a period of time varying from one day to a year, from Transport for London, National Rail and their agents. Paper tickets are inserted into the turnstile face-up into the slot on the front of the machine, then removed from the top. If you have a single-ticket it will be retained at the exit gate.
The cost of a Travelcard is determined by the area it covers and, for this purpose, London is divided into a number of fare zones. Depending on where it is purchased, and the length of validity, a Travelcard is either printed on a paper ticket with a magnetic stripe or encoded onto a reusable contactless electronic smart card, known as an Oyster card.

    Travelcard prices for zones 1-2 (April 2012)
  • Day Travelcard - Anytime: £8.40, Off-Peak £7
  • 7 Day Travelcard - £29.20 [Oyster card]
  • Monthly Travelcard - £112.20 [Oyster card]
  • Annual Travelcard - £1,168.00 [Oyster card]

Oyster Card - This smartcard with an embedded contactless RFID chip allows travelers to charge it with credit and use the card to pay for travel. It can be used on the Underground, the Overground, buses, trams, the Docklands Light Railway, and National Rail services within London.
This is a cheaper option than a travelcard and can be bought at any Tube station with a deposit of £5 (it is refunded when you give back the card, along with any cash remaining on the card). It works as an electronic wallet and you charge the card with some cash ("top up"), that will be debited as you take the public transports. The fare is calculated based on your start and end points with pay-as-you-go being cheaper than paying in cash for each journey. For instance, a cash tube one way in Zone 1 is £4.30, while with an Oyster Card it costs £2. If you pay by Oyster Card, just tap your card against the yellow pad to open the barriers (both upon entrance and exit).

Visitor tickets, similar to Oyster card, that you can get on the Eurostar or in some airport cost the same as normal Oysters, but are not refunded!



London is the center of British rail and the busiest and largest in Europe. There are 14 terminus stations, mostly serving areas of the city not served by the Underground.

    Major intercity termini:
  • Euston for the West Midlands, North Wales, North West England and Scotland including Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.
  • King's Cross for the East Midlands, Yorkshire, North East England and Scotland including Peterborough, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  • Liverpool Street for East Anglia including Ipswich, Norwich and Cambridge.
  • Charing Cross for South East England and the South Coast, including the Medway towns, Canterbury and Dover.
  • London Bridge for the same destinations as Charing Cross Station.
  • Paddington for South West England and South Wales including Reading, Bristol, Plymouth and Cardiff.
  • St. Pancras International for the East Midlands and Yorkshire including Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield. Additional services to Kent including Faversham, Dover, Ashford and Canterbury via High Speed services along High Speed 1. This is also the terminal for Eurostars going to Paris and Brussels.
  • Victoria for South East England and the South Coast, including Brighton, Canterbury and Dover.
  • Waterloo for South East England and the South Coast, including Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth and Weymouth.
  • Marylebone for the Chiltern Mainline, including Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Birmingham Snow Hill

International Services

Service is provided by Eurostar from St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord and Brussels Midi via the Channel Tunnel beneath the water, with intermediate stops at Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International in Kent and Lille Europe in Nord/Pas de Calais.
Journey Time:
Paris - 2 hours 15 minutes from London
Brussels - 1 hour 51 minutes away

Southeastern also operates high-speed commuter services using the HS1 line. It runs new 140 mph, Class 395 trains, from London St. Pancras to Faversham, North Kent and the Medway towns via Ebbsfleet, as well as to Folkestone and Dover Priory, to Canterbury and to Margate via Ebbsfleet and Ashford International. The highspeed trains serve all stations on HS1, including Stratford International (the only station on HS1 not to be served by Eurostar) and will in 2012 provide the Javelin shuttle service for visitors to the Olympic Games' main venue in Stratford.


Rail fares vary depending on distance, how far in advance the ticket is booked, and the class of travel. The further in advance tickets are booked, the better the price.

    Ticket Types
  • Anytime - travel on any train, any operator at any time, returning within one month with few restrictions. Most expensive option.
  • Off-Peak - travel on certain trains within a specific time-frame, returning within one month. Typically, this excludes anything that arrives into London during the morning rush hour (before 10:00).
  • Advance - travel on a specific day and train time, booked up to 12 weeks in advance either in person at a railway station, over the telephone or online. Tickets are non-refundable, and cannot be used on anything other than the date, train time and operator that is printed on the reservation.

Seats can be reserved for free on all long-distance trains to London. This is automatic with an Advance ticket, and usual with most Off-Peak and Anytime tickets bought online. If, for whatever reason you hold an Anytime or Off-Peak ticket and there is no seat reservation coupon, then it is highly recommended you get one from any railway station ticket office.



The classic red double-decker bus can still be found in London. Not just for tourists, the network is extensive and caters to locals throughout the city. The 700 different routes cater to more passengers than the Underground. While service diminishes at night, there is still night bus service running 24h/day on some lines (N).

TfL Buses contracts the bus system to private companies (such as Deutsch Bahn or French RATP). TfL sets the routes, frequencies, fares and vehicles, with companies bid to run these services for a fixed price for several years.

In 2012, a single bus ticket cost £2.30 by cash, but the vast majority of users have an Oyster card (£1.35 per journey) or a Travelpass.

Long-Distance Operators

There is international and domestic long distance bus services (coach). Most routes arrive and depart from stations off Buckingham Palace Road in Westminster, close to London Victoria rail station (Victoria Coach Station) or King’s Cross Coach Station.

  • National Express - Tel. 44 870 580 8080 Largest domestic coach operator. Advance ticketing is usually required and fares are generally low.
  • Eurolines - Tel. 44 870 514 3219 Associate company of National Express. Runs service to / from London with various cities in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and continental Europe. Advance ticketing is required.
  • Megabus - Tel. 44 900 160 0900 Operates budget coach services from/to London (Victoria Coach Station) and major cities.
  • Greyhound - Tel. 44 900 096 0000 Coach services with free wi-fi, newspapers and extra legroom. Booking in advance can result in cheap fares
  • Oxford Tube - as it says in the name, it goes from London to Oxford and run 24h/day (day return ticket = £16).


As a port town, London is accessible by water but most people only travel by water for leisure. Ocean-going vessels can travel as far as the London Bridge. However, this is changing. Passenger service is increasingly available as part of the London River Services. Options include river bus commuter services and a large number of leisure cruises operating on the river.

Boats are operated by private companies and they have a separate ticketing system from the rest of London transport. However, it is possible to use Oyster cards (pay-as-you-go or travelcard). A single with Oyster pay as you go discount is about £6.


London is one of the most served destination in the world when it comes to flights. The airport code for London's 5 airports is: LON.


Heathrow (IATA: LHR, ICAO: EGLL)
This is London and Europe's largest airport and the world's busiest airport in terms of international passenger movement.

Transport to/from Airport
Trains: Heathrow Connect rail travels between Paddington Station - Heathrow Terminal 1, 2, 3 & 4. Travelcard & Oyster card not valid to Heathrow. Does not serve Terminal 5. Follows same route as Heathrow Express, but stops at several intermediate stations to London Paddington so journey is 25 minutes and trains are less frequent than Heathrow Express. One way £7.90, round trip £15.80.
Shuttle: The fastest option, Heathrow Express rail, transports passengers between Paddington Station - Heathrow terminal 1, 2, 3 & 5. Trains depart every 15 min with a journey time of 15 minutes. Travelcard & Oyster card not valid. One way, adult prices: £16.50 (if purchased online) £18 (if purchased from ticket machine/office) and £23 if purchased onboard.
Metro: London Underground (Piccadilly line) is the least expensive option. Trains leave every few minutes with a journey time of approximately 1 hour. With Oyster card - one way £2.00-3.50 (depending on destination).
Another option is ULTra. This system is fully automatic, driver-less 'pods' which can be used for free at Heathrow airport. This is a quicker option than most at about 5-6 minutes travel time.
Night Bus: Bus N9 operates service from midnight to 5:00 between Heathrow and Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, roughly following the Piccadilly Line into Central London .
Drive: The airport is 17 miles (27 km) west of central London. The M4 motorway connects the airport to the city, but traffic can be quite heavy. In addition, there is a congestion charge.
Taxi: A taxi from Heathrow to central London will cost £45-60. There are two types of taxis: Black cabs (these can be hailed on a street or at a taxi rank) and licensed mini cabs (these are typically cheaper - but must be booked in advance over the phone or on the web).

London Gatwick

London Gatwick (IATA: LGW, ICAO: EGKK) is London's second airport.

Transport to/from Airport
Trains: Southern Railway trains departs every 15 min with a journey time 35-40 minutes. This option is cheaper than Gatwick Express at £13.50.
Shuttle: Gatwick Express departs every 15 minutes with a journey time of 30-35 minutes. One way tickets cost £18.90, round trip £33.20. The travelcard not valid.
Bus: National Express buses travel every 30 min with a journey time of 75-110 minutes depending on traffic. One way prices start from £7.
Drive: The airport is located 47 km (29 mi) outside of London and can be accessed by a motorway spur road at junction 9A of the M23, which links to the main M23 motorway 1 mi (1.6 km) east at junction 9. The M23 connects with London's orbital motorway, the M25, 9 mi (14 km) north. The airport has long and short-stay parking, although it fills up in the summer.
Taxi: Checker Cars is Gatwick Airport's official concessionaire. Taxis can be pre-booked with fares paid in advance, or by cash or credit card. Journey time by private taxi or Black Cab into central London is 60 - 70 minutes. Average cost from the airport into central London ranges from £78 - 98. There is also a meeting fee of approximately £7 to cover parking and waiting times.

London Stansted

Stanstead (ICAO: EGSS, IATA: STN) is London's 3rd airport and caters primarily to discount airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, RyanAir and AirAsia.

Transport to/from Airport
Trains: National Express from London Victoria and London Liverpool Street.
Shuttle: Stansted Express leaves every 15 min with a journey time of 45-60 minutes. One way tickets cost £20, round trip £27. Travelcard not valid. Most budget carriers's websites offer reduced price deals for the Stansted Express.
Bus: Coaches run throughout the day on the hour provided by Terravision. Tickets cost £9 one way.
National Express departs every 15-30 minutes with a journey time of 1 hour. Tickets are £8 one way, £14 round trip. Travelcard not valid
Drive: It takes approximately 60 minutes to get to central London from Stansted. Drivers are subject to the congestion charge.
Taxi: This airport is quite far from the city and journey time is 90-120 minutes. Most people would choose another form of transport, or at least another form of transportation to London Liverpool St and continue by taxi from there. Approximately £70.

Other Airports

  • London Luton - (ICAO: EGGW, IATA: LTN) Smaller than Stansted, this is still an useful London airport for low cost airlines. Over 10 million passenger fly through the airport each year.
  • London City Airport - (ICAO: EGLC, IATA: LCY) This is primarily a commuter airport and closest to the city's financial district.
  • London Southend Airport - (IATA: SEN, ICAO: EGMC) Developments are underway to make this airport London's sixth international airport.
  • London Ashford Airport - Also known as Lydd Airport, this site has seasonal, limited services
  • Southampton Airport - (IATA: SOU, ICAO: EGHI) Officially, this is not a London airport. It is accessible to London, especially the South West.


Taxis are easily available to hail on the street, as well as outside of tourist areas, transport hubs, or hotels. It is also possible to book cabs in advance by calling or booking online. Cab drivers have to take extensive tests to qualify and at least in theory, they should be able to navigate without reference to a map. As they do not charge for additional passengers, there fees are quite reasonable with a full car.

There are two basic types of taxis:

Classic black cab - Though not always black, these are the only ones licensed to "ply for hire" (i.e. pick people up off the street). Amber TAXI lights will alert you if they are available. These cabs charge by distance and by the minute and have a minimum charge of £2.20.

Minicabs - Private hire vehicles that need to be pre-booked. They generally charge a fixed fare for a journey that should be agreed before you start the trip. This is generally a cheaper option than black cabs (remember to always ask the price in advance, when you book the journey).

  • Addison Lee: 020 7387 8888 [just one of the biggest and cheapest mini-cab company. Say that you pay by cash (overwise you are a company)]

Tipping is not mandatory, but may be expected. Tip what you feel is appropriate and understand that Londoners usually round up to the nearest pound.

Transport of London offers a resource guide to cabs in the city. Cabwise is a free service provided by TFL which texts you local licensed minicab numbers. Text CAB to 60835. Costs the price of a text message.

Main Taxi Firms

  • One-Number Taxi: 0871 871 8710
  • Call-A-Cab: 020 8901 4444
  • Computer Cab: 020 7908 0207
  • DataCab: 020 7432 1540
  • Dial-A-Cab: 020 7253 5000
  • London Black Taxis: 07779 336 612
  • Radio Taxis: 020 7272 0272
  • Taxi Call Wimbledon: 0208 099 7711
  • Xeta: 0845 108 3000

Car Hire

Car rental can allow visitors to see the hidden parts of England. Rentals can be easily arranged online or at points of entry as most major car rental dealers are located at the airports, as well as major train stations. Competition is fierce so compare deals to find the one that works for you.

Expect to pay about £35-50/day. Car rental may require you to be over 21 years old, or require an additional deposit until the age of 25. All renters must have a valid driver's license (non-UK driving licence are valid for up to 12 months from the time of your last entry into the country), insurance certificate, vehicle registration, and passport to drive.

Car clubs

Car club services have been expanding both in London and across the UK. They provide a convenient way of getting a car for a short time as you will pay only for the hours you need. No need to pay for repairs, servicing andrenewing insurance, you will have to register first with the service (yearly fee ~£60) which will allow you to book a car online or by phone, weeks ahead or with just a few minutes notice, for anything from an hour to a weekend. Price starts usually at about five pounds an hour.

Driving Conditions

Like other places in the UK, driving is on the left side of the road. This can be confusing for foreign drivers so prepare mentally and be careful when driving. A guide to this and other rules can be found in the Highway Code at AA and RAC outlets or in bookshops.

Central London is difficult to navigate. Many Londoners prefer to take public transport rather than drive within the centre. Traffic can be quite bad during peak commuting hours of 7:30-9:30 and 16:00 - 19:00. The Highways Agency offers live traffic updates throughout the UK. Use a distance calculator to estimate fuel needs, time required, and distance.

Congestion Charge

A congestion charge seeks to lower traffic jams within the center and provide revenue for road infrastructure. The fee currently stands at £10/day for motorists traveling within the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ). It is the largest system within the UK, and one of the largest in the world.


Payment is required each day, for every vehicle traveling within the zone between 7:00 and 18:00 Monday through Friday. Most motorists pay by auto payment. Traveler's can do this by first registering (up to 5 vehicles). This allows the car to be driven within the zone and the fee automatically deducted from the registered user's credit/debit account once a month. It saves time, and offers a reduced daily charge of £9.

If found in non-payment, the fine is between 60 and 180 pounds.


Issues with parking and frequent ticketing are one of the many reasons people prefer to take public transport within the city. Parking restrictions typically apply between 8:30 and 18:30 Monday to Friday, and from 8:30 to 13:30 on Saturdays. "Pay & Display" schemes are common in the city, with many London Boroughs operating on a phone parking system where you can call and pay by mobile phone.
Outside of advertised restricted hours, parking on a single yellow line is permissible.
Parking on a red line or a double yellow line is never permissible.

Parking fines are generally between £50 - 80 if paid within 14 days. This rises to an average of £120 for late payments.

Park-and-rides are useful. There is a National Park and Ride Directory that helps users find a location.

For less than £100 per year (depending on the borough), you can get a resident parking permit, that allows you to park within your area. Rules are different according to the boroughs, but usually you will have to provide the followings:

  • a completed form (that you can find at your council),
  • a proof of residence (bill, tenancy agreement...),
  • driving licence,
  • vehicule card with our name/proof this is yours.


If you need to go to the pound, the best thing is to ask a black cab. He knows the address, and if you ask for a receipt, you can claim for a refund (minus £1) to the car pound.


It is compulsory to have car insurance. There are many companies, including banks which can provide car insurance. You can also look for through the Internet.


As anyone, you will probably buy the AtoZ for London, book of all the streets in London to find your way or check on Google Map.

UK Map:
Road Map:

Update 10/05/2012


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Car hire in London
Transport fares have raised by 75% for the past 4 years in London!

and the car hire prices have dropped, because of huge concurrence.
But you can hire a car and have a commfort, and drive through england with no worries.



Avoid the Oyster Visitor Card
If you are a tourist or come for a short visit, you might be offered to buy an Oyster Visitor Card (Eurostar provides the service, as an example). They might even tell you that you can use it with any transport system in London and it cost only a few pounds (the deposit?) in addition to charging the card (a pay-as-you-go system) with £10.

My advice: forget about it! First it is not possible to use it for all transport means. Most trains companies (privatised) don't accept yet the Oyster pay-as-you-go, so you will have to pay full price for using trains. In addition you will be debited each time you take a tube or a bus, so it can go quickly. In addition, they won't refund your "deposit" when you leave the country, unlike the normal Oyster Pay-as-you-go.

Instead, you will prefer to buy a daily travel card (e.g. zone 1-2 is £5.60 as of Feb 2009) for each day you want to travel. You can buy them in advance and get a single card for each different day, that you can use unlimited in ALL transports.



The most expensive transport system in the world!
A single Tube journey in zone one will cost £3 instead of £2 while a single bus journey will rise from £1.20 to £1.50, said Mayor Ken Livingstone. Only Oyster card users will see the price decreasing actually to cost £1.50 only for a zone 1 ticket.

In addition of that, the congestion charge for car used in centre London has raised recently from £5 to £8 a day.

Transport fares have raised by 75% for the past 4 years in London.

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