Category: (6)

Travel around London with the correct tickets

It is always worth investigating the various ways to pay when you travel around London on public transport, even if you are only visit London for a few days. Paying the full fare each time you travel, or getting the wrong kind of travel card will be more costly and much less convenient.  The ease of using a one day/weekly travel pass or an Oyster card makes everything run smoothly.

The Oyster Card

This card is not a ticket that you buy and hand in, it is a re-usable electronic or “smart” card which is used to pay for your journey on all the types of public transport in London.  For example the tube, the buses, DLR (Docklands Light Railway), trams, overground trains and river buses.

The two main methods here are the pay-as-you-go or by storing season-tickets on it.  Unlike the travel-card, you do not need a passport sized photograph to get an Oyster card. The pay-as-you-go method is by far the most convenient and cheapest way of travelling, especially for visitors and tourists who travel around London for between 1 – 5 days. Even if you only take fairly few journeys, it will be cheaper than paying the full fare, and so much more convenient. It is worth noting that if you visit London for between 5 – 7 days, and plan to use public transport every day, you may save money by using the weekly travel-card instead of the Oyster.

If you plan to travel on the underground at least 3 times in a day, you will benefit from the Oyster “daily cap”.  This means that there is a maximum amount that is deducted from your card for that day. The more you use it on the day, the cheaper each fare will be. There is an even cheaper daily cap if you travel only by bus for the day.  It is important to use the system properly and touch in and out with your card for each journey, otherwise you will be charged a full fare and will not benefit from capping. Even if there is no physical barrier to get through, or if you are let out at the wider barriers with luggage, etc, you MUST ALWAYS touch your card flat on the yellow card reader in the tube stations or on the bus. You will have to do this anyway to get through the barriers on the tube, but if you fail to do so for some reason, your journey will be more expensive, or you could be fined.

It is worth keeping your Oyster card after you visit London, as you can simply top it up again the next time you visit.  Otherwise, you have the option to get any money back that is still sitting in the card when you leave, along with the £5 deposit it costs to get the card initially.
You can buy your Oyster card, top it up, or check your balance at underground ticket machines, at many local newsagents (they usually have a sign in the window), at train station machines and offices, and London Underground Visitor Centres.

There is such a thing as a Visitor Oyster Card, which is slightly different to the normal version and is aimed at being beneficial for tourists who visit London. They are available online and can be booked ahead of your journey, which is handy if you are arriving very early or very late. It is also handy if you want to use it to travel from Heathrow or from London City Airport into the centre, as it is valid on both of these trips via train.  You will have to pay for postage to have the card sent to you and it will come pre-loaded, with a £3, non-refundable activation cost.  This card is only pay-as-you-go, you will not be able to load any travel cards onto it, but the cap function still works.
There are several discounts available in certain restaurants, sights and tourist attractions in central London if you show them your Oyster card.

 

Travel Cards

The Travel card is a transport pass that gives you unlimited travel around London within certain travel zones.  The price will vary depending on which zones you want to travel in.  The centre of London is zone 1, and each zone moves outwards all the way into zone 9.   You can check which zone you are in or need to get to online, or on a London Underground map. Travel cards are valid for 1 day, 7 days or 1 month. Use your travel card on the underground, Overground trains, suburban trains, DLR, buses, trams and river buses.  Any travel card will allow you to use the buses in all of the zones in London.
If for some reason you don’t have an oyster card, the one-day travel card will the cheapest option to use.  This ticket is cheaper than paying the full fare for three underground trips, for example, especially if you travel off peak times.

If you are in London for 6 or 7 days, the weekly travel card may be the cheapest option for you.  It can begin on any day of the week, and is valid for travel any time of the day.  If you do not load this option into an Oyster card, you will need a pass-port size photo to obtain the travel card.
Another interesting fact about weekly or monthly travel cards is that if you buy one from a train station, you will be given 2 for the price of 1 discounts at some of the major tourist attractions in London.  This does not apply if you have it loaded into your Oyster card.

When you visit London on an extended stay, the monthly travel card is an option. This card will not save you large amounts of money compared to buying four weekly cards, but it saves you renewing them each week.
Travel cards can be bought at underground station machines and offices, train stations, some newsagents and London Underground Visitor Centres.
Travel cards are inserted into the slot on the front of the ticket barrier. When you take the ticket out again from behind the yellow reader on the top, the barrier will open.  On the bus, simply show the travel card to the driver when you get on. Travel card website.

 

Bus tickets, cards and passes

You cannot use cash to pay for your fare on the bus.  You can use any of the following: an  Oyster card, a contactless debit or credit card, one day, weekly or monthly Travelcards, or a one day bus pass. Weekly and monthly bus passes are also available –  these are loaded onto your Oyster card.

If you plan to only travel around London on buses, it will be cheaper to use the pay as you go Oyster, or debit/credit contactless cards, than a Travelcard. You will be charged £1.50 for a single bus fare on your Oyster card. One last ride: If you don’t have £1.50 worth of credit left on your card, you can still use it.  When you then top up your card after that, the negative balance will be cleared.  This is a very convenient feature, as it means you can still take that last ride to get you home, despite not having the right amount of credit, and you will then be aware that you need to top up your card. Remember also that there is the bus cap, which means if you take 3 or more journeys that day, £4.50 is the maximum amount that will be deducted.

All children of age 11 and under travel for free on the busesIf you don’t have an Oyster card or a contactless card, you can buy a one-day bus pass which allows unlimited travel on the buses that day until 4.30 the following day.  If you are in London for 5, 6 or 7 days, and only plan to use the bus, a weekly bus pass may be your best option. This is good value and is cheaper than a Travelcard.  The pass can start on any day of the week and you will pay a deposit of £5.00 if you do not load it onto an Oyster card.  The same applies to a monthly bus pass.

The contactless card
This may not be the most convenient option for tourists or visitors, but if you would like to make use of this option, you will need to check if your credit card can be used in this way in London. Using a debit or credit card.

 

Ticket splitting

If you are travelling out of London, it may be more economical to buy two tickets for your journey as opposed to one.  We know that this sounds daft but it is a quirk of travel in the UK and worth mastering as you can save significant sums of money.

“Train fares and logic go together like marshmallows and tomato soup. Yet there’s a way to work the system and it’s totally legal.”  Martin Lewis, founder and editor of MoneySavingExpert.com, MailOnline.

The MailOnline and MoneySavingExpert both offer useful articles explaining this phenomenon.   Plus, there is no need to waste time trying to puzzle the cheapest journey – there are tools to do it for you!  Search online at MoneySavingExpert / Tickety Split or download the app from iTunes.

Visit London on public transport

London transport is one of the world’s largest and busiest systems and there are many ways to get to where you want to go. Transport for London (TfL) provide plenty of useful information about travelling on public transport and Londoners themselves are usually helpful. Don’t hesitate to ask TFL staff or fellow travellers for assistance if you need it.   When you visit London you can travel by underground (metro/subway), train, bus, bicycle, tram or riverboat!

The Underground aka The Tube

The most popular mode of London transport is the Underground.  This is London’s metro/subway system, and it is known as The Tube.  It is the fastest way to move around town unless your journey is a very short one, in which case walking, or hopping on a bus might be easier.  Londoners will complain about the tube but really, it is an amazing thing.  It is the oldest subway train system in the world (it was 1860 when the first trains started running) and it transports millions of people around every day of the week.

The tube’s general running hours are from 5.00 – 24.00,  Monday to Saturday, with a reduced service on Sundays.

There are 12 tube lines, each with their own name and colour.  Tube maps can be downloaded in pdf format from the TFL website.

There are 9 travel zones, with zone 1 being the most central, and moving outwards. The further into each zone you go from the centre, the more expensive it will be to get there. Zones 6 to 9 are on the outskirts of town.
As mentioned, the tube is not a 24 hour service so it worth checking to see if tube trains are running if you want to travel very early or very late.   It is also worth avoiding peak travel times and checking if there are any delays or diversions on your route if you  have to be somewhere at a certain time and want to avoid surprises.  TfL offer a journey planner on their website.

Using the tube is straightforward. Make sure you are on the right platform. If you find you are going in the wrong direction,just get off and go back the other way. Follow the signs when you get off a train to transfer to a different line, or to exit to get above ground again.

There are tube maps at all underground stations, also below ground.  There are useful screens on the platforms that inform you where the next train terminates, and how long before it arrives.  Public announcements will keep you up to date about any delays and changes in routine.

Take care on the platform and keep yourself, bags, belongings and children well behind the yellow line. It is customary to wait for passengers to get off a tube train, before the people on the platform get on.  It is chaotic and unpleasant when the people on the platform surge forward as soon as the train comes to a stop, blocking the way for those who want to get off.

One last word about escalator use on the underground.  If you want to stand still whilst going up or down, this is done on the right hand side and those who want to walk, do so on the left hand side.

 

Overground Trains

London Overground is a suburban rail network run by Transport for London with the trains running over ground and beyond the tube network.  You can use your Oyster card as a means of payment on these trains and they inter-connect with the tube.  They are represented by the colour orange on a tube or train map. Overground maps can also be found on the TFL website.

 

Mainline Trains

Mainline trains are suburban and they travel in and out of London from all of the mainline stations. This is usually a faster and cheaper way of getting to your desired destination than going by car or cab, especially if you are travelling to and from the London airports. National Rail website.
The mainline stations in London are: Waterloo, Paddington, King’s Cross, St Pancras, Euston, Charing Cross, Victoria, London Bridge, Fenchurch Street, Farringdon and Liverpool Street. All of these have direct tube links, except for Fenchurch Street.  You can use an Oyster card on some of these commuter trains, but not all.  If you visit London It is worth booking your ticket online and in advance to save money and to reserve a seat – please see our section devoted to tickets.

 

Docklands Light Railway

The Docklands Light Railway, or DLR is a driver-less, light metro system that was opened to serve the redeveloped Docklands area of east London.  It also runs to London City Airport.  There are 45 stations in total in the system and most of these are elevated or at street level, with a few running partly underground also. The fare system is the same as for the tube, with some DLR tickets only available, and tickets for the riverboats that go from DLR stations.

 

The buses

London transport will always be known for it’s red double-decker buses.  These days there are many kinds of buses in service –  many aren’t red, aren’t double-decker and only very few have conductors, now.  Tourists needn’t be wary of using the buses when they visit London. Travelling this way is one of the most pleasurable ways to get around and it is also the cheapest, besides walking or cycling!  The bus service in London has improved considerably in recent years. Sit back and enjoy the ride and the views of London’s neighbourhoods and sights, especially if you are moving around the centre of London.

When you visit London remember that you cannot pay your bus fare with cash on the bus.  You will need an Oyster card or you can use your debit card. The introduction of convenient travel cards such as the Oyster has made travelling this way much faster and easier than in years gone by. Now you will not wait around while people are scrabbling to find the right change to get on. You are not charged by zone if you travel by bus either, making it very cost-effective.

It is important to make sure you are on the correct side of the road so that you are heading in the right direction for your destination and also that you are at the correct stop to take a certain bus, so check the info posted at the stops. Buses will not stop at any bus stop…only at their own designated stops.  Sometimes a designated stop will be a “request stop.”  This will be clearly marked and this means you will need to hail the bus to make it stop as it approaches. The last stop that the bus makes will be written on it’s front and side, along with it’s route number.  Not all buses will go to the final destination on their route, so it is worth checking this before you get on.
Feel free to ask any locals waiting for the bus for assistance. Maps of bus routes.

The Routemaster bus
The famous and beloved Routemaster Bus deserves a mention. This is the most popular bus of all in central London and the one that many visitors associate with London.  These red double decker buses have an open back end and a conductor.  They disappeared completely for a while, but due to public demand have made a very welcome re-appearance, re-vamped and designed especially for use in the centre. There are two stair-cases inside and the back is open.  Take care when getting off the bus: make sure it is completely stationary and be aware of cyclists, pedestrians and motor-bikes around you, as well as traffic.  Conductors do not collect or check fares anymore, they are there to ensure passenger safety when getting on and off.  During off peak times, there may not be a conductor on the bus and the driver will control the opening and closing of the doors.

 

River buses

Some Londoners travel this way as part of their commute to work each day to beat the traffic and it can be a fast and frequent way to get around.  For the visitor and tourist river buses may be used more for the pleasure of being on the river and seeing the many familiar sights along the way than as a mode of London transport, but this can be a useful way to get around. Thames Clipper website.
Unlike river tours, there is no commentary on these trips, but refreshments are sold onboard and staff are available to help with boarding and disembarking. There are also apps to download which will make your phone into an audio guide for some of these trips, if you so desire.

Use your travel or Oyster card either for full or part payment for these journeys.

 

Trams

Tram use in present day London transport is very limited, but from 1860 to the 1950’s trams were in constant use in London, and were very popular.  Gradually this mode of public transport was replaced, but trams seem to be making a bit of a comeback in London with more routes planned for the near future.  Transport for London recently won an award for safety and security on the trams!

Tramlink was introduced to South London in 2000 and runs from Wimbledon to Croyden and Beckenham.
Access to the trams is step-free and is free for wheelchair users.  They run every 10 minutes from Mondays to Saturdays and the tram system has many similarities to the bus route system, which is good news.  You are not charged by zone and bus passes are valid on the trams. Travel cards and Oyster cards are also valid as forms of payment.  TFL – trams.

 

Cycle-hire

Cycling in London is increasingly popular and it can be a fun and cheap way to get around. We don’t really recommend that visitors and tourists take off gleefully on London’s streets on these bikes…once you see what traffic and driving can be like on the busy roads in the centre, we doubt many of you would want to do this anyway. You may enjoy bike hire for shorter journeys on the lanes through the parks, for example, on some of the super highways for bikes, or in quieter, more open parts of town, if the sun is shining!  Cycling is prohibited on pavements.
The bikes you rent from the Transport for London Santander Cycle Hire Scheme are known as Boris Bikes, named after the mayor of London who introduced them.  There are 700 docking stations for these bikes, including in many of the parks. They are safe and sturdy and have 3 gears and a journey of under 30 minutes is free.

 

Luggage storage when you visit London

London Luggage Storage

If you plan to visit London, luggage storage can be very convenient for visitors and tourists who have some time to spare in the capital before checking into their short let home or before their homeward journey.
You are able to store your bags or luggage at left luggage offices in some of London’s main train stations, at Victoria Coach Station and at other locations in the centre. There were once self-service lockers in some stations, but this is no longer the case in any of the main or underground stations in London.  It is important to check the times that these offices close.  Some of the offices inside shopping malls or museums may have a last collection time that is earlier than their general closing time.

Victoria coach station

If you visit London via Victoria Coach Station there is a luggage storage office opposite Gate 6.  The coach station is located on Buckingham Palace Road, which is under a ten minute walk from Victoria Station.  You don’t require a ticket to store bags here and it is inexpensive.  Victoria Coach Station facilities

Train stations

The following train stations have a luggage storage office run by Excess Baggage Company:
Victoria Station
Charing Cross Station
King’s Cross Station
Euston Station
St Pancras Station
Paddington Station
Waterloo Station
Liverpool Street Station
Access Self Storage, Kings Cross are on Belgrove Street opposite King’s Cross Station and have offer luggage storage facilities.

Shopping centres

If you visit London to shop, the Westfield Shopping Centres in Shepherd’s Bush and Stratford City also have luggage storage facilities.  Bags must be collected before closing time on the same day of depositing.

Museums

When you visit London museums, It is worth remembering that most of the large museums and galleries in the capital have cloakrooms and/or coin operated lockers. These will not be suitable for large bags and suitcases, but this facility can come in handy for storing smaller excess bags and big coats, making the time you spend in these places more comfortable. Check the various museum websites for more information.

The Latest Alternatives

If the holiday home you are staying in with us is a private residence there will be NO LUGGAGE STORAGE facilities in the building. Here are some luggage storage facilities in London which you may like to investigate.  Please note we are not recommending these companies. merely suggesting them as options:

CityStasher is a London-based start-up, it now has more than 60 left luggage facilities in London alone with ‘StashPoints’ spread across the UK and other main European cities, such as Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam. The locations are trusted local shops and hotels with extra space that have been thoroughly assessed for security. Prices are £6/day (you can add an extra 24 hours for £5 per bag) and every bag left is fitted with a security tag and insured for up to £750.

LuggageHero is another luggage storage provider in London. Travelers can leave luggage with LuggageHero by making use of its network of more than 110 local shops spread across important traffic hubs in London. Those include Victoria StationLiverpool Street Station, King’s CrossPiccadilly Circus, and downtown London.

How to transfer from the airports

Airport transfers into central London can be a daunting task, even if you have done so before and you are familiar with London’s transport system. When you visit London you may be overwhelmed by the various possibilities and unsure of the best way to get to where you will be staying, without spending a fortune or frazzling your already jet-lagged nerves!  We hope the following information and tips will make it easier for all travellers, even the experienced ones.

Heathrow Airport (LHR)

Heathrow Airport lies around 30 km from central London.  If you visit London via Heathrow you can get to and from the airport via London Underground (the tube), train, coach or taxi.

Via the Underground
Heathrow is unique in that it is on the tube, which is a quick, convenient and cheap way to get into central London.  The Piccadilly line (dark blue) runs into each terminal at the airport and it takes between 40 to 60 minutes to travel into central London, depending on your final stop. If your flight is very early or very late, make sure that the underground is running for your journey, as the Tube is not a 24 hour service.  If you have mobility problems, or are carrying a lot of heavy luggage, you may be better off on the train, coach or in a taxi. There is extra room for luggage on the tubes that run into Heathrow, but these spaces can fill up quickly with passengers at peak travel times.  If you are carrying quite a bit of luggage, it is worth remembering that there may be some stairs to climb at your final tube stop, as well as the usual escalators.  Not all tube stations have a lift.  Transport for London

Via coach
You may visit London on a coach, in which case National Express Coaches offer airport transfers to Victoria Coach Station, with one stop in Earl’s Court  (West Cromwell Road) on the way.  Victoria Coach Station is  on Buckingham Palace Road,  a few metres from Victoria station.
Travelling via coach is comfortable and can be a good choice if you are living in or close to these areas, or if you are travelling with a lot of luggage.  The journey time is between 40 to 60 minutes.  Save money on tickets if you book a return.  Tickets can be bought online, at Victoria Coach Station, can be sent to your phone, or can be picked up at a collection point.

Via train
There are two train services running from Heathrow into central London. This can be  the most convenient way to travel from the airport if you are staying in the Paddington, Lancaster Gate or Bayswater areas in central London.
The first option is the Heathrow Connect, which makes about 6 stops before ending up at Paddington Station.  The journey time is approximately 30 minutes and two trains run per hour.  This service is not as heavily promoted as the Heathrow Express, but it is a good, affordable way to get into central London.
The second train service is the Heathrow Express which is a direct train into Paddington Station.  It is faster but much more expensive than the Heathrow connect, with a journey time of 15 minutes. There are some good savings to be had on this service if you book online and book in advance.  Oyster cards can be used as a method of payment for this journey – more about Oyster cards later.

Via taxi’s
You can nor visit London and journey in a taxi! We have two types of taxis in London, the first and most famous being our classic Black Taxi’s. (black cab)  They are an institution and we love them.  You will be able to hail a black taxi as you walk out of the airport.  They charge on a meter and the price for your journey will calculate as you travel.  Your cabbie (driver) will be able to give you an estimate, but heavy traffic, road works and any unforeseen delays on your route can impact on the total rate.
We also have minicabs which are often normal saloon cars or people carriers. Minicabs have to be booked in advance and you will be given a rate for airport transfers upfront.  We use a minicab driver here at The London Agent who can be pre-booked to take you from the airport to your accommodation.  Please ask us about this option when making your booking.

 

Gatwick Airport (LGW)

Gatwick Airport lies around 45 kilometres away from central London, in East Sussex.  You can get to and from the airport via train, coach or cab.

Via coach
National Express Coaches run from Gatwick Airport to Victoria Coach Station. Victoria Coach Station is on Buckingham Palace Road, a few metres away from Victoria station.  Travelling via coach is comfortable and can be a good choice if you are living in or close to Victoria, or if you are travelling with quite a bit of luggage.  The journey time is between 60 – 90 minutes. Save money on the price of tickets if you book online and in advance.

Via train
There are three train services that run between Gatwick Airport and central London. They are the Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Southern Rail. Southern and Thameslink trains are normal commuter routes and may be very busy during peak travel times.
The Gatwick Express is a good and reliable service that runs directly to Victoria Station and has plenty of room for luggage, but it is more expensive than the commuter train links.  The journey time is approximately 25 minutes and you can save on ticket prices by booking online.

Via taxi’s
We have two types of taxis in London, the first and most famous being our classic Black Taxi’s.  They are an institution and we love them.  You will be able to hail a black taxi as you walk out of the airport.  They charge on a meter and the price for your journey will calculate as you travel.  Your cabbie (driver) will be able to give you an estimate but heavy traffic, road works and any unforeseen delays on your route can impact on the total rate.

We also have minicabs which are often normal saloon cars or people carriers. Minicabs have to be booked in advance and you will be given a rate for your journey upfront.  We use a minicab driver here at The London Agent who can be pre-booked to take you from the airport to your accommodation.  Please ask us about this option when making your booking.

 

Stansted Airport (STN)

London Stansted is 60 kilometres away from central London. You can get to and from this airport via coach or train. Stansted airport website. Stansted airport website

Via coach
National Express Coach is the cheapest way to get to and from this airport.  Prices are very reasonable, especially if you book ahead and there are stops in central, north and east London, plus a direct route from Stratford.  Travelling via coach is comfortable and can be a good choice if you are living in or close to the areas with pick-up points, or if you are travelling with quite a bit of luggage.  The journey time is between 45 to 100 minutes, depending on your stop.

Via train
The Stansted Express is the only train service that will take you to and from Stansted Airport. It is fast but more expensive than the coach. Trains go from Liverpool Street Station, with one stop at Tottenham Hale Station in north east London and then straight on to Stansted airport.  Travellers who have easy access to the Victoria line might want to embark or get off at Tottenham Hale. The journey time into Liverpool Street station is 45 minutes and 35 minutes to Tottenham Hale.
Please note that very early trains do not stop at Tottenham Hale Station and it is always worth checking about any road works if you are travelling on a weekend.

Via taxi’s
We have two types of taxis in London, the first and most famous being our classic Black Taxi’s.  They are an institution and we love them.  You will be able to hail a black taxi as you walk out of the airport.  They charge on a meter and the price for your journey will calculate as you travel.  Your cabbie (driver) will be able to give you an estimate but heavy traffic, road works and any unforeseen delays on your route can impact on the total rate.
We also have minicabs which are often normal saloon cars or people carriers. Minicabs have to be booked in advance and you will be given a rate for your journey upfront.  We use a minicab driver here at The London Agent who can be pre-booked to take you from the airport to your accommodation.  Please ask us about this option when making your booking.

 

Luton Airport (LUA)

Luton Airport is 50 km north-east of London. You can get to and from the airport by coach or train. This is the only major London airport that does not have it’s own train station.  There is a shuttle bus to the airport.

Via coach
National Express coaches run to Luton from Victoria Coach Station on Buckingham Palace Road, a few metres away from Victoria Station.   There are several pick up points in London along the way. The journey takes between 1 hour and 1 hour and a half depending on your stop. Travelling via coach is comfortable and can be a good choice if you are living in or close to the areas with pick-up points, or if you are travelling with quite a bit of luggage. Booking ahead and online can save you money.

Via train
As mentioned, there is no train station at Luton Airport.  A shuttle bus operates from Luton Parkway railway station every ten minutes between 5.00 a.m and midnight and the journey time to the airport is also 10 minutes.  There are two train companies that will get you to Luton Parkway station.  Thameslink and East Midlands Trains. Both of these run from St Pancras International station.  If you book online, select Luton Airport (LUA) as your point of departure or final destination and this will ensure that you have also paid for the shuttle bus.  National Rail website

 

London City Airport

London City is one of the most convenient London airports simply because of its close proximity to London, being located in the Docklands in east London.

Via Docklands Light Railway
The stop for the airport is London City Airport (zone 3) on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).  Trains for the DLR connect to the London Underground at various stops and you can use an Oyster card as payment on here.  DLR website

Via taxi’s
We have two types of taxis in London, the first and most famous being our classic Black Taxi’s.  They are an institution and we love them.  You will be able to hail a black taxi as you walk out of the airport.  They charge on a meter and the price for your journey will calculate as you travel.  Your cabbie (driver) will be able to give you an estimate but heavy traffic, road works and any unforeseen delays on your route can impact on the total rate.
We also have minicabs which are often normal saloon cars or people carriers. Minicabs have to be booked in advance and you will be given a rate for your journey upfront.  We use a minicab driver here at The London Agent who can be pre-booked for airport transfers to your accommodation.  Please ask us about this option when making your booking.