London is one of the largest cities in Europe with many attractions to see. So, I’m sure you will need to use the public transport to get around London. That is why I decided to collect all the information and tips you need to know about London public transport.
Along this article I answer the most common questions about the London public transport: how to use the London underground? What is an Oyster Card? How to use the Oyster card? Which one is better, an oyster card or a London travelcard? Also all the details, what are the underground and the overground ?, the price of the tube, peak fears, map with areas of the London tube and all the schedules.
But there is not only the London Underground, using the bus can also be a good option. That is why in this article I explain how the bus network in London works and what the price is.
I also recommend you to read “The best activities to do and the places you must see in London”.
How to get around London on public transport.
First you need to know, London offers a wide range of public transportation to get around the city. Choosing the best option depends on where you want to go, how quickly and how much you want to pay.
Each options is identified with a symbol, a circle with a line that crosses it in the middle. There are different color of the symbol allowing you to identify what kind of transport it is.
The different public transport at London are: London Underground (Tube), London Overground, DLR (Dockland Light Railway), Bus network, London River Services and London Tram.
London Public Transport: London Underground (Tube).
Perhaps one of the easiest and fastest ways to get around the city is using the London Underground. The famous Underground is the oldest metro network in the world and one of the largest.
Currently the London Underground has 11 lines. These are Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria and Waterloo & City.
Frequently, people also call the London Underground as “The Tube” due to its tube shape.
Additionally to the London underground, there are two suburban train lines that work as the Underground, the DLR and the London Overground. These two lines are automatic light rail systems that operate above ground but connect in the same way to the London Underground.
London public transport: Underground map and zones.
The London underground covers much of the city divided into 9 zones. Looking at the underground map you will notice that most of London’s tourist attractions are located in zones 1 and 2. Only a few are in further away zones such as Richmond Park or Kew Gardens. Another example is Heathrow Airport located in zone 6.
Keep in mind that the London Underground prices will depend on the zone where the trip begins and ends. So, sometimes it is necessary to take into account the location where to stay in London because sometime it could affect the traveler’s budget.
London Underground Hours.
Most London Underground lines operates from 5:00 to 00:30 Monday to Saturday. On Sundays and holidays runs from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
For those who want to party at the weekend, some of the underground lines operate at night using the Night Tube. On Fridays and Saturdays, the Jubilee, Victoria lines and most of the Piccadilly, Central and Northern lines.
Keep in mind that during week days from 6:30 am to 9:29 am and from 4:00 pm to 6:59 pm it’s considered “Peak time” and the value of the trip is more expensive. At any other time and on holidays it’s “off Peak” and the value of the trip is cheaper.
How to pay for the London Underground. Oyster card, Travelcard and contactless.
There are different ways to pay for a trip on the London Underground. Directly with a contactless credit or debit card, with an Oyster Card, a Travelcard or buying a single journey.
The most ineffective and expensive way to travel on the Underground is to buy the single ticket every time you travel. You should buy each ticket at the machines for £ 4.90 one-way trip.
The easiest way to get around London on public transport is by paying with a contactless card or buying one of the two cards, the Oyster Card or the Travelcard.
Pay the London Underground with contactless credit or debit card.
You can pay with any contactless credit or debit card. For cards issued outside the UK, you should check with the bank beforehand whether it accepts international payments and whether they charge any extra fees.
International AMEX, MasterCard, Maestro, Visa and V PAY enabled cards are accepted to pay for the London Underground and any other form of London transportation.
Simply bring the contactless card closer to the yellow card reader when entering the Underground and do it again when leaving it. The system automatically calculates the value of the trip and loads the corresponding amount on the card.
Do not forget to tap the reader with your card when you leave the underground. Otherwise the system cannot calculate the trip and will penalize you with the maximum fare £ 8.60. In addition, it is just as important to use the same card when entering and exiting the underground. If not, it will calculate two separate trips with a penalty.
Benefits of paying with Contactless:
The price is cheaper than the single ticket (£ 2.40 off Peak and £ 2.90 on Peak between zones 1 and 2).
It is faster as you don’t have to go to the machines to buy trips or load credit.
Pay for the London Underground with the Oyster Card.
The Oyster is a card that allows you to load credit to use every time you travel on the London Underground, DLR, London Overground, Red de buses, Tram and most TFL trains.
Where to buy an Oyster Card.
You Can buy the Oyster Cards at the machines where travel tickets are purchased at any Metro, DLR or Overground station and many Train stations. It can also be obtained at the TFL Visitor Centers, Travel Information Centers and Oyster ticket Shops.
Once the card is purchased, you can load all the credit you want without expiration.
The Oyster card price is £ 5. However, it is a refundable amount if you return the card.
How to use an Oyster Card.
Just bring the Oyster Card close to the yellow reader both when entering and leaving the London underground, DLR, Overground and Trains. The system automatically calculates the value of the trip and loads the corresponding amount on the card.
In the case of buses and trams, it is only necessary to touch the yellow reader only once.
We aware that the Oyster card cannot be used by two people at the same time on the same trip.
Rates with the Oyster Card.
A great benefit of using an Oyster Card to pay for the London Underground or any other public transport is the reduced value compared to a single ticket.
For example, with the Oyster Card the value of the simple metro trip is £ 2.40 off Peak and £ 2.90 on Peak moving between zones 1 and 2. Also, you no need to worrying about London zones since the card will always calculate automatically the corresponding value.
Regarding the bus network, the value for a one way trip paying with the Oyster Card is £ 1.50, whatever the zones.
One of the great benefits of the Oyster card is the “Daily Capping”. A system of daily maximum amounts to pay for transportation and zones. For example, the daily “Cap” for the London Underground traveling between zones 1 and 2 is £ 7.20. In other words, no more than £ 7.20 will be paid on the day, even if you travel more than 3 times.
In the case of the bus network, the daily CAP is £ 4.50. Which means that up to 3 daily bus trips will be paid, after that is free.
London public transport with children using the Oyster Card.
Children under the age of 11 ride for free on the London Underground, DLR, Overground, the Tfl train and bus network as long as they are accompanied by an adult using a Oyster Card. Up to 4 children under 11 years old are allowed per adult.
For children between 11 and 15 years old, you can request to include a variant in the Oyster Card so they pay 50% of what an adult pays. This configuration can be requested from any member of the London Underground staff or TfL Visitor Center.
For those over 15 and up to 18 years old, an Oyster Card +16 photo card can be requested online. This variant of the Oyster card allows you to move around London and get a 50% discount on the value of the trips. More information here.
Oyster Card return and refund.
If you won’t use the Oyster card anymore then it is possible to get a refund of the £ 5 card value and the remaining credit.
If the remaining credit is less than £ 10 then the Oyster Card can be returned at any machine and the balance plus the £ 5 of the card can be recovered (Only after 48 hours since the first time usage). Otherwise you can ask for the refund at any of the TFL Visitor Centers (Only after 24 hours since the first time usage).
However, if the remaining credit is greater than £ 10 then the balance plus the £ 5 of the card can be only recovered at any of the TFL Visitor Centers.
Benefits of paying with Oyster Card:
Travel is cheaper than a single ticket.
It has a “Capping” system or maximum amounts per day (by type of transport and areas) that allows unlimited trips from a certain value.
There is no need to worry about the areas where you travel as the Oyster Card automatically calculates the correct value.
The Oyster Card and the loaded credit do not expire.
Both the value of the Oyster card and the remaining credit can be reimbursed.
Pay for the London Underground with a Travelcard.
The TravelCard is another type of subscription but in paper format that is used to travel on the metro, DLR, Overground, bus network, tram and Tlf trains.
The TravelCard allows unlimited travel during the period and the zones that was purchased. There are different variants of the TravelCard depending on the period and the zones.
1 Day TravelCard.
Anytime Day TravelCard: Allows travel at any time of the day for the specific date it was purchased. You can choose between zones 1 to 4 or 1 to 6. The value of the TravelCard is £ 13.5 or £ 19.1 respectively.
Off Peak Day TravelCard: Allows you to travel from 9:30 a.m. from Monday to Friday and throughout the day on Saturdays and Sundays. It depends on the date for which it was purchased. For zones 1 to 6 only. The value of the TravelCard is £ 13.5.
7 Days TravelCard Anytime.
You can choose the specific zones you want to travel. The value of the TravelCard depends on the chosen zone and could cost from £ 13.5 to £ 66.
It is possible to purchase a 7 Days TravelCard included in an Oyster Card. In other words, an Oyster Card that includes a TravelCard.
Travel to or from the airport with a TravelCard.
Heathrow is the only London airport that allows you to connect the city center with a TravelCard. However you must buy a TravelCard that includes zone 6. All other London airports like Gatwick, Stansted or Luton, it is not possible to travel with a TravelCard.
Where to buy a TravelCard.
You can purchase TravelCard cards at London Underground stations, in the same place where a single ticket would be purchased. You can also buy it at the TFL Visitor Centers, Travel Information Centers.
If you buy the 7 Days TravelCard included in an Oyster Card at the underground machines, you will pay £ 5 for the Oyster which is then refunded.
London public transport with children using a TravelCard.
Children under the age of 11 ride for free on the London Underground, DLR, Overground, the Tfl train and bus network as long as they are accompanied by an adult using a TravelCard. Up to 4 children under 11 years old are allowed per adult.
Children between 11 and 15 years old can buy the same TravelCard variants as an adult but 50% cheaper. For example, the Children’s TravelCard 1-Day Anytime card costs £ 6.7
Benefits of paying with TravelCard:
You can travel unlimitedly on the dates and areas chosen.
You save time as you don’t need to go to the machines and buy trips or load credit.
What is convenient to move around London. Oyster or TravelCard.
In almost all possible scenarios, the Oyster Card is the best option. The Oyster daily Capping always grants you to pay less than a TravelCard. In the worst scenario you will pay the same as a TravelCard.
In addition, choosing the Oyster Card London there is no need to worry about the zones you are traveling. The Oyster Card will automatically calculate the correct value. On the other hand, with the TravelCard you are allowed to travel only between the zones previously chosen for the card. In case you need to travel further, you must pay separately for the zones not covered by the TravelCard.
Even the refund option, both for unused credit and card value, favors the choice of an Oyster compared to the TravelCard.
In the event that you are only 1 day in London and the Oyster cannot be returned, it may be advisable to choose a 1 Day TravelCard.
London Public Transport: London bus network.
The bus network may not be as fast as the tube but it has other advantages that make it a very good option when moving around London.
Some of the advantages of traveling by bus around London are:
Lets enjoy the trip admiring the city through the window.
The experience of traveling in one of the mythical red double deck buses.
You can reach any point in the city.
It is cheaper than the London Underground.
It works around the clock without differentiate between Peak and off Peak.
How to pay for the bus in London.
Traveling by bus around London is extremely simple. The stops are perfectly signposted. It operate 24 hours a day (network of day and night buses) and generally is on schedule.
The first thing to know is that you cannot pay the bus ticket with cash.
The options to pay for the bus are with an Oyster Card or with a TravelCard. Ticket value is £ 1.5 and can be combined with a second bus within one hour at no additional cost.
Children under 11 years old always travel for free. For children from 11 to 16 the values of the card used to pay run (see Oyster or TravelCard above).
In the case of the bus network, the daily CAP with an Oyster Card is £ 4.50. Which means that up to 3 daily bus trips will be paid, after that it’s free.
London public transport: How to use the London bus.
When entering any bus, the first thing to do is approach one of the cards to the yellow readers. Even if you get on a second bus within one hour since the system will automatically calculate the correct value.
The buses dont stop anywhere other than the established stops, so if you want to stop the bus, you must press one of the red buttons inside.
The bus network changes according to the time of day, there is a day and night bus network. Some bus lines operate equally 24 hours.
You can check the daytime bus network here.
You can check the night bus network here.
It is also possible to check and plan the trips on the London bus online through the Transport for London Journey Planner.
I hope this “How to get around London by public transport” guide has been helpful to you. Any question or information you want to share can be left in the comments section. Thank you!