Back in the day, London's transportation system used to be a complete mess due to the rapidly growing population in London's city centre. Today, London's transportation system is one of the best in the world, and phrases like "Mind The Gap" have become synonymous with London's identity and culture.
There are several different options to choose from when it comes to deciding on what transportation to use when getting around London. From the fast and reliable London Underground system, to the countless bright red, double-decker buses that can be seen all around the city, first-time visitors can often feel overwhelmed when deciding on what transportation to use to get around London.
However, if you're unsure about how to get around the city during your stay in London, here are some tips to keep in mind before you make a final decision:
The London Underground (or "The Tube" as it is called amongst locals) carries more than one billion passengers every year, and is by far the most straight-forward way of getting around London. The eleven different routes help you get from point A to point B easily, and although you may have to transfer once or twice during your trip, it's still the easiest option when it comes to getting around London.
However, the tube is slightly more expensive when compared to other types of transportation in London, especially if you're buying a single, one-way ticket. Because of this, if you plan on using the London Underground more than once, it may be a good idea to purchase an all-day Travelcard or even an Oyster card, so you can save a ton of money on your overall transportation costs.
The London Underground runs between 5 a.m. to midnight, (although recently the city has introduced the Night Tube which has 24 hour services on Fridays and Saturdays along the Central, Victoria, Northern and Piccadilly lines). Each tube station has a map on the wall so you can see which line to take, and in which direction. You can also pick up your own free London underground map at any station, and there is always a member of staff at hand to answer any of your questions.
Sometimes there may be delays or interruptions which could make your travel time longer, and the majority of tube stations get incredibly busy during rush hours (between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., or 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.) so try to avoid taking the London underground during these hours.
People often complain that buses are slow and unreliable, but when it comes to buses in London, these statements couldn't be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, with approximately 7,500 different buses going to 19,500 stops, London's bus system remains to be one of the best in the world, and is a great way to see the sites while you're travelling from point A to point B; (oh yeah, and it's cheap too!)
Each bus stop has a detailed map and schedule so you can see which bus is coming next, and how often it arrives. Normally buses on each route run every three to ten minutes, although during peak hours some buses may be delayed.
You can purchase your ticket directly from the driver once you get on the bus, but you will need to pay in cash because drivers will not accept credit cards. Some bus stops may have machines where you can buy your tickets before boarding, but to be on the safe side you may want to keep a handful of change in your pocket, just in case.
If you're staying somewhere in the outskirts of central London, then you'll probably have to use the London Overground at some point or another.
London's Overground system is a relatively new invention, and was brought about in 2007 in order to provide better connections between the eastern and western areas of London's city centre. Today the London Overground serves 112 different stations, and travels through 23 different boroughs of London such as Hertfordshire, West Croydon, Dalston Junction, Shoreditch High Street, Euston, Barking, and many more.
The Overground network also interchanges with several of the tube lines, as well as the Docklands Light Railway, Tramlink, and TfL Rail network, and you can easily spot a London Overground line as they are coloured orange on a London tube map. The Overground's operating hours are quite similar to the Underground, but they are less frequent (with trains usually running every five to 20 minutes).
Before the invention of cars and long before the London Underground was around, people used to travel around London by boat along the River Thames. And although today getting around London by boat isn't the first option that comes to mind, it really should be.
Not only do you not have to worry about traffic delays or interruptions while taking a river bus along the River Thames, you can also sit back, relax, and enjoy the unspoiled views of London's major landmarks which line the River Thames, such as the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, The London Eye, and the Tower Bridge.
The river bus (or the MBNA Thames Clippers, as it's officially called), has departures every 20 minutes from the major piers along the river, although some routes may vary. There are over 20 different piers between Woolwich and Putney which are used for five different river bus routes, most of which run from very early in the morning to late in the evening; (although there are special services which run before and after events at the O2 in North Greenwich). Each river bus has toilet facilities, and many of them offer refreshments like hot and cold drinks and snacks as well.
You can purchase a ticket from a machine or ticket office seller on the pier before you board the boat, but if you plan on using the river bus more than once, it may be a good idea to buy a one-day River Roamer ticket so you can hop-on and hop-off at different pier stops throughout the day.
Many tourists and even locals avoid using London's taxis at all costs - because they come at such a high one.
But if you find yourself in desperate need of last-minute transportation with a group of friends late at night, you might find yourself biting the bullet and hailing down a cab.
Each taxi in London has a £2.40 minimum charge, and you can expect a trip of one mile to cost anywhere from £5.60 to £8.80 during peak hours, or £23 to £29 for ten kilometer journeys.
Taxi rates are at their highest at night, with rates being put up by 10% from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., and another 20% from 10 p.m. until the early hours of the morning. It's also customary to give the taxi driver a 10% tip, or at the very least round up to the nearest pound. Although some taxi drivers accept credit cards (with a 12.5% surcharge), most of the time they only accept cash.