Over 1.3 billion people travel on the London Underground each year, most of whom are busy commuters who have no time for pesky tourists getting in the way!
The Tube can be difficult to navigate at the best of times, even for a resident Londoner, with regular strikes and hordes of people to contend with.
But don’t let that put you off visiting one of the most amazing cities in the world!
Here’s 10 Travel Hacks For Using The London Underground As A Tourist:
1. Be Sure To Get A Good Platform PositionIt can be easier said than done, but the key to being first on to the Tube is getting a good platform position. See an area on the floor where the yellow platform edge line is slightly more worn away or dirty? This is because it’s where everybody gets on and off when the doors open, and that’s where you need to be perched if you want to be first on board!
2. Know Where The Carriage Doors Will StopStay ahead of everyone else and make sure you get on the Tube on the right carriage: the one that’ll stop right in front of the way out at your destination stop. Try the ‘Tube Exits’ app on iOS devices or ‘First Off The Tube’ as an Andoid alternative.
3. Give Yourself Plenty Of TimeThis sort of goes without saying, especially if you’re a newbie to London and its public transport network. We recommend you give yourself about an hour to make even the shortest of Tube journeys.
4. There Might Be A Quicker Way…It might seem strange not to use one of the most extensive Underground services in the world, but trust us, it’s not always the quickest way from A to B. If you can get your head around London busses, they could be your best friend, but sometimes, you simply can’t beat exercising your legs and walking
5. Avoid Card Clash Contactless payment has seemingly crept up on us all over the last couple of years, especially in London. However it caused chaos when it first launched, with many suffering from ‘card clash’, where both an Oyster card AND a credit/debit card were charged. One way to avoid this is to purchase an RFID blocking wallet or a DIY solution is just to keep an Oyster card in your phone case and flash that.
6. Learn Some ShortcutsThankfully for tourists, the Underground is very well signposted, but have you ever seen someone embrace their inner maverick and go against the signs? As an example, did you know there are tunnels to change lines at both Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus which can save you about 300 metres of walking time?
7. Avoid Interchange StationsWhilst it can’t always be avoided, try to avoid interchange stations. In particular, we’re thinking of Bank and Waterloo, where it has been known to take as long as 15 minutes to get across the stations. Paddington and Canary Wharf can also be a bit of a trek to change at.
8. Avoid Peak TimesThis makes sense just because of how manic the Tube can get during rush hour, but it’s also a lot cheaper. In terms of the Tube, ‘peak times’ refers to between 6:30am and 9:30am, and between these hours, pay-as-you-go fares are doubled.
9. Let everyone Know You Have A Baby On BoardIf you’re pregnant, navigating the Tube becomes that much harder, and you might be surprised at how few people are considerate to your situation. Thankfully, Transport for London can send you a free ‘Baby on Board’ badge which is perfect for letting other passengers know that you have a very good reason to need a seat.
10. Don’t Get Caught ShortIf you’re not from London, you may find it a bit of a culture shock being asked to pay for the privilege of going to the toilet. If possible, it’s best to wait until you can find a café or pub and just nip in for a coffee or a pint and use their facilities but if not, there are a number of toilets available on the network. Of course, navigating the station itself to find the toilets could be a whole other matter!