The London Underground - also known as The Tube - has trains that criss-cross London in the largest and oldest underground rail network in the world. The Tube is an easy method of transport even for new visitors to London.
Tube maps are freely available from any station, most tourist offices and are prominently displayed in stations and in the back of most diaries. The Tube is made up of 11 lines each bearing a traditional name and a standard colour on the Tube map.
Trains run from around 5:30am to about 1:00pm. They are usually the fastest way to travel in London, however they can get extremely crowded during rush hours (07:30-10:00 and 16:30-19:00). On warm days take a bottle of water with you. Also note that engineering works usually take place during weekends or the evening.
All lines are identified by name (Circle Line, Central Line, Piccadilly Line) and by colour (on maps). Many lines have multiple branches rather than running point-to-point so always to check the train’s destination (which is shown on the front of the train, the platform indicator screens and will be broadcast on the train’s PA).
Single tickets are charged at a premium (often costing only a little less than a 1-day travelcard). Single Oyster fares are charged by the number of zones crossed. Paper travel cards valid for 1 day, 3 days or 7 days are also available and can also be used on buses, National Rail trains, the DLR and Croydon Tramlink.
Oyster is a contactless electronic smartcard run by Transport for London. In general, Oyster is the more cost effective option than paper tickets if you plan to be in London for any more than a couple of days, or if you intend to make return visits to the city – the savings quickly recover the initial purchase cost. You can buy an Oyster Card from any Tube station and load it with a 7 Day Travelcards. You can “charge up” an Oyster card with electronic funds. This cash is then deducted according to where you travel. The cost of a single trip using the Oyster card is considerably less than buying a single paper ticket with cash. Prices vary depending on distance travelled, whether by bus or tube, and on the time of day. You can also add various electronic 1 week, 1 month and longer-period tickets onto the card, and the card is simply validated each time you use it. The deposit is fully refundable if you hand it in at the end of the trip. However, there is no expiry date on the Oyster Card or any pay-as-you-go credit on the card. If you have any pay-as-you-go credit left this will also be refunded.
You can charge up your Oyster card with electronic cash at any tube station ticket machine or ticket desk (you can even use a credit card to do this if your credit card has a PIN number) with Oyster pay-as-you-go, also known as PrePay. This money is then deducted from your card each time you get on a service. The fare is calculated based on your start and end points. Pay-as-you-go is much cheaper than paying in cash for each journey.
The amount of PrePay deducted from your Oyster card in one day is capped at the cost of the appropriate paper day ticket (day Travelcard) for the zones you have travelled through.
On the tube, be sure to touch in and touch out again at the end of your journey. If you forget to touch your Oyster card at the start and finish you will be charged extra!
Oyster also saves time getting onto buses. If you don’t have an Oyster, tickets have to be bought at a machine by the bus stop in the central area or from the driver if outside the central zone.
If you have a National Railcard, you can register this with your Oyster card at a Tube ticket office and then continue to receive special discounts on your TFL travel. So for every journey on the Underground/DLR/Overground you get 34% discount and also qualify for a daily price cap. Do note the discount applies only during off-peak times.