It’s half-term across much of England, and spring holidays elsewhere too, so Jess decided that she would write a useful post for any visitors to London…
Jess, aged 13, writes: As I have lived in London for my whole life, I would say that I’m fairly proficient at using public transport. London has some of the best public transport in the world, including a massive underground system, hundreds of bus routes, and thousands of bikes. However, last month, our family was shocked by the exorbitant prices that you have to pay to travel – when I didn’t have my Oyster Card with me, a one-stop return journey for a child was over £4! This lead me to think about all the tips for travelling in London that tourists don’t necessarily know. I hope they help you in your travels…
To travel in London, you can either buy tickets for single journeys (although these are very expensive) or you can get an Oyster card. To get onto a bus or tube train, you simply touch the Oyster card onto the yellow part of the ticket barrier, and walk through. You have to buy a ticket or a regular Oyster at the station, or you can order a Travel Oyster in advance. To find out which card is best for you, click here.
Visitor Oyster cards cost £3 each (plus postage), and you need to top them up with credit to use them. The minimum for this is £5. When your holiday is over and you no longer need your Oyster card, you can get a refund of your pay-as-you-go credit and your deposit.
Everyone aged 11 and over must have an Oyster card, although child fares are considerably cheaper than adult ones. You can no longer use cash on buses, so you must be aware of this! Lots of newsagents sell Oyster cards, and you can always ask at the nearest tube station. You can also pay by putting your credit card on the reader, although only specific cards are allowed. If you use a contactless credit card, you will be charged the same as an Oyster card.
There are two types of bus stops: compulsory stops and request stops. These are shown by the sign at the top of the stop – if it is a red logo on a white background, it is a compulsory stop, and the bus must stop there. If it is a white logo on a red background it is a request stop. The bus will only stop there if someone is getting off (press one of the bells), or if you indicate to the driver that you want to get on. Do this by sticking your arm out into the road when a bus is approaching.
Sometimes it’s better to walk around the city, especially in central London. Transport for London (TfL) recently published a map of the different tube stations in the centre of town, showing how long it takes the average person to walk between each one.
The shortest journey in the entire underground network is between Leicester Square and Covent Garden, and yet it is one of the most expensive. It costs £4 to travel 275m in 45 seconds – it is much easier to walk instead!
Officially called “Santander Cycles”, Boris Bike (named for the current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson) docking stations are all around central London, and for £2, you can get access to them for 24 hours. The first half an hour of every journey is free, and they are very useful for seeing places of London that buses can’t get to.
To take a bike out of a docking station, you use a credit or debit card. Select ‘Hire a cycle’, follow the on-screen instructions and take the printed release code. You can hire up to four bikes at a time. Boris Bikes are for short trips so, once you have paid the £2 bike access fee for the day, the first 30 minutes of each journey is free. Longer journeys cost £2 for each extra 30 minutes. Full instructions can be found here, and you can download this app that allows you to pay faster and easier without a machine.
Something that saves me on a daily basis when getting around is the TfL Journey Planner. You type in your start and end destinations, your desired methods of transport, and the time of your journey, and it creates the perfect route for you. It is so ridiculously useful, and helps me whenever I don’t know where I’m going.
Downloading bus and tube apps are also helpful, as they tell you when the next bus is coming. I use “London Bus Times Live” for my daily journey to school, but all of the apps work equally well. There are also apps to tell you when the trains are coming, but these aren’t as important as they generally come every two minutes.
I hope that these tips help when travelling around London. It’s a big city, but it’s not that bad when you know where you’re going!
Great things to do in London: