I was having severe anxiety about using the London Underground, the most popular mode of transportation in the city. I seriously spent hours studying the tube map, trying to make sense of all the colorful lines. I had nightmares of flying ten hours to England and then not being able to navigate my way to the hotel or, even worse, to a good pub for English mushy peas. Yes. I have some issues.

London Tube Tips to Help Navigate the City’s Underground Transportation

1. Buy an Oyster Card

After much debate between the Travelcard or Oyster Card I opted for the later. Typically, purchasing either is much cheaper then just buying single tickets to each of your destinations. For 4 1/2 days of strictly London tube traveling, including two trips to the airport (zone 6), I loaded my card with $30 total. And I was underground…a lot. Which one is best for you? Check out the London Toolkits Travelcard vs. Oyster Card in this webpage to decide for yourself. But, I was more than happy with my choice.

2. Only Smart Cards Work at the Ticket Machine

A Smart Card looks just like a regular credit card except it contains an embedded microprocessor. They are more popular in Europe and this American gal did not have one, though it did take me four attempts to figure that out. In order to reload my Oyster Card, I had to pay at the in-person attendant.

London Underground Ticket Machine

3. Watch Out for Oncoming Traffic

When the train unloads, dozens of riders flood to the exit barriers. Step aside, do not block their way.

4. Have Your Card/Ticket Ready

Don’t approach the barrier gates unless you have your card or ticket ready. There is usually a line of people behind you who would like to get on and off the tube…quickly. My biggest hurdle was remembering that I needed my Oyster Card to exit too.

Entrance to the London Underground

5. Check the Underground Line Map

Double check the maps to make sure you have chosen the right line your destination. The stop that in bold is where you are at, simply find the stop you are going to and the color of the line it is on.
lines map for the London Underground

6. Stand to the Right

Stand to the right when riding the escalators. Peter got caught on the left and that is not a place you want to be unless you intend on getting shoved, nudged and bumped. Absolutely, under no circumstances, stand to the right and leave your luggage on the left.


7. Check that You are on the Right Side of the Tracks

You’ve checked the tube map to make sure you have chose the right line, but did you check to see if you were on the correct platform for the direction you are going?

8. Mind the Gap

“Mind the Gap” was easily my favorite London terminology. Much to Peters dismay, I repeated the saying every time I heard it. It is a warning for London Underground passengers to be aware of the gap between the train door and the platform.

9. Stand Behind the Yellow Line

Please stand behind the yellow line. Not only do you NOT want to fall into the tracks, but when the London tube stops it is almost a guarantee that loads of people will be getting off. Allow them to do so before getting on. Shame on you to all those folks with no patience who shove your way on, you know who you are.

10. Pay Attention to the Signs

The signs tell you which train will be arriving, in how many minute and which stop it is heading towards. Just because you have made your way to the right side of the tracks, doesn’t necessarily mean that all the trains on that track will be stopping at the same place.
Signs for the London Tube

11. Do NOT lean on the Poles

The poles inside thee London tube are meant for holding onto, not for leaning against. This was one rule that I had a hard timee abiding by.

12. Watch the Signs Before Exiting

Look out the window before exiting, there will be large signs that tell you what stop you are at. There is also a diagram inside the tube to indicate this.
Stops Sign for London Underground

Though the first day of my London Underground experience was frightening, by day two I was a semi-pro navigating my way throughout Zone 1 without committing any tube faux pas, besides maybe #11.

What was your experience like on the London Underground? Do you have any more tips to add?

Other Essential Information about the London Tube

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