Halfway through our United Kingdom adventure, we arrived at London's King Cross railway station and found ourselves attempting to use the infamous metro system, the London Underground (affectionately known as The Underground or the Tube). Our hotel was located across town, and being a thrifty traveler, I wasn't about to pay the fare for a taxi for two people with barely any luggage. Besides, how difficult could it be? Millions of people use The Underground every day, and we are smart people, right? Wrong. This was a semi-stressful event and a not-so-fun introduction to the city.

It turns out The Underground is not so complicated (even fairly easy) once you get the hang of it. I like to brag that after our initial journey, we were pros using the metro to get to all of the tourist attractions all over the city. Here are a few of my notes, and lessons learned, for using the London Underground: 

Learn how to use the map. This is the most important tool to understanding and using the metro system. Find your current station and the station closest to your destination. If the stations are on different lines, you'll need to change lines at a station where the two lines intersect. Note your direction of travel (e.g., westbound versus eastbound).

Buy your ticket at the ticket office or from a ticket machine. You have the choice of a single journey ticket or an anytime day ticket. If you plan to make more than a one-way trip per day, the all-day ticket is the most cost-effective option. If you're visiting London for more than a couple of days, consider looking into an Oyster card since the cash fares are expensive. A single journey ends when you exit a station's barrier; you can change lines as many times as necessary during one journey. Also, all the major tourist attractions are located in Zone 1. Note: Our credit card didn't work at the ticket machine since it did not have the European computer chip. 

Hold onto your ticket! You need your ticket to enter and exit the barriers at the stations. Insert your ticket into the barrier with the magnetic strip face down. The barrier will read the ticket and pop it back out for future use -  unless the ticket is no longer valid (e.g., you're exiting your single journey).

Don't hold your ticket next to anything magnetic (e.g., credit cards). This alters the ticket's magnetic strip, and the barrier won't be able to read it. If this happens to you, show your ticket to a London Underground staff member monitoring the barriers, and he/she will let you through the gate.

Stand to the right and walk to the left on escalatorsWalk briskly. People are on a mission. Read the signs directing you to the correct platforms or the way out.

Stand behind the yellow line when waiting for a train on the platform. This is a safety thing.

When the train doors open, let the passengers disembark before you enter the carriage. This is a courtesy thing. Walk further down the platform or wait for the next train if the carriage is full. You might be surprised how many people will squeeze into a carriage!

Toilets are not present at most Tube stations. Go before you start your journey.

Don't use flash photography. It can distract the driver.

And, finally, don't worry if you take the wrong train. It's part of the experience. Just find your bearings and reroute yourself.

Do you have any other tips for navigating the London Underground?


This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services, to personalize ads and to analyze traffic. Information about your use of this site is shared with Google. By using this site, you agree to its use of cookies. Click here to LEARN MORE