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How To Get Around London As A Tourist


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Jeannine Pauley



London, the capital city of England, is a vibrant and bustling metropolis, renowned for its rich history, iconic landmarks, and diverse culture. As a tourist, getting around this sprawling city can seem daunting at first, given its sheer size and complex transportation network. However, with a little bit of knowledge and planning, navigating London can be an exciting and seamless experience.


In this article, we will explore various modes of transportation available in London and provide useful tips on how to get around as a tourist. From the world-famous London Underground to iconic black cabs, reliable buses, and even cycling options, we will cover it all. So, let’s embark on an adventure and uncover the best ways to travel through this remarkable city.


But before we dive into the different transportation options, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the layout of London. The city is divided into zones, with Zone 1 being the most central and Zone 6 extending to the outskirts. Many of the popular tourist attractions, such as the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and the British Museum, are located in or near Zone 1.


Now that we have a general overview, let’s explore the various modes of transportation that London offers for tourists.


Using the London Underground

The London Underground, also known as the Tube, is the oldest underground railway network in the world and is an iconic symbol of the city. With its extensive coverage and frequent service, the Tube is a convenient and efficient way to travel around London.


The underground network is divided into several lines, with each line color-coded for easy identification. It connects all major areas of London, including popular tourist destinations. To use the Tube, you will need to purchase an Oyster card or a contactless payment card, which can be easily topped up with credit.


When planning your journey, it’s important to consider peak and off-peak travel times. Peak hours are weekdays from around 7:30 am to 9:30 am and 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm when the Underground can be crowded with commuters. Outside of these times, the Tube generally offers a more relaxed and comfortable travel experience.


As you navigate the Underground, make sure to follow the signs and announcements to ensure you’re boarding the correct train and getting off at the right station. The trains run frequently, with intervals ranging from a few minutes during peak times to slightly longer intervals during off-peak hours.


The London Underground is not just a transportation system; it’s also an opportunity to explore the fascinating history and art that is often found within the stations. Many of the stations feature unique architectural designs and artworks, so take the time to appreciate the beauty as you travel.


Overall, the London Underground is a reliable and convenient option for getting around the city. However, it’s important to note that not all areas of London are covered by the Underground. In such cases, alternative modes of transportation, such as buses or trains, may be required.


Exploring London by Bus

If you prefer a more scenic and above-ground option for exploring London, taking a bus is a fantastic way to soak in the city’s vibrant atmosphere. With a vast network of bus routes covering every nook and cranny of London, buses offer a unique perspective and allow you to see the city from a different angle.


London buses are easily recognizable with their iconic red design, and they operate throughout the day and night, ensuring you can travel at any time. Buses are an excellent choice for reaching destinations that may not be easily accessible by the Underground.


When it comes to paying for your bus fare, the same Oyster card or contactless payment card used for the Underground can be used on buses as well. Simply tap your card upon boarding and take a seat. If you don’t have a contactless card, you can also use cash to purchase a ticket directly from the driver. However, please note that buses no longer accept cash payments, so you’ll need to have the exact fare ready.


One of the advantages of traveling by bus is the opportunity to see the city’s landmarks and attractions along the way. As you make your way through London’s streets, you’ll catch a glimpse of iconic sites such as the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Houses of Parliament. It’s like having a mobile sightseeing tour!


When it’s time to get off the bus, simply press the bell or pull the cord to alert the driver. Since London bus stops are plentiful throughout the city, you won’t have trouble finding a stop nearby your desired destination.


It’s worth mentioning that London buses can get crowded during peak hours, so if possible, try to avoid traveling during the morning and evening rush. Opting for a seat on the top deck of a double-decker bus will give you a panoramic view of the city and make for a memorable journey.


Exploring London by bus offers a more leisurely and relaxed experience, allowing you to take in the sights and immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant energy as you travel from one destination to another.


Navigating the London Overground

If you’re looking to explore areas of London that are slightly further out or not covered by the Underground, the London Overground is an excellent option. The Overground is a suburban rail network that connects various parts of London and extends beyond the city’s borders.


The London Overground operates on a separate set of tracks from the Underground, providing a different perspective of the city as you travel. It offers a convenient way to visit neighborhoods such as Camden Town, Hackney, and Shoreditch, which are known for their vibrant art scenes and trendy markets.


To use the London Overground, you can use the same Oyster card or contactless payment card that you would use for the Tube or buses. Simply tap in and out at the station’s ticket barriers to pay for your journey. If you’re planning to use the Overground frequently, consider getting a Visitor Oyster card, which offers discounted fares and bonuses.


The Overground operates from early morning until late at night, with regular service intervals depending on the route. The trains are comfortable and spacious, making for a pleasant and relaxed journey as you move from one destination to another.


Like the Underground, the London Overground has its own unique architecture and charm. Many of the stations have been beautifully designed or restored, blending modern aesthetics with historical elements. So be sure to take a moment to appreciate the distinctive character of the stations as you travel.


While the Overground provides access to various areas of interest, it’s important to note that it may not be as frequent or extensive as the Underground network. Therefore, it’s advisable to check the route and schedule in advance, especially for less popular or remote areas.


Whether you’re venturing to the outskirts of London or exploring the hidden gems within the city, the London Overground offers a convenient and scenic way to reach your desired destinations, providing a unique glimpse into different parts of London’s diverse landscape.


Taking the Iconic Black Cabs

No visit to London would be complete without experiencing a ride in one of the city’s iconic black cabs. These traditional taxis have become synonymous with London and offer a unique and quintessentially British way to get around the city.


Black cabs are readily available throughout London and can be hailed on the street or found at designated taxi ranks. They are easily recognizable with their black exterior color and illuminated “taxi” sign on the roof. The drivers are known as “cabbies” and undergo rigorous training to obtain their license, ensuring a safe and knowledgeable journey.


One of the advantages of taking a black cab is the convenience and flexibility it offers. Unlike other modes of public transportation, black cabs can take you directly to your desired destination, making them an ideal choice for door-to-door service, especially when traveling with luggage or in a group.


Unlike other cities, black cabs in London operate on a metered fare system, meaning the cost of your journey is calculated based on distance and time traveled. The fares are regulated, so you can rest assured that you won’t be overcharged. However, it’s important to keep in mind that black cabs are generally more expensive compared to other transportation options, especially for longer distances.


What makes the black cab experience truly special is the wealth of knowledge possessed by the drivers. London cabbies undergo extensive training and are required to pass the infamous “Knowledge” test, which assesses their knowledge of the city’s streets and landmarks. This means that your cabbie can provide valuable insights and recommendations about the city, making your journey not only a means of transportation but also an opportunity to learn and discover more about London.


So, whether you’re heading to a specific destination, looking for a personalized tour of the city, or simply want to experience the nostalgia of riding in an iconic black cab, this mode of transport is a must-try for any visitor to London.


Using the Docklands Light Railway (DLR)

If you’re venturing to the eastern part of London, specifically the Docklands area, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is a convenient and efficient mode of transportation. The DLR is an automated light rail system that connects various parts of East London, including Canary Wharf, Greenwich, and Stratford.


Operating primarily above ground, the DLR offers stunning views of the city’s modern architecture and waterfront landscapes. With its sleek and futuristic design, the DLR is a unique way to travel and explore the less crowded areas of London.


The DLR is part of the Transport for London (TfL) network, and like other modes of public transportation in the city, you can use your Oyster card or contactless payment card to pay for your journey. Simply tap in and out at the station’s ticket barriers to calculate your fare.


One of the advantages of using the DLR is the frequency and reliability of service. Trains operate regularly, especially during peak hours, which ensures minimal waiting time for passengers. Additionally, the DLR is known for its spaciousness, making it comfortable even during busy periods.


While the DLR primarily serves the eastern part of London, it also connects to other transportation hubs, such as the London Underground and National Rail stations. This seamless integration allows for easy transfers and access to a wider network of destinations.


As you ride the DLR, you’ll notice that it offers a different perspective of London, showcasing a mix of modern developments and historic landmarks. From the towering skyscrapers of Canary Wharf to the historic Greenwich area, each stop on the DLR provides an opportunity to explore a unique part of London’s diverse landscape.


It’s also worth noting that the DLR is fully accessible, with step-free access available at most stations. This makes it an ideal mode of transportation for those with mobility constraints or travellers with bulky luggage.


Whether you’re heading to the bustling financial district of Canary Wharf or discovering the charm of Greenwich, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) offers a convenient and scenic way to navigate the eastern parts of London, bringing you to fascinating destinations while enjoying panoramic views along the way.


Traveling by Tram

If you’re looking for an alternative mode of transportation in London, consider traveling by tram. While the tram network in London may not be as extensive as the Underground or bus systems, it is a convenient option for reaching specific areas in South London.


The tram services in London are operated by Tramlink and cover destinations such as Croydon, Wimbledon, and Beckenham. Trams provide a reliable and efficient way to travel within these areas, offering a smooth and comfortable ride.


When using the tram, you can pay for your journey using the same Oyster card or contactless payment card that you would use for other forms of public transportation in London. Simply tap your card on the reader when boarding and exiting the tram to calculate your fare.


One of the advantages of traveling by tram is the dedicated track that allows for a consistent and uninterrupted journey. There is no need to worry about traffic congestion, as trams have their own right of way, ensuring a timely and efficient mode of transport.


Trams operate at regular intervals throughout the day, with even more frequent service during peak hours. These frequent departures mean you won’t have to wait long for the next tram to arrive, making it convenient for both residents and visitors alike.


One drawback of the tram network is its limited coverage. Trams primarily serve areas in South London, so if you’re planning to explore other parts of the city, you may need to consider alternative modes of transportation, such as the Underground or buses.


However, if you happen to be in the areas served by the tram network, it can be a cost-effective and efficient way to travel. It also offers a different perspective of the city, showcasing the diversity of South London’s neighborhoods and allowing you to discover hidden gems that you may have otherwise missed.


Whether you’re commuting to work or exploring the charming suburbs of South London, traveling by tram provides a reliable and convenient option. So, hop on board and enjoy the smooth ride while marveling at the sights along the way.


Getting Around with Santander Cycles

For those who enjoy exploring on two wheels, Santander Cycles, also known as “Boris Bikes” after former London Mayor Boris Johnson, offer a fun and eco-friendly way to navigate the city. This self-service bike-sharing scheme provides an exciting alternative to traditional modes of transportation in London.


Santander Cycles are available for rent from docking stations located throughout the city, making them easily accessible to both residents and tourists. To rent a bike, simply find a nearby docking station, insert your bank card, follow the on-screen instructions, and release the bike.


With over 750 docking stations spread across central London, you’ll never be too far away from a convenient pick-up or drop-off point. The bikes are available 24/7 and can be rented for as little as 24 hours or as long as an entire year, depending on your needs.


One of the advantages of using Santander Cycles is the freedom and flexibility it offers. You can cycle at your own pace, explore various neighborhoods, and pause whenever you stumble upon an intriguing attraction or picturesque setting.


London boasts an expanding network of cycle lanes and designated cycling paths, making it increasingly bike-friendly. However, it’s important to familiarize yourself with cycling laws and guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Always wear a helmet, follow traffic regulations, and be mindful of pedestrians and other vehicles on the road.


The cost of renting a Santander Cycle is affordable, with pricing based on the length of time you use the bike. The first 30 minutes of every journey are typically free, making it a cost-effective option for short rides. For longer journeys, there are additional charges, which are calculated based on the time you keep the bike.


Keep in mind that Santander Cycles are primarily designed for short, point-to-point journeys rather than long-distance rides. If you plan on cycling for an extended period or covering a significant distance, you may want to consider renting a bike from a dedicated bicycle rental shop.


Exploring London on a Santander Cycle allows you to immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant streets while enjoying the freedom and flexibility that comes with cycling. So, grab a bike, pedal your way through London’s charming neighborhoods, and create unforgettable memories as you navigate this remarkable city.


Exploring on Foot

One of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in the charm and character of London is by exploring on foot. With its captivating history, stunning architecture, and hidden alleyways, London is a city that begs to be discovered by leisurely strolls and meandering walks.


Exploring the city’s streets on foot allows you to take in the intricate details of London’s iconic landmarks and discover hidden gems that may not be visible from other modes of transportation. From the historic cobblestone streets of Covent Garden to the vibrant markets of Camden Town, there is a treasure trove of sights and experiences waiting to be uncovered.


London boasts a comprehensive network of pedestrian pathways, including charming parks, picturesque riverside walks, and bustling shopping streets. Whether you’re strolling along the serene South Bank of the River Thames or navigating the bustling streets of Oxford Street, there is always something new to see and experience.


Walking also allows you to easily navigate between popular attractions that are within close proximity to each other. For example, a leisurely walk from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace will take you through the picturesque St. James’s Park, offering breathtaking views and opportunities for a memorable photo or two.


As you explore on foot, keep an eye out for hidden spots and architectural marvels tucked away in the city’s nooks and crannies. From the charming mews streets of Notting Hill to the grandeur of the Georgian squares in Bloomsbury, London is a city that rewards those who are willing to wander off the beaten path.


While walking is a fantastic way to navigate central London, it’s important to wear comfortable shoes and be mindful of your surroundings. London is a bustling metropolis, and it’s essential to be aware of traffic, especially when crossing roads or navigating crowded areas.


London’s compact size makes it easily walkable, but don’t be afraid to utilize public transportation for longer distances or to explore areas further afield. The Underground, buses, and even water buses offer convenient options to navigate London, allowing you to combine walking with other modes of transportation for a comprehensive exploration.


So, lace up your shoes, grab a map or simply follow your curiosity, and embark on a walking adventure through the vibrant streets of London. Discover hidden gems, interact with locals, and immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere of this captivating city.


Hiring a Private Car or Taxi Service

If you prefer a more personalized and convenient mode of transportation in London, hiring a private car or taxi service is an excellent option. This allows you to enjoy the comforts and convenience of a dedicated vehicle while navigating the city at your own pace.


Private car and taxi services in London offer a range of options, from luxury vehicles to more affordable options, catering to different budgets and preferences. These services provide a door-to-door experience, eliminating the need to navigate public transportation or search for parking spaces.


There are several advantages to hiring a private car or taxi service. Firstly, it offers flexibility and convenience, allowing you to plan your itinerary and travel on your schedule. Whether you’re exploring multiple attractions in a day or attending business meetings across the city, a private car or taxi service can accommodate your needs.


Furthermore, hiring a private car or taxi service can be particularly beneficial when traveling with a group or carrying bulky luggage. These services offer spacious vehicles that can comfortably accommodate multiple passengers and their belongings, ensuring a comfortable journey without the hassle.


In terms of accessibility, private car and taxi services cater to individuals with mobility constraints, offering wheelchair-accessible vehicles upon request. This ensures that everyone can enjoy a seamless and inclusive transportation experience in London.


When it comes to payment, most private car and taxi services accept various forms of payment, including cash, credit cards, and contactless payment options. However, it’s always a good idea to confirm the accepted payment methods in advance to avoid any inconvenience.


When choosing a private car or taxi service, it’s essential to opt for licensed and reputable providers. Look for companies with positive reviews and reliable customer service, as this can greatly enhance your overall experience and ensure a safe and pleasant journey.


While private car and taxi services offer great convenience, they tend to be more expensive compared to other modes of transportation. It’s important to factor in the cost and weigh it against your specific needs and preferences before making a decision.


Whether you’re seeking comfort, convenience, or a more personalized transportation experience, hiring a private car or taxi service in London provides a reliable and stress-free way to navigate the city, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable journey from start to finish.



London, with its rich history, diverse culture, and iconic landmarks, offers a plethora of transportation options for tourists to explore and navigate the city. From the famous London Underground and iconic black cabs to buses, trams, and even cycling with Santander Cycles, each mode of transportation provides a unique and exciting way to experience London.


The London Underground, known as the Tube, is a convenient and extensive network that covers the majority of the city, allowing for easy access to popular tourist attractions and neighborhoods. Buses offer a more scenic and above-ground journey, providing glimpses of stunning landmarks as you make your way through London’s streets. The London Overground and Docklands Light Railway (DLR) provide efficient connections to the city’s outskirts and lesser-known areas.


For a touch of nostalgia, hopping into one of the iconic black cabs is a must, not only for the convenience of a personalized journey but also for the knowledge and expertise of the cabbies themselves. Exploring London on foot allows for a more intimate experience, where you can discover hidden gems, meander through charming alleyways, and appreciate the city’s captivating architecture up close.


Lastly, for those seeking a more leisurely and eco-friendly way to get around, Santander Cycles offer a fun and flexible option, allowing you to pedal your way through the city’s streets and enjoy the sights at your own pace.


While each mode of transportation has its own advantages and considerations, the choice ultimately depends on your specific needs, preferences, and the destinations you wish to visit. It’s worth planning your journey in advance and considering a combination of transportation options to optimize your time and experience in London.


Whether you’re exploring the historic landmarks of central London, venturing to the cultural hubs of the East, or wandering through the charming neighborhoods of the outskirts, London offers a comprehensive transportation network to cater to every adventurer’s needs.


So, grab an Oyster card, hail a black cab, or rent a Santander Cycle, and embark on a memorable journey through the vibrant streets of London, where every mode of transportation promises its own unique adventure and discovery.