London’s famous red buses are running better than ever thanks to the new Congestion Charge. You can pick up a route map at any travel centre or tourist information office. At most bus stops you'll find an easy-to-understand bus plan telling you about all the routes that serve the area.
Night buses operate to and from Trafalgar Square and are the cheapest and easiest way to travel round the capital once the Tube shuts.
These days most of the buses are modern vehicles with wheelchair access, but you can still catch the classic Routemaster buses on routes number 9 and 15, which also take you past all the major sites.
Buses do not accept cash in central London. Either pay with an Oyster Card or tickets can be bought from machines next to most bus stops in the city centre. Any single journey, including central London (Zone 1), paid in cash costs £2. With an Oyster Card the fare is only £1.
A one-day bus and tram pass covering the whole of London costs just £3.80.
Several groups of people are entitled to discounted and free fares. Under 16s travel for free on buses, but 11-15-year-olds need an Oyster photocard. You can apply for these online and pick them up at a Travel Information Centre of your choice. They cost £5 and take about three weeks to process. Wheelchair users also enjoy free travel on buses and trams, as can 16-19-year-olds in full-time education who have a 16+ Oyster photocard. All other 16-17-year-olds are entitled to half price travel with the appropriate ID card.
When service first started in 1863 it made London Underground the first system of its kind anywhere in the world.
The Tube is a part of life for all Londoners and visitors to the capital. On average three million people use the Tube every single day. There are 270 stations serving over 402 km (249 miles) of railway.
Getting round London by Tube allows fast and easy access to the heart of the city without worrying about traffic jams or getting lost and gives you the freedom to roam at leisure. Master the Tube and you have the key to covering the capital.
The 12 colour-coded lines are open from around 5am till 12.30am Monday to Friday, and from 7am till 11pm on Sundays, although services do vary. To beat the rush hour, travel after 9.30am in the morning, and Travelcards are cheaper then too. The Underground network is divided into six zones, where Zone 1 is the most central.
The cheapest way of getting around London if you're a visitor is to buy a Travelcard. These can be purchased for a day, 3 days, a week, a month or a year and are valid on buses, Tubes, overland trains and the DLR.
Prices differ between zones, but most visitors to the centre only require Zones 1-2. Extensions can be bought for Zones 3–6.
Travel is cheaper and more convenient if you buy an Oyster Card (see below).
Heathrow airport is in Zone 6. Gatwick, Luton and Stansted airports are outside the Travelcard area but overland services easily connect them to the Tube. A DLR station at London City airport connects it with central London in just 22 minutes.
Single Zone 1: £1.60 (Oyster), £4.00 (cash)
Single Zones 1-2: £2.20 (Oyster), £4.00 (Cash)
One-day Travelcard Zones 1-2: £5.60 (off peak), £7.20 (peak)
Three-day Travelcard Zones 1-2: £18.40
Seven-day Travelcard Zones 1-2: £25.80
Seven-day Travelcard Zone 1-6: £47.60
One-month Travelcard Zones 1-2: £99.10
One-month Travelcard Zones 1-6: £182.80
Minicabs are a cheaper and more flexible alternative to the traditional Black Cab. The drivers might not have the same broad knowledge of the streets as the black cab drivers, but in the age of satellite navigation systems they rarely get lost!
However, never get into an unlicensed minicab. Late at night there are many unmarked cars roaming the streets looking for fares, but there is no way of knowing who's behind the wheel. If you are stuck, Cabwise is an excellent scheme where you can text 'CAB' to 60835* and receive the numbers of two licensed minicabs and a Black Cab firm in the area you are texting from.
*Text charged at 35p per enquiry plus standard text message rate.
Black Taxi Cabs
Travel through the capital in style in a traditional Black Cab (also called a Hackney Carriage). Nowadays, they're not all black, but they retain their distinctive shape and can all accommodate 5 people and wheelchairs. Drivers are required to pass a rigorous geography exam of London’s streets called 'The Knowledge'. London cabbies are renowned for their banter and tales of life in the capital.
An illuminated yellow light on the top will indicate when the cab is available for hire. They can be pre-booked by phone, procured at a stand or hailed on the street.
All London's Black Taxi Cabs are metered. Calculation of fares is highly complex. Only estimates can be made in advance as traffic conditions and time of day may affect prices. There is a flat rate fare of £2.20 and drivers expect a tip of at least 10%.
To pre-book a taxi call:
Radio Taxis: 020 7272 0272
The Oyster Card is London’s travel smart card. It’s the quickest and easiest way to travel on London’s public transport system. It is like a travel credit card which you can top up as and when you need.
Using an Oyster Card is by far the cheapest way to use London's transport system. For example, a cash single on the Tube is never less than £4, but it can cost as little as £1.60 with an Oyster Card. Similarly on the bus a single costs £1 with Oyster, but £2 in cash. There are similar discounts available across the network. As well as costing less, the Oyster Card means there are less queues.
You can get an Oyster Card at any Tube station, London Travel Information Centre, some National Rail stations and newsagents. It’s just a case of filling in a short form. You have to pay a £3 deposit for the card.
When you go through the ticket gates at any Tube, DLR, National Railway station or when you board a bus, you will see a yellow card reader. Touch your Oyster Card on it and the appropriate fare will be deducted. Your Oyster Card can store any type of ticket on it: Either take the pay-as-you-go option – using this you pay per journey, until you reach a fare cap, which is 50 pence less than what you would have paid for a one-day Travelcard. You can also add a day, three-day, weekly or monthly Travelcard or a bus pass to your Oyster.
Always make sure you touch in and out of all stations, even if the ticket gates are open. If you don’t, you will end up paying more than you should. Pay-as-you-go Oyster Cards are not accepted on some National Rail services so make sure you check before you travel, otherwise you could be fined.