One of the best things about London is how good the public transport system.
In fact, for such a big city there are a lot of great ways to get around London!
If this is your first time visiting London, then it may seem daunting at first.
Should you use the underground?
The black cabs?
Time to stop stressing. I’ve broken everything down below to make it as straightforward as possible.
Helping you enjoy your time in London to the max (and hopefully save a bit of money too!).
Let’s get straight into it …
Let's start with (what is in my opinion) the best way to get around London, the London Underground. Although it’s more commonly known as the “tube” to everyday commuters.
London’s underground network is the oldest underground service in the world and has been transporting people around London since 1863!
There are 11 lines in the underground covering 272 stations all across the city so it's likely you will be using the tube during your trip. While it might seem overwhelming at first, the London underground is actually pretty simple, once you get the hang of it.
The tube is by far the fastest and most convenient way to get around London. Pretty much anywhere on your London itinerary will be accessible via underground and trains come every two to five minutes and run quite late into the night.
Each tube line is displayed as a different colour on the tube map, which you can view here. Every station where you can switch to a different line has a larger circle on the map.
Make sure you know your north, south, east and west before trying to navigate as this will dictate which platform you need to head to for the right direction.
This will let you plan your route beforehand so you know which stop you’re getting on and off at as well as how long it will take. Simply type in where you want to go, click public transport and follow the directions.
Both of these apps will tell you which line you need and where you might need to change lines.
Luckily all the tube stations are well-signposted. Different train lines and London landmarks always have staff willing to point you in the right direction if you do get a bit lost. If either that or the information desk fails, just ask any number of the employees in the variety of shops.
There are various overground train services like Docklands light railway (DLR), Thameslink and the London Overground line. These work similarly to the tube system but run on predominantly overground lines and operate mainly in the further out zones.
The overground is a great alternative to the tube as they are usually a lot less busy and less claustrophobic.
Just like the underground, you pay by tapping in at the barriers and tapping out at your destination.
However, if you go so far on the overground that you end up going out of London, you will have to purchase a ticket for your whole journey, you can do this by either buying one at the station or using the Trainline app; which is great for getting the best deals on tickets.
On the National Rail map, overground lines are shown with a dotted line, unlike the tube lines which are solid-coloured lines.
London's iconic red double-decker buses are an ideal way to get around. With over 19,000 bus stops and 700 routes, you can get just about anywhere in London via bus.
Not only is getting around via bus convenient, it is also really affordable! One ride on the bus will cost you a flat rate of £1.65 and if you are taking multiple, it will never cost you more than £5 a day.
The night bus service in London is great with a lot of routes running 24 hours making it a perfect way of getting around if you're planning to experience some of London’s nightlife - which I recommend you do! You can view London's night bus map here.
The only downside to getting the bus is that it does take a long time, especially for long distances. Unfortunately, buses do get stuck in London traffic and even short trips can take a little while. But if you aren't in a rush, buses are ideal.
Walking is by far my favourite way to get around London! Now obviously, London is a big city and realistically you can't get around just by walking, but a lot of it is very walkable.
Whether you are walking along the river at South Bank or exploring the cobbled streets of Covent Garden, some of the best hidden spots are best found on foot.
Comfortable shoes should be top of your London packing list as I would definitely recommend walking as much as you can!
Unless you are planning on staying or spending time in south London you will probably not see a tram.
London trams run regularly between Wimbledon, Croydon, Beckenham and New Addington and is an affordable way of getting between these locations as it only costs £1.65.
London riverboat services are an amazing way to see and get around the city.
Not only do you skip out on the busy London traffic but you also get to see the city’s famous landmarks from the water.
Uber Boat (also known as the Thames Clipper) is popular with both tourists and commuters. Not only is it speedy with the best views but it has several stops along the river making it an ideal way to get around!
Getting around London by boat is a slightly more pricey option with a single fare starting at £4.80 but it is a great experience.
If you are looking for a slower, more scenic trip along the Thames, I would recommend booking a guided boat tour this this as there are some amazing attractions that you can see along the way. This includes the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and Tower Bridge.
Riding in a London black cab is on a lot of people’s London bucket lists and while it is not the cheapest option, it is somewhat iconic!
London’s taxi drivers are usually very helpful as they know the city very well and are often used by tourists.
I am sorry to disappoint but not all of London’s cabs are black but they do all look quite similar. They are easily noticeable with the yellow taxi sign on the roof and when lit, they are available to hail. This is quite easy, just locate an available one by putting your arm out or wave and they will usually stop and ask where you would like to go.
All of London's cabs are licensed and run on a meter usually starting at around £4, depending on the time. Be careful though as these do rise quite quickly over longer distances.
You can pay for your cab at the end of your journey by either card or cash.
Taxis are one of the most expensive ways to get around London but they do come in handy after a long day of exploring when you want to get from A to B stress-free.
Ride hailing apps like Uber and Grab have somewhat taken over the taxi scene and are regularly used in London. It is a great alternative as you can see how much your full journey will cost before actually booking it.
While not as glamorous, booking an Uber is often more affordable than a black cab and slightly more convenient as you can book a driver from your exact location.
There are always cars available 24/7 so it is a handy way to catch a late flight or to get back to your hotel after a night out.
London is becoming more and more of a bikeable city and cycling is a fun and fast way of getting around the city!
Although the roads and busy traffic might seem daunting at first, the city has been improving their cycle lanes in recent years to try to encourage more commuters and tourists to cycle.
Santander Cycles, also known as Boris Bikes, is the best way to rent a bike in London. You will see these Santander cycle ranks all across the city, here you cant rent a bicycle for £1.65 for 30 minutes and return to any other cycle rank.
The best way to use these is to download the Santander Cycle app to find pick up and drop off points. A great travel tip for saving money, if you return your bike and rent a different one within that 30 minutes, you will not be charged again so you cant rent endless bikes within a 24hr period for only £1.65.
I would recommend renting a bike to explore some of the beautiful parks around London.
London is one of those cities where you really do not need a car to explore!
The public transport system is amazing and the city tries its best to prevent people from driving as much as possible. This includes congestion charges and low emissions zones which you have to pay to drive through. Not to mention the expensive, and lack-of parking!
Be sure to look up the congestion charge zones before thinking about driving in London.
Even if you are looking to do some day trips from London to other parts of the UK, you will either be able to book a tour or get there via train.
However, if your heart is set on driving yourself, then you can check out our guide on the best car rentals in London.
The transport system in London runs on a zone system. All the locations within London are in a dedicated zone (1 to 9) which dictates the cost of transport.
If you are visiting London as a tourist, most of the city’s main attractions such as the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square are located in zone 1 and 2. Unless your accommodation is further out, you will likely stay within these zones.
If you are travelling out of zones 1 and 2, expect slightly more expensive rail travel, but the bus prices remain the same.
Transport in London is best paid for by contactless card as this allows you to tap in and out of trains and buses.
If you do not have a contactless card, Oyster Cards can be purchased from news agents or in some larger train stations where you can load money onto them and use them the same as you would a contactless card. Alternatively, you can use your mobile phone to pay as you would in a shop.
Overground and Underground stations have barriers with a yellow contactless sign which you simply tap and the barrier will open. Do not forget to tap out even if the barriers are open when using trains or you might be charged the train's full route!
For buses you only need to tap on, not off as the buses have a standard fare no matter how far you travel.
If you are travelling in London for more than three days within a week, it might work out more cost-effective to buy a full day ticket. You can pick what zones you will be travelling between and buy an unlimited day travel card from any train or tube station in London.
The quickest way into the city is to take the Heathrow Express train which runs straight to Paddington every 15 minutes.
Alternatively, you can get the underground which is the cheapest option. The Piccadilly line runs from every terminal and will get you into central London in just under an hour. Alternatively, the brand new Elizabeth Line runs through central and into east London.
There are a few options for getting from Gatwick to central London. The Gatwick Express runs non stop to London Victoria station every 15 minutes with a 30 minute journey time.
Southern Trains also run every 15 minutes stopping at Croydon and Clapham Junction and take around 35 minutes. Thameslink runs often with services to London Bridge and St Pancras.
If you would rather book a coach, National Express runs direct to London Victoria from all terminals, you can book in advance here or buy a ticket at the terminal.
You can take the Stansted Express which goes between London Stansted Airport and Liverpool Street station. These trains run every 30 minutes and take 50 minutes of journey time.
National Express also runs a service all night all around London with ticket prices starting at around £5.
London City Airport is located on the DLR Overground train line so is easily accessible by rail all across London.
Luton airports have a free shuttle bus to their Luton Parkway station, from here you can get a direct train into central London, stopping at St Pancras and Blackfriars.
Unless you are planning on staying in London for an extended amount of time, I personally wouldn't bother getting one; I live here and I don't even have one!
All the transportation in London accepts contactless payment, meaning if you have a contactless card or Apple/Google Pay on your phone, you really won't need one. Conversely, you can purchase travel day cards at any train/tube station in London.
The only time an Oyster Card is really useful is if you have a UK railcard which you can link up to your Oyster and can save a bit of money on some journeys.
If you are looking to go across the city, the underground is definitely the quickest method! However, if you are only going a short distance, it is much quicker to walk. By the time you go through the barriers and down all the stairs, it actually takes a while, especially when it's busy.
The bus is considered the cheapest way to get around London, especially for longer distances. That being said, the tube is not much more expensive especially if you are spending most of your time in zones 1 and 2.
I recommend downloading …
Tubes and buses are the best way to get around London as a family. These are affordable and will get you pretty much everywhere you want to go in the city!
Children under 10s actually ride free on the tube and there is a reduced fee for under 15s, as long as they are with a paying adult. You can go to the wider barriers which are usually operated by staff and scan one card for you all to go through as a family.
Around a third of the tube stations have step-free access meaning they’re accessible for pushchairs and wheelchair users and all the buses have a ramp if needed. You can check here for more information on accessibility around London Transport.
If you are a large family and are planning on using the tube system i would try to avoid travelling at peak times as it does get a bit squished and is very fast paced.
Hopefully this post has helped ease your worries and break down the most common (and less common) means of getting around London!
The public transport system really is amazing and I would recommend everyone to use it as much as possible.
But now I want to hear from you …
Let me know in the comments below!
And for more tips on planning your visit to London, check out my other guides: