London Getting Around
Getting around London
London is a big city and while a lot of the central sights can be reached pleasantly on foot via London’s splendid parks, you will need public transport for longer trips across the city. London’s iconic red buses and tube trains are all part of the London experience. By far the cheapest and most convenient option is a Travelcard, valid for buses, underground, Docklands light rail, and even overland train. Single fares are expensive so Travelcards are recommended, coming in 1-day, 3-day and 1-week versions, and are available from underground stations and newsagents.
Getting from the airports
Gatwick: Gatwick Express train to Victoria, and express buses. Stansted: Stansted Express train to Liverpool Street, and express buses to Victoria. Heathrow: Heathrow Express train to Paddington (quick journey time of 15 minutes) or the Underground (40 minutes). Also express buses. Luton: Free shuttle bus to Luton Parkway train station, train to Kings Cross, and on to Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars and London Bridge. Also express buses.
With a little planning, you can walk around a great deal of London. London’s streets are constantly entertaining, and the beautiful parks offer respite from the traffic. An essential walk is along the Thames, particularly from the Houses of Parliament to the London Eye, the South Bank, Tate Britain and across the river to St Paul’s cathedral. Other fascinating areas for walking include Convent Garden, Soho, Bloomsbury, Camden Lock, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square.
London’s legendary tube is the fastest way around the centre of the city. The network is vast, and not as complicated as it first seems. It can be very busy during the rush hour, and Travelcards are not valid until 9.30. Single tickets are available from machines.
The city's famous red buses have become significantly more efficient in recent years, and although slower than the tube for longer journeys, they are very convenient for short hops. Top deck on double deckers offer excellent views, and many central routes pass so many landmarks, they can feel like sightseeing buses. An extensive network of reliable night buses radiates out from the Trafalgar Square area to the suburbs.
Riverboats are one of the nicest ways to see the sights. Public commuter services operate from the central London Embankment area. There are dozens of sightseeing riverboat trips, particularly along the central Embankment/South Bank stretch, and plenty of longer trips to Greenwich, Richmond and Hampton Court.
Docklands light railway
A modern addition to the aging underground system, with long stretches over ground, the DLR is useful for visiting the eastern stretches of the Thames towards Greenwich, and it's worth a trip just to travel through the astonishing futuristic cityscapes of docklands, an area of London that has undergone a massive transformation.
The iconic black cabs are extremely professional, but expensive. Cabs are metered and will take up to 5 people and lots of luggage, and they can be easily hailed on the street, except late at night. Legal (and illegal) mini cabs will offer lifts, but phone a reputable company rather than accept a car on the spot.
Commuter trains are of less use to visitors. Train travel is included on a Travelcard, and it's a fast way to reach the outer neighbourhoods like Brixton and Greenwich, or to travel further afield.
A surprising amount of local residents cycle, and as the central area is mostly flat, it can be a quick way to travel.
Given the city’s size, sightseeing tours are a sensible, convenient and enjoyably educative way to see the major sights and get a sense of the city’s layout.