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Traveling on the London Underground

Copyright 2006 S Wander You can take the Underground to nearly all parts of London, and can get you to your destination, without the delays of hailing cabs or waiting for buses. The London Underground consists of a Tube network made up of 275 stations on 12 rail lines. The different lines are marked with colours to help you keep track of where you are headed.

Maps for the Tube have major tourist destinations clearly marked so you can find where you are going quickly. Any ticket station will have free maps. Smoking is not allowed anywhere in the London Underground system. The Tube is a very inexpensive way to get around London. The fares are based on a map of zones in the city, with the rates varying depending on your starting and ending zones. Tube fares start at only 1.

30 for most travel in the central downtown areas. If you plan on traveling extensively by Tube, you should think about getting an Oystercard. These plastic "smart cards" are durable and more convenient than carrying regular paper tickets. You can load your Oystercard with season passes or regular pre-pay fares.

Using an Oystercard is simple. Just touch the card to one of the many card readers on the platform when you start your trip, and again when you reach your destination. The Oystercard isn't just for the Tube either. This handy card can also be used on all other forms of public transit, such as buses or the DLR (Docklands Light Railway). The Tube runs frequently throughout the day, with trains running through each station every few minutes.

There aren't exact timetables available, except for the times of the first and last trains of the day. Each route is different, but travel begins as early as 5am and ends well after midnight. If you are planning on getting around London via other transport as well as the tube, you should be aware that there are parking facilities at many stations though you will have to pay to park your car. Rates are low, starting at around 2.00 for a weekday. Some parking is free of charge on statutory holidays.

Bicycles can be taken with you onboard the trains throughout most of the Tube network, but not everywhere. Some sections are off-limits to bicycles and they are also not to be brought onboard during peak travel periods (morning and evening rush hour). Check with the transit authorities before trying to board with your bike.

There is no extra charge. The etiquette involved with traveling by London Underground is the same for subway systems in any major city. Remove your backpack when boarding and keep it on the floor by your feet.

Don't stand in the doorway; allow passengers room to board and disembark the train. When riding the escalator, stand to the right so that quicker people can pass you. Overall, be courteous to other rides and transit staff. Even if you don't need to travel by Tube, you might still want to visit a local station, as the London Underground is a tourist destination in itself. The Poems on the Underground program brings poetry to the trains, alongside the advertisements. The poems are updated 3 times a year and can even be purchased as a collection at London's Transport Museum Shop.

Not a fan of poetry? You can also enjoy the numerous pieces of artwork that are on display throughout the Underground. Most of the art is in the form of wall-mounted posters, but there are displays of sculpture, photography and installation art as well. Planning ahead can make using the London Underground system even easier.

Visit their website (http://tube.tfl.gov.uk) and download maps of all routes along with timetables.

Knowing your Tube routes will get you to your destinations faster, easier and with less time lost. One more tip. If you are traveling during the summer, be aware that the Tube is not air-conditioned and gets quite hot. Bring a bottle of water with you if you plan on being on a train for a while. .

By: S Wander

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