by Steven Brenner
London is a big, spread out city. Much of it is walkable, but there’s no one area you can stay in where everything will be close by. Luckily, the variety of transport options are easy to use and reliable. So let’s get familiar with them:
I’m not particularly athletic but I can walk around a city all day. It’s definitely the best way to see things, but also the most tiring. In London, I use a combo of an actual paper map that you can buy at any newsagent for under £2; the Map app for iPhone; and the Citymapper app, which tells you not only how far it is to walk, and how long it ought to take you, but how many calories you’ll burn. When you stuff your face like I do when traveling (ok, I do it at home too), this added incentive really makes an hour walk seem more reasonable.
These are, of course, the best way to get around if you just want to get to your destination with as little effort as possible. For such compact cars, they are very spacious – the back of the cabs have a bench seat that sits 3 and two “jump seats”. They face each other, limo-style.
They can either be booked in advance or hailed on the street or from designated taxi ranks. There’s also the Hailo app for iPhone. It’ll figure out where you are through GPS and get a cab to that spot with just a few clicks. Payment can either be done in cash or you can set it up with your credit card and pay through the app.
Here’s numbers for the different taxi dispatchers:
One-Number Taxi: 0871 871 8710 All London
Call-A-Cab: 020 8901 4444 All London
Computer Cab: 020 7908 0207 All London
DataCab: 020 7432 1540 All London
Dial-A-Cab: 020 7253 5000 All London
London Black Taxis: 07779 336 612 Pre-booked trips for all of London
Radio Taxis: 020 7272 0272 All London
Taxi Call Wimbledon 0208 099 7711 Wimbledon and surrounding areas
Xeta: 0845 108 3000 All London
There is a charge when booking by phone and other terms and conditions may vary so please check when booking.
You can also book a taxi using Twitter at @tweetalondoncab – more info at http://www.tlctaxi.co.uk
I get car sick easily, so I usually avoid buses, but I love London’s iconic double-decker buses. Sit up top right near the huge windows in the front and get a great bird’s eye view (low flying anyway) of the city. Buses use the same ticket system as the underground (see below). You can also buy them on the bus itself, but it’s a bit slow and makes me feel like I’m holding everyone up. Some stops have machines right outside at the bus stop as well.
Over 400 kilometers of track, the London underground can boast being the first underground railway, opened in 1863. The lines are all color coded and have names, such as the Central Line (red) and District Line (green). The direction you want is not necessary designated by the last station. Instead, you have Eastbound, Westbound, Northbound and Southbound trains. Sometimes, if the train changes direction, you might have to rethink whether it’s Northbound or Eastbound, but for the most part it’s pretty clear when you get to an intersection in the tunnels and have to chose which direction you want to go in – the stations are listed on the wall so you can figure out which way to go to get to the right track.
The best way to tackle the Tube is to buy an Oyster card. Once you enter an underground station, go to a self-service machine and select a “new card”. Put on however much you want – 5, 10, 20 pounds, for example. Five pounds will be used toward a deposit on the card, and the rest will be applied toward bus and subway rides (which vary depending on where you’re going). You can pay with credit card, or in some cases, cash (it says on the machine at the top what it accepts). The card will then work to get you through the turnstiles until you run out of credit (at that point the light will flash red instead of green). When this happens, simply return to the self-service machine and swipe your card and top it back up.
Here’s the awesome bit – when you’re done in London you can return the card and get any unused money back, plus your £5 deposit.
You can get more info and figure out which lines you need and the prices here: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modalpages/2625.aspx
This app really is the best thing ever. Put in the address you’re going to and it’ll calculate every possible way to get there from wherever you are (including fun ones like “jetpack” or “catapult”). You’ll get a breakdown of how long it would take, and how much it would cost, either on foot, cab, bus, or subway.
Select the one you want and it’ll give you detailed instructions. Once you arrive at the end of the public transport route, it’ll give you walking directions the rest of the way. And it’s free!
Airport to City
London Heathrow (LHR) is connected to the city by the Underground. London Gatwick (LGW) is connected by a commuter train called the Gatwick Express which runs every 10 minutes or so to Victoria Station (travel time 30 minutes). You can buy the tickets from money changers at the airport too and will get a discount if you buy round trip (£31.05 r/t if you buy online in advance).