All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go… looking forward to meeting thought leaders and influencers at MaaS Market 2019. Getting to London is one thing, however moving around the busy city is quite another. And why not use the multi-modal mobility which the conference is all about. So instead of business as usual, which for most of us is just jumping into the next taxi or Uber, have a look at TripGo or Citymapper to get to your destination.
Here’s a brief overview over things to keep in mind when out and about in the Big Smoke, whether you’re on your way to the conference centre or admiring the city in your spare time.
Jump to section: Public transport tickets | Public transport | To/from the airports | Cars, motorbikes | Car sharing | Ride sharing | Taxis | Cycling, bike sharing | Walking | Accessibility | Best London transport apps
Public transport tickets
If you’re about to travel or already in London, chances are you’ve heard of the Oyster Card. This is a rechargeable smart card you can use for contactless payments on most public transport options in London. You can also, however, use a contactless payment card (e.g. your standard Visa card) or Android/Apple Pay. Just tap in and out as you would with an Oyster Card.
Alternatively, try the Citymapper Pass which has just been released. It offers basically the same as an Oyster Card, but cheaper for a week of zone 1 & 2 travel, and includes Santander Cycle hire (an unlimited number of 30 minute rides) and Citymapper Ride perks.
Just a few tips on the different options London offers. To compare how long your trip options would take, how much they cost and how much CO2 they would produce, check TripGo.
As in any other city, use common sense and curtesy when using public transport. When travelling for leisure, try to avoid rush hour (between 6:30am and 9:30am, and 4:00pm and 7:00pm from Monday through Friday), especially the Tube is very crowded during these times. Tickets are also more expensive then. If you can’t avoid travelling during rush hour, take your backpack off so you don’t accidentally bump into other people or things with it. Stand to the right and walk on the left when riding the escalator, so people who are in a rush can get past you.
The Underground (Tube), Overground & DLR (Docklands Light Railway)
Weekends are notorious for engineering works, when entire tube lines or sections shut down. Replacement bus services are usually in place, but they take longer so try to plan ahead.
Some stations, most famously Leicester Sq and Covent Garden, are much closer in reality than they appear on the map. Check TripGo for route options.
Railway (suburban / fast trains / Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead express trains)
Before taking a train, check if your trip is inside the Oyster Card area. If it’s outside, you need to get a ticket in advance.
Bus & tram
On hot days, bus and tram are usually a more pleasant experience than the Tube. Just touch in with your Oyster or contactless card, no need to touch off. When waiting at the stop, signal the bus you want to get on when it approaches, by holding your arm parallel to the ground. Ensure you ring the bell (if no one else has done so yet) well before if you want to get off at the next stop. Check the trip in TripGo to see where you are and where the bus/tram stops. If travelling alone by bus at night, always sit downstairs.
Emirates Air Line (Cable Car)
The Emirates Air Line is a cable car linking the Royal Docks in East London with North Greenwich some 90m above the Thames. The journey is brief and not cheap, but the views are stunning.
This is part of the TfL network, and you can use your Oyster Card/contactless option on the Thames Clipper (touch in & out).
Trips to and from London Airports
London has 4 main airports. Independent of where you arrive or leave from, check TripGo for your best options.
If you’re planning to take a coach (such as easyBus) or express train, check online for cheaper tickets in advance. Keep in mind that times for coaches can vary a little due to traffic, and that you often commit to a specific time when booking a coach.
Most transport options are part of the TfL network, so you can use your Oyster Card or contactless option as usual. The Heathrow Express (HX), the fastest way to central London however, does not accept these and you’ll need to buy a separate ticket (book in advance to save on ticket price). If you have lots of luggage or are in a larger group, a taxi or Uber might be cost effective.
You can use Oyster or contactless payment options on the trains to/from Gatwick Airport, however it may be cheaper to buy rail tickets. Please also note that you cannot use travelcards to/from Gatwick Airport.
Stansted & Luton
Both airports are outside the Oyster Card area, so you need to buy a ticket before your trip.
If you’re planning to take Stansted Express, check https://www.stanstedexpress.com/ for cheaper tickets in advance. If you take the 888 and Luton Express, make sure to get a ticket to/from Luton Airport (not Parkway), as this includes the bus in your fare.
There are no taxi ranks at either airport, however you can just book your cab through TripGo.
The public transport system works really well in London, and parking fees, the congestion charge, traffic jams, petrol prices etc mean taking the car is often not the best option. However, if you do decide to get behind the wheel (or on the motorbike) we have some tips for you:
- Keep in mind that you drive on the left side of the road in the UK
- Like in many other countries, using a mobile phone to call or text while driving is illegal (but you can use a hands-free device)
- If you enter the Congestion Zone (you will see a large white ‘C’ in a red circle, see picture above) between 7am and 6pm on Monday to Friday, you need to pay the congestion charge in advance or on the day to avoid being fined (https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/congestion-charge)
Car sharing lets you use a car that’s not your own and drive it to where you’d like to go, a bit like a rental but available 24/7. We have partnered with zipcar to make the whole process even easier for you.
TripGo now lets you book your zipcar car or van straight from the app (after registration). All you then need to do is get to your car, unlock it using the app, get the keys from the glovebox and you’re good to go. Depending on your You just need to return the car to the same spot before your time is up (unless you use Zipcar Flex).
You don’t want to drive yourself but would still like the convenience of a car, while getting to know your neighbours? TripGo lets you see and book trips with Uber and BlaBlaCar, straight through the app (after registration).
You can use Uber in London as in any other city. Just book, wait for your ride, get in, get out, pay and rate. And if you’re interested in being a great passenger, the Telegraph has some tips for you.
BlaBlaCar might be a great alternative to get where you want to go, while getting to know a nice person from around the area and reducing overall emissions. The service offers carpooling, meaning drivers list from where to where they go when, and you can book a seat (or several) to join them.
Another option to cheaply get from A to B in London is Citymapper Ride. You just book your ride through the Citymapper app (also see apps recommendations below), and off you go.
Getting a cab: You can hail a black cab if the ‘For Hire’ sign is lit up. Stand on the side of the road and stick out your arm to let the cab driver know you’d like a lift.
Alternatively find a cab at a taxi rank (e.g. at stations, airports, outside big hotels).
Costs: Taxis are generally comfortable and safe, but also expensive. Check the estimated trip cost using TripGo before you get into a cab. You can tip as much as you’d like, but standard etiquette is to round up to the nearest pound. Note that taxis accept cash or credit card payments, but no Oyster Cards.
Safety: Only black cabs are allowed to pick up travellers on the street. So if you get an offer for a lift from an unmarked or unregistered vehicle, always refuse. Not only might they overcharge you but they are also less safe than registered taxis.
Cycling, bike sharing
Bikes on public transport
Bicycles can be taken on the Overground, DLR and on the Circle, District, Hammersmith and City, and Metropolitan tube lines, except at peak times (7.30am to 9.30am and 4pm to 7pm Monday to Friday). Folding bikes can be taken on any line at any time, however.
London’s bike sharing system is called Santander Cycle, affectionately nicknamed Boris Bikes. You can use your debit/credit card to hire a Santander Cycle instantly from any of the many stations around London.
If you make trips of less than 30 minutes each, you can cycle for as long as you like with your £2 a day (just leave 5 minutes between trips). If you don’t return your bike to a station within 30 minutes, you pay an additional £2 for every 30 minutes.
TripGo will show you how many bikes are available using color coding and a fill level; just tap on any of the bike sharing symbols on the map. An all black circle means no bikes left, a little red area for few bikes and if it’s full and dark green all bikes at the station are available. On the flip side, a full dark green symbol means no free docks, so when you return your bike make sure there’s at least a little black visible in the circle.
Tip: If you find it difficult to pull the bike free from its dock, bounce the back wheel up and down first.
Walking is a great option to get around in London while experiencing the city, no matter if you live here or are just visiting. Keep in mind that cars drive on the left in the UK when crossing streets, and look to your right first.
Safety: London is generally very safe but as a rule of thumb, keep belongings close, don’t walk alone after dark and keep to well-lit main roads when walking at night.
If mobility is an issue for you, e.g. if you travel by wheelchair or push a pram, ensure you enable accessibility information in TripGo. It’s easy: tap on Profile -> Transport and scroll to the bottom, then tap on the + symbol next to Wheelchair if it’s not included in your options (this excludes “Walking” automatically).
On public transport
Buses, trams, Emirates Air Line and DLR are great choices for wheelchair users and those with impaired mobility. However, it’s better to avoid the Tube, as only a quarter of stations have step-free access. The TfL site is a great resource for further information on this.
Also make sure you check out VisitLondon for more tips on travelling by public transport.
Best London transport apps
If you have a smartphone (and/or smart watch) and are moving around in London, we recommend you check out these three apps:
TripGo – the only app that lets you compare and combine any transport listed in this article, including taxis and your own or a shared car, bike or motorcycle as well as ride shares, with the touch of a button. It can integrate with your calendar so you don’t even need to manually look up trips.
Citymapper – born in London, grown into a worldwide phenomenon. Similar to TripGo, Citymapper shows you the best way from A to B. It is quick and easy to use, and you can save your journeys for offline access. It doesn’t cover quite as many modes as TripGo, but it does offer its own mini bus service and payment card for transport in London.
Tube Map – a great little app to get and keep an overview of the Tube system. It also offers offline route planning and station exit information.
All three apps are available for both iOS and Android devices.
So, here you have it – our complete guide to transport in London.
Anything wrong or missing? Let us know in the comments below!
- Title image: London Thames Sunset panorama by Diliff [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Oyster Reader by Tom Page from London, UK [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- TfL Oyster Card by Oxyman – Own work, CC BY 2.5, Link
- Aircraft by biohacker76, via Pixabay
- London Underground by CopyrightFreePictures / 203 images, via Pixabay
- Andrew Butcher, 332002 at Paddington ABU [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- James Petts, Thames Cable Car [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz), London Congestion Zone [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Sandeepnewstyle, Uber [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- BlaBlaCar – https://www.blablacar.fr/images/rebranding/logos/blablacar_horizontal_positive.svg, Gemeinfrei, Link
- mwanasimba from La Réunion, London Taxi near Hyde Park [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Tiia Monto, Santander Cycles [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Naveen Annam, People walking around Glass Dome Building [Pexels License], via Pexels
- Daniel Case, Traffic on Romney Road in Greenwich, London [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Wheelchair symbol [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Content (main sources)
- Finding the Universe: How to get around London – A guide to public transport in London
- Finding the Universe: Oyster Card vs Contactless: The Best Way to Pay for Public Transport in London
- Finding the Universe: London Airports: How to get to from the Airport to London
- London Explorer Pass: Getting Around London – How to Get Around London for Tourists
- London Toolkit: London Travelcard v Oyster Card v Contactless Card in 2019
- London Toolkit: Contactless cards & Apple Pay on London’s public transport in 2019
- Lonely Planet: Getting around London on local transport
- Lonely Planet: Getting around London by bicycle
- Visit London: Oyster Cards and travelcards in London
- And all websites linked in the article above