Getting around

The main sites in London are very walk-able, with clumps of attractions tucked within a few city blocks.  If you have a good map and a bus schedule, you will be set.  The tube trains come every 3-4 minutes peak time, so they are very reliable, but of course you won’t see as much.

Always make sure you allow enough time to get places. Just going a few stops on the tube can easily eat up half an hour.  This is due to many of the trains being deep underground, so you may need to wait for a lift, or take a succession of escalators to get to the platform.  They can be crazy-busy during rush hours, which are 7:30-9:30 am and 4:30-6:30 pm, so it is best to avoid the trains at this time.  When on the escalators, always stand single file to the right, so people can pass.  There is no air conditioning on the trains.

TaxiBlack taxis or Hackney carriages are a great way to get around.  It is a must to take a journey in one at least once. They are the only ones who can pick up passengers without pre-booking. To get their license, the drivers spend 2-3 years or more driving around the city on a motorbike, learning every street and alley, to pass 12 examinations .  They are chatty and a willing to help you with information. The cars themselves are unusual inside and can turn on a dime.  I have never been ripped off in a black cab; the drivers know exactly where they are going, and the cars are iconic.

Mini-cabs or private hire, are taxi companies using normal cars. They must be called and booked. Many times when leaving a smaller hotel with foreign owners, I would ask for them to call a black cab, and a mini cab belonging to their cousin or friend, would turn up. If they quoted me a higher price than I had paid in a black cab, I would simply walk to the main street and find my own London Cab, (which was most of the time).

Uber is the new service from the USA, where you book through a phone app.  The taxi licenses are obtained by legitimate drivers, who can rent their cars to any driver. They don’t always know the roads or the rules of society and are not as regulated and liable as the Hackney carriages.


                                                                                           Public transport tickets

article-1298917708900-0d6a28b5000005dc-583821_636x366For the tube and buses, you can pick up a pay as you go Oyster card for half price fares and convenience.  Prepay and don’t forget to swipe in and out, and only once.  To get one, you pay a £5 refundable deposit, and if you over pay, they refund you the difference after your last use.  It can be used on all London public transport including the Thames clipper boats and the Emirates air line cable cars.

If you don’t want an oyster card, you can buy single tickets and day passes. There is also a reduced price day pass available after 9:30 am. You can buy a cheaper bus day pass, or else it is a set price everytime you step on a bus (a one hour transfer ticket will be available in Sept 2016).  You cannot buy any tickets on the buses in London.


Other ideas

There are public bicycles available to rent from docking stands dotted around the city. You need a credit or bank card, and you can drop them off at a different docking station when you’re done.  I would be very careful as the roads are not bike friendly.  Nor are the drivers.

There are hop on-off bus companies that cover the city sites. These can be quite expensive. There is a handy card called the London Pass, which offers you a hop on off bus, all public transport, free entry to 60 major sites and no queuing. Check out their website for more info.