Londoners often complain about their public transport, and it is true that during the rush hour you can sometimes feel like a tuna in a tin, but in general the local transport network is comprehensive and functional. To ease the traffic flow at the stations, let people get off the tube carriage first before stepping in and in escalators, stand on the right hand side, so that those in hurry can easily walk up the steps.
The main travel modes are bus, tube, overground, DLR (The Docklands Light Railway), train and tram. They operate approximately from 5:00am until 00:30am, although the hours differ between lines and stations and weekends. Additionally there are several night buses that run 24h a day.
Greater London area is divided into 11 different zones. When travelling with underground, overground, DLR or National Rail services the more zones you cross during a journey, the more expensive is the fare. In the buses the fare is a flat rate, not depending on the length of the journey.
Tube, train and bus fares can be paid with Oyster card (a smart card, where you store credit) or contactless payment card. Also for tube and train travel you can buy single tickets at stations but bus drivers don’t accept cash payments. Most of the time it is cheaper to use Oyster or contactless payment card, since they have a zonal price cap per day – that is a maximum price you have to pay for daily travel no matter how many journeys you make. You can either order an Oyster card online or get it at the stations.
For regular daily travel between home and work, an Oyster Travelcard is usually a cheaper option than a “regular” Oyster card. With Travelcard you have to define the zones it covers – practically from the zone where your home is to the zone where your workplace is. You can buy 7 day, monthly and annual Travelcards. During that time you can travel as much as you like with a fixed price within the defined zones.
There are several fare discounts for eligible people. Children under 10 can travel free, when accompanied by a ticket holding adult. Children between 5 and 18 can travel alone free of charge or with reduced price, if they hold an age specific Zip Oyster photocard. There are also fare concessions for over 18-year old students, apprentices, over 60 year olds, disabled travellers, people on benefits and looking for work.
London is not the most cyclist friendly city, even though a lot has been done lately to make it easier and safer. There just aren’t that many cycling lanes, and biking amongst the busy motor traffic can be nerve wrecking. On the other hand, there are many picturesque bike routes for recreational cycling in parks and by the river. You can order free cycling maps from Transport for London.
Barclays Cycle Hire is popular amongst Londoners and tourists alike. You can rent a bike for either 24 hours or for seven days. There are several docking stations around London, where you can pick up a bike and return one. Tickets can be bought with debit and credit cards at docking stations, by phone or online.
Folded bikes are accepted in the tube and overground at any time and in buses at the driver’s discretion. Bikes, that do not fold up, are accepted in some tube and overground routes but not during the rush hours.
Bike theft is unfortunately common in London. Do get a good lock, and park your bike in a visible place.
Black cabs can be hailed in the street, booked in advance or found at taxi stations. London has many of them, and it is usually easy to find one.
Minicabs don’t have “taxi” signs on them and look like regular cars. They are usually cheaper than black cabs but need to be booked in advance. It is illegal for a minicab driver to pick up a passenger without booking. It is not safe either, since there won’t be any record of your journey. Pre-book a minicab if you need a car to pick you up from the airport. The driver will be waiting for you in the terminal and you will save time for not queueing for a black cab.
Black cabs’ fares are metered. With minicabs you need to ask for the price in advance. Some taxis accept payments cards but not all, so check beforehand if you don’t have enough cash with you. It is not obligatory to tip a taxi driver but most Londoners round the price up to the nearest pound.
Without a good reason it is not recommendable to drive in Central London. The traffic is heavy, and your travel time is generally shorter by taking a tube. It is not easy to find a parking place, and when you do, expect to pay for it. Most on-street parking is restricted to resident permit holders only. Drivers to the inner heart of the city also need to pay a Congestion Charge. Residents, who live next to or in the charging zone, can get a residents discount on the payment.
Consider yourself lucky if you find a home with off-street parking. Most Londoners park at the side of the street near their home. To do so, you most likely will need a resident parking permit. You can apply for one from your local borough. Ask also if you can buy short term visitors permits that your friends can use when they drop in.
When you come to UK you can use your foreign small vehicle driving licence for a fixed period of time – depending on the country of origin. After that time you need to either exchange your licence to a UK licence or apply for a provisional UK licence – again depending on the country of origin.
If you own a car in the UK, you need to have a car insurance, with minimum requirement a third party insurance, and you must pay vehicle tax. If your car is more than three years old it also must pass a MOT (=Ministry of Transport) test to certify that it is safe to drive. It is also a good idea to check the English Highway Code to be sure that you won’t unwittingly brake the local law.