London, with over 30 million visitors per year as well as over 8 million residents, remains one of the most visited cities in the world. Not only is this number growing rapidly with visitors wanting to see what London has to offer but London is becoming more difficult to navigate through for people using wheelchairs. A daily challenge that many shouldn’t face as well as feeling as if they’re less important or a second class citizen.
The London Underground has 270 stations, making it an efficient way to get around London, but these 270 stations are only accessible for those who don’t need ramps, step-free access as well as numerous lifts to navigate through the station. Only 71 stations throughout London and surrounding areas support those in wheelchairs but unfortunately not independently in some instances. For those who want to navigate independently then this number drops to 50 stations which are fully accessible - this being around 18% of stations allowing independent travel and only 27% allowing passengers to travel with some independence but with additional help such as by the use of ramps and assistance at stations.
The Guardian reported that Transport for London’s spokesman, Ruben Govinden, stated that “Some of the network is more than 150 years old – accessibility wasn’t even considered worth thinking about then”. Indeed, this statement is factually correct in the sense that the London Underground network was the first public rapid transport system which was opened in 1863. However, over 150 years there has been a wide range of changes and updates to the London Underground, the most notable being more lines being expanded as well as the addition to free WiFi at certain stations. With the progress being made digitally as well as expanding the network to reach more areas, there should be a priority of making the London Underground more accessible. Even though there’s plans to make the London Underground network more accessible in the next 20 to 30 years, this is simply not good enough for those wanting to navigate independently, which they should have the right to do, without being stuck and faced to take an alternative route.
Not only is the London Underground’s network itself a problem for those with wheelchairs, there’s the added scrutiny of those unwilling to give these people the space they deserve throughout their journey. On each journey passengers will see a symbol that states that a specific area is giving priority for those in wheelchairs - which many people tend to ignore, especially those with prams and young children. Many a time I have seen arguments between a wheelchair user and a mother pushing a pram over who should be in that specific space - a degrading occurrence that happens far too often over a fact of priority and respect. Another problem with the London Underground would be the regular occurrence of maintenance work on lifts, some lifts taking months to fix and the shortage of assistance for those needing to change their route to the next station. This can mean extra charges by using public transport such as a bus or in extreme cases needing a taxi to get to a station with accessible facilities.
London’s buses aren’t any better in terms of accessibility. Even though buses throughout London and surrounding areas have stated that passengers using wheelchairs have priorities throughout their journey but this is simply easier said than done. London’s buses are fitted with ramps but it’s been seen recently that discrimination against wheelchair users has seen members of the public taking matters in their own hands to allow passengers off the bus to carry on with their journey. The most notable occurrence happening out of London with Ian Barrington, The Metro reported that a “Bus driver refuses to help disabled man and tells him to ‘speak English’”. Not only did the driver refuse to help Ian getting off the bus but made remarks stating that “‘I don’t understand foreign languages, I understand English!’” and then went on to state that she couldn’t get the ramp out since she had a “backache”. Whether this is true or not, bus drivers should be fully equipped and in full health to help both able bodied passengers as well as those in wheelchairs needing assistance.
In 2012 TFL implemented a new set of rules to which stated that wheelchair passengers have priority to the space in the middle of the bus - which can be used as a standing area or a place for those with prams or luggage. Once again, this is easier said than done, as there have been many times when I have been travelling throughout London and either the bus driver refuses to make people in that space with prams move or the two people with prams arguing about who should fold down their pram. This not only making a bigger state of the matter but also treating individuals in wheelchairs like they are second class citizens since people are more concerned about their prams rather than a person. There have even been arguments between wheelchair users and passengers with prams regarding the reason they should have to move - it’s stated nearly everywhere that users in wheelchairs deserve priority and a simple fact - it’s not something that people can dispute or argue against.
I’ve experienced a lack of responsibility from bus drivers and TFL when I was trying to get my grandmother onto a bus, since she’s in a wheelchair. It was very cold so I made the point of leaving just a few minutes before the bus came to prevent her staying out in the cold too much, when the bus came I firstly made the point of tapping my Oyster Card as well as my grandmother’s. I then stated that she’d need to lower the ramp onto the pavement so I could easily manoeuvre the wheelchair onto the bus safely. The bus driver seemed to comply and stated that she would move the bus to get closer to the pavement but in the end stated that she couldn’t lower the ramp down - with no apology nor explanation as to why she couldn’t lower the ramp down. Two members of the public even came over and offered to help - why should members of the public help? A bus driver should be trained in all areas of operating a bus, from lowering the ramp and operating in such a way that allows all individuals to use the bus. The experience was not only humiliating for my grandmother but also made her wait in the freezing cold for the next bus, with her asking me whether it was her fault we couldn’t get onto the bus. The return journey was unfortunately met with the same bus driver but this time the ramp seemed to magically work and there were no problems getting onto the bus. However, when pressing the button specifically designed to alert the driver that a wheelchair would be getting off the bus - therefore the bus will need to be lowered and a ramp used - the bus driver completely ignored the bell and drove onto the next bus stop. Not only did my grandmother feel invisible but it meant we had to make the journey of an extra 15 minutes to get back to the original stop.
Moving forward a lot needs to change. Firstly, TFL need to address the situation of the London Underground network, it may have been built over 150 years ago but regardless there has been 150 years of time to change the fact that it was built while disregarding it being accessible. There needs to be a discussion regarding the impact that certain planned works will have on passengers, specifically those using wheelchairs - it’s a bigger impact that it originally seems as well as the fact that people may have to alter their routes. From there, there needs to be extensive training for bus drivers to make sure they have the knowledge and practice to allow wheelchair users onto the bus - additionally fighting in their corner when they have the right to space on the bus over pram users. The public attitude needs to change also, we need to come together and help those who may need additional help if there’s no staff around or those unwilling to help. For example, if you see something that you know is wrong - someone unwilling to move out of the area for wheelchair users - take the point of explaining that they need to move out of the area for the fellow passenger.
One fact that I know is whether you’re in first class or not - you’ll still get to the same destination at exactly the same time as other passengers on the train. However, other passengers like the idea of added luxury throughout their train journey whether it be the free refreshments, free WiFi or even just the extra legroom. When I needed to book train tickets upon hearing the news of a family emergency, I found that there was only a slight difference between Standard and First Class Tickets - in my case, with a 16-25 railcard, a First Class Ticket would only cost me around £5 extra. This working out £2.50 per way to have the added luxury that Greater Anglia prides itself on as well as access to the First Class Lounge at London Liverpool Street.
First Class Lounge
Upon arriving at London Liverpool Street I quickly bought some newspapers and magazines for the journey as well as treating myself to breakfast. Looking for the First Class Lounge took a lot longer than usual as it’s very hidden next to Platform 10 near where Lost Luggage can be found. Accessing the First Class Lounge was easy since I wasn’t asked to show my ticket nor have to wait long to get in - I simply pressed a button that opened the automatic doors and I was in. The First Class Lounge is small but wonderful, it was a nice peaceful place to sit before boarding my train. To my surprise there were tea and coffee making facilities as well as free bottles of water available. Considering that I had only paid £5 extra, with these free tea and coffee making facilities I had saved myself at least £5, not to mention the free bottles of water. There were a range of different seats, if you wanted to and charge your phone or whether you wanted to use your laptop within the lounge - you were sure to be comfortable. There’s even a small screen outlining the future departures, which allowed me to keep track of my train without feeling rushed or anxious that I would miss my train. If you’re travelling from London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport then help yourself to the free magazine on offer.
First Class: London Liverpool Street to Norwich
When boarding at London Liverpool Street the first carriage is luckily First Class - which allowed me to get onto the train and relax, rather than walking miles upon miles to get down to the front of the train. For this specific journey there were only two carriages for First Class but it was more than enough as there were only 6 people in my carriage as well as even fewer in the next carriage.
Each seat in First Class allows passengers to have a table, whether it be a single seat or a double, there is more than enough space for a laptop or a notebook. That was at least one promise that Greater Anglia kept to including the extra legroom which was perfect for tall people such as myself. For one journey I was able to stretch out rather than trying not to hit the chair in front of me with my knees. Within the seating area there was the option to allow sunlight in with the curtains, unfortunately for me these thin curtains still allowed the light shine right into my face. Luckily for me though there were other seats available as within First Class as there’s no reservations on seats which allows passengers to move around as they please. Another added benefit of First Class is the plug sockets next to every seat which worked perfectly throughout my journey. However, I’ve travelled with a Standard Ticket and have had the luck of finding a plug socket next to my seat, even though these opportunities are few and far between, it’s a guarantee in First Class.
WiFi? The WiFi throughout First Class wasn’t working on my outbound journey and my inbound journey from Norwich, which was very frustrating. Even though it’s a benefit that Greater Anglia list on their website, they have also noted that the WiFi is currently not working. For me, this was a huge disappointment since one of the reasons I wanted to pay the extra upgrade for First Class was to be able to use WiFi to complete some work on the go as well as go through the hundreds and hundreds of emails I had. Exchanging emails with the Customer Service Team was quick and easy, although they were unsure as to why the WiFi wasn’t working even after trying every method in the book and giving numerous bits of information. Although, on my return journey I was given an answer, rather than a solution, which reads “This Train is being affected by a known issue, there is a hardware fault and as such WiFi will not be available unit its is Physically fixed". Furthermore, this led to me eating up most of my mobile data for the majority of the journey which meant I had to ration it between emails and checking my website.
Yuck. That’s all I can really say about the toilets. There’s no separate toilets for those in First Class which isn’t that much of a problem if the toilets weren’t dirty and disgusting. Not only is there the problem of staying on the toilet throughout a rocking train but one in which isn’t in the best of conditions. It wouldn’t have taken much to make the toilets a little cleaner throughout the journey, considering that it’s just a little under 2 hours. Either way, when you need to go to the toilet and there’s a toilet there, there’s little you could do.
Once again there wasn’t the availability of refreshments throughout this train journey. This is understandable as Greater Anglia had stated that throughout journeys on the weekend there will be no refreshments provided but on my return journey the same rule seemed to apply even though I returned on a Monday. It seemed at this rate, I had been shown a very different picture than the one that was painted when booking the tickets. Even though I had already eaten beforehand as well as taken full advantage of the free drinks that the First Class Lounge had to offer, it was still a shame that there was no trolley service that would’ve provided even the smallest of snacks - simply since I love freebies.
Is It Worth It?
Greater Anglia have currently stated on their website that “When there is engineering work between London and Norwich, services may be formed of electric multiple unit stock and will not offer table seats, refreshments or WiFi. Availability of First Class Advance tickets may be restricted on engineering work days”. In essence, the perks of First Class have been limited in such a way that it’s simply luck whether you’ll travel with them or be stuck without them. If all the perks were included - free WiFi, refreshments and even the guarantee of a table seat then I would recommend travelling First Class. However, if you have the mindset that everyone will get to the same place at the same time regardless of their seat preference, then travelling with a Standard Ticket would be the best option. If you have to pay a lot more than I did for an upgrade to a First Class Ticket, then I’d advise against it.
Most people travelling to London may prefer to use the bus rather than other modes of transport as if may be too expensive or they don’t travel to specific areas of London that a bus does. In my opinion travelling by bus can be deemed easier than travelling with the London Underground since it clearly states the stops as well as being significantly cheaper. However, tourists travelling to London that plan to use the bus may be confused as to how the bus networks works as well as payment methods used for it. There are also certain rules when riding the bus throughout London as well as courtesy commonly used.
In 2014 TFL (Transport for London) stated that bus drivers would no longer accept cash as forms of payment and customers must use an Oyster Card, a pre-paid ticket or a contactless payment card. Customers are not allowed to purchase tickets on the bus and are not allowed to top up their Oyster while on the bus if the run out of credit. If you want to purchase an Oyster card it can be done in numerous ways: it can be delivered to your home address, it can be bought from a newsagents or it can be bought through the vending machines at any London Underground station. If you get onto a bus and only have 70p credit, where the price of a journey is £1.50, you will be allowed onto the bus but you won’t be able to make anymore journey until you top up your Oyster as you would be in the negative. More information regarding Oyster Cards on my blog can be found by clicking here.
Hopper Fare/Unlimited Journeys
When travelling through London there is a ‘hopper fare’ available for customers using an Oyster card or contactless payment card. This fare allows passengers to get on as many buses as they wish within the hour for the small price of £1.50. If you first tapped your Oyster card on a bus at 10:00am then you can jump on any bus between this time until 11:00am - this allows passengers to change routes while paying one fare. If you don’t want to purchase an Oyster card then you can buy a paper ticket which allows you unlimited travel around London on buses for £5. However, if you do have an Oyster card then you are allowed to make as many journeys as you please for £4.50 per day and £21.20 per week. The first three bus journeys will cost you £1.50 each totalling £4.50 but after that bus journeys will cost absolutely nothing. This is an cost efficient way to travel around London not only if you’re on a budget but also can be used rather than a hop-on-hop-off bus.
Knowing Your Direction
Bus stops may have the same name but will be going in very different directions. For example, Fenchurch Street Station has two bus stops, both with different letters: T and V. Fenchurch Street Station (T) goes towards London Bridge whereas Fenchurch Station (V) goes towards Aldgate. If you’re ever confused then look at the top of the bus stop where it will clearly state the letter of the bus stop as well as the direction it will be going in. There are signs near the bus stop which shows different bus directions as well as the different stops it will be stopping at throughout it’s journey. If you’re ever confused then it would be best to board the bus and ask the driver politely if it goes to your chosen destination - if it does then great, tap your oyster and find a seat, if it doesn’t then ask the bus driver what buses do go there and wait for that one. At the front of the bus it will have a number and direction, for example 40 Dulwich Library. The number indicates the specific bus route it’s taking and the location is where the bus will terminate and complete its journey. These letters and numbers are very clearly visible from a distance and allows passengers to see whether the bus is going in one direction or another as there will be two 40 buses - one going to Dulwich Library but the other going to Aldgate. This is a simple method to see if you’re going in the right direction if you have already researched the route but are still confused as to which bus you should get on. There is an app called Bus Times which pinpoints your location and allows users to see bus times as well as the direction they’re going in. Users can also see the amount of stops and the specific names of them, which is handy if they want to go to a specific destination.
Rules and Courtesy
There are a few rules while travelling throughout London on buses - the first being that you are not allowed to get onto a bus without paying the full fare by either showing a valid ticket or tapping your Oyster card or contactless payment card. If a bus inspector gets on, they may be in uniform or plain clothing, they will require you to present your ticket or card to which they will check whether you’ve paid. If they find out you haven’t paid they will either kick you off the bus or they will give you a fine or a penalty fare. If the bus is moving then don’t make any attempt to talk to the driver - this could distract him from driving and in turn cause a crash or harm to members of the public. Wait until the next bus stop to ask the driver something or ask fellow passengers on the bus as they may be able to advise you on your query and save you going up to the driver. You are not allowed to drink alcohol while you’re on the bus as it improves the safety and security of the public while on buses. If you take a pram onto a bus and a wheelchair gets on, you are required to move or fold your pram up to make way for the wheelchair user as they have priority over that space. If you go to the upper deck of the bus and there is no seating available, you cannot stand on the upper deck as it’s a health and safety issue - you will have to stand on the lower deck of the bus. There are a few things that you should do while on buses, but it isn’t necessary, it’s a form of courtesy. If you see a someone that’s pregnant then give up your seat for them if you can since it’s just respect, the same goes for people who are disabled, elderly or unable to stand. Don’t put your bag onto a chair - does your bag have a ticket or did it pay the full fare? If the answer is no then move your bag and allow someone else to sit down.
Hailing a Bus/Asking The Driver To Stop
London buses don’t stop at every bus stop as this would be a complete waste of time as some bus stops are completely empty when the bus drives by it. If you want to hail a bus then you simply need to stick your arm out until the bus indicates that it’s stopping or slowing down. The reason behind this being that there are a range of different buses which stop at specific bus stops, if you hailed down one bus then if there was a bus behind they would know to carry on since no one wants to be picked up nor dropped off. The same rule applies when you want to get off at a specific stop you will need to press the red button which can be found on the metal poles around the bus. Once you press the button there will be a dinging sound and the bus will come to a stop once it’s reached the bus stop. From there passengers can leave the bus without having to tap out and carry on their journey.
Luckily there are a range of night buses that travel around London during the late hours of the night. Not all buses have a night route, only specific ones, but most go from Central London to a range of different areas. You can spot a night bus in London as it will have the letter N before the number of its route. For example, you may see a bus that states N18 Trafalgar Square - this signifies that this is a night bus terminating at Trafalgar Square. However, the normal route during the day for the 18 route may differ from the service provided at night so it would be advisable to do your research before going out. These services also differ from the ones during the day as they are less frequent with buses coming between every 10-15 minutes.
Getting from these airports into Central London is much simpler than it sounds and it's a lot cheaper than you think. There are various ways to get from Gatwick and Heathrow Airport into Central London which comes with different price tags along with it but there are transport modes to suit everyone's needs. This blog post will focus on these modes of transport: using the
London Underground, trains, taxi and coaches.
Gatwick Airport is located in West Sussex which is just 30 miles from Central London. Gatwick airport offers both domestic and international flights - short haul and long haul flights too. Gatwick Airport offers affordable options for travellers staying in hotels such as the Premier Inn which is located just opposite the airport. In the past year I've flown from Gatwick Airport around 6 times as it's the easiest airport for me to get to and by far the cheapest.
More Information Can Be Found Here:
Heathrow Airport is located just 14 miles from Central London and is the busiest airport in the United Kingdom. Heathrow Airport offers both domestic and international flights - short haul and long haul flights too. As it's used so frequently there are a range of transportation options available and a range of hotels located near to the airport as well as ones that require a simple bus ride to get there.
More Information Can Be Found Here:
What exactly is an Oyster Card?
First of all lets clarify, an Oyster Card isn't a picture of an Oyster on a bit of card sadly, it's a smartcard used for transportation services across all areas of London and areas surrounding it. These transportation services include the Tube, Tram, DLR, TFL Rail and the Emirates Air Line. The world is literally your oyster with an Oyster Card. These Oyster Cards can hold a digital balance whether you're travelling Pay As You Go (PAYG) or whether you have a specific travelcard such as Zones 1-2 on the Tube for a week.
How much does an Oyster Card cost?
Wherever you buy an Oyster card it will cost you the grand sum of £5. To buy an Oyster Card, which can either be bought online (https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/contactless-and-oyster-account) or can be bought at a range of different locations around London. These locations include Tube, London Underground and TFL Rail stations as well as newsagents (these newsagents may have a Oyster symbol in their window or around the shop to let customers know they sell and top up Oyster Cards). However, some payment methods such as if you buy an Oyster Card online you will have to pay a preloaded amount of credit onto the card. For example, if I wanted to buy an Oyster Card online I would have to pay the initial £5 and then I can choose how much I want to preload onto my Oyster Card such as £10. So I would pay £15 and in a few days my Oyster Card would arrive with £10 credit on it.
If you're visiting London and only want an Oyster Card for a specific amount of time then there is an option to buy a Visitor Oyster Card. The same principle applies to that of a regular Oyster Card regarding how to buy it but as far as I know it can only be purchased online only. It also has to be preloaded with credit which ranges from £10-£50 which can be calculated depending on your stay in London. There is also an added fee for postage depending on what country you reside in. For example, if I wanted to buy a Visit Oyster Card online I would pay the initial £5 (activation fee) and then I can choose how much I want to preload onto my Oyster Card such as £10. The delivery fee to a country such as Spain would be £5.50 (untracked) so in total I would end up paying £17.90 for an Oyster Card that would come with £10 credit. The £5 activation fee doesn't contribute towards the credit on an Oyster Card. The best thing about a Visitor Oyster Card is that at the end of your stay in London you can get refunded up to £10 from your Oyster Card in the form of cash. This is only available if you have any form of credit left on your Oyster Card, you cannot receive the money you originally paid for the Oyster Card back (£5).
How do I use an Oyster Card?
London has one of the easiest forms of travel in the world whether this be the actual travel process or paying for travel. The reason being is that on transport services such as the Tube you simply uploaded money onto your Oyster Card (which ranges depending on where you're going) and then tap it on the yellow reader at the start of your journey. The barriers to the Tube will then open and you can carry on your journey to your destination, at your final destination you'll find yourself on the other side of the barrier to which you'll have to tap out again to complete your journey. At this stage in your journey the screen above the barrier will show you how much you have left on your Oyster Card. This can also be checked by going to an ticket machine and simply tapping your Oyster Card onto it. From here you can check your balance, top up your Oyster Card and see your recent journeys as well as the price they cost.
If you're using an Oyster Card on a bus the process is a little different. When getting onto a bus tap your Oyster Card onto the yellow reader, buses don't accept cash payments anymore, to which you'll see a green light flash and a beep. This signals you have enough money on your Oyster Card to go forth with your journey, if the red light flashes then this signifies you may need to top up your Oyster Card before making another journey.
The best thing about an Oyster Card is that your fare will always be cheaper when compared to the payment method of cash to buy a ticket. It also reduces the hassle of having to buy a ticket for every journey you want to make as with an Oyster Card you can simply top it up whenever you want. Some methods of transport such as buses don't take cash anymore meaning they only accept Oyster Cards or bank cards (contactless). More in-depth information regarding pricing and the different transport methods in London can be found by reading my blog post Travelling Around London.
If you travelled between Zone 1 (between London Bridge and Southwark) with an Oyster Card then it would cost you £2.40 but if you was paying with cash and had a ticket then it would cost over twice as much at £4.90. If you travelled between Zones 2 and 6 (Bermondsey to Upminster) with an Oyster Card then it would cost you £2.90 but if you was paying with cash and had a ticket then it would cost you £5.90. Both of these prices are adult rate fares and representative of off-peak pricing.
If you're travelling by bus then the Oyster Card allows users to take as many journeys as they want within the hour for the price of one journey (£1.50). This fare is called the 'Hopper Fare' and is used by many people commuting to work as well as tourists exploring London. Even if you don't use the Hopper Fare then there is a daily cap of £4.50 (3 bus journeys) so if you were planning to spend a day in London then using a bus would be the cheapest and most efficient form of transport. With an Oyster Card you can also purchase specific travelcards for different modes of transport. If using the Tube these travelcards range in price depending on what zones you'll be travelling through. As a member of my family lives in Zone 1 but works in Zone 2 they purchase a weekly travelcard priced at £34.10. This allows them to make unlimited journeys throughout these zones throughout the week, which saves the hassle of topping up their Oyster Card every time they make a journey as well as allowing them the peace of mind when travelling to and from work.
Travelling in London can seem daunting with a range of different modes of transport as well as a range of different prices correlating with each journey. However, the best thing about London is that it has one of the largest transport networks in the world since some of these transport methods travel even further than the 32 boroughs in the city. There are always constant improvements made to these transport methods to make them more efficient and beneficial to the people using them in London.
These forms of transport include:
With nearly 20,000 bus stops all across London and some bus stops on the outskirts buses are one of the cheapest and convenient options when travelling in London. There is only one price for a bus journey which is £1.50, it doesn't matter if you get on for one stop or stay on the bus until it terminates at its destination, the price stays exactly the same. A "Hopper Fare" has been introduced in which allows the passenger to make as many journeys as they want within the hour for the price of £1.50. This benefits those travelling to and from work who may need to change buses within this time, which in turn saves them money since they would be spending £1.50 rather than £3. There's a daily cap of £4.50 which allows passengers to ride as many buses as they want that day, this being incredibly useful for tourists and people only spending a small amount of time in the city. With night buses being introduced and becoming more popular there is more options for people wanting to use public transport after a night out. There are restricted routes on night buses but many buses go through most popular locations in London. For example, the bus 188 goes from North Greenwich to Russell Square during the day and night as this allows passengers to either use the bus, River Buses, the London Underground or taxis to get home from the O2 after an event (which prevents overcrowding).
London Underground & DLR (Docklands Light Railway)
The London Underground currently serves 270 stations through 11 different lines: Bakerloo, Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Waterloo and City as well as the District line. Each of these lines come with a specific colour which is easily recognisable and easy to follow if you're unfamiliar with the London Underground. Unfortunately the London Underground bases its fares on the zones that the passenger is travelling to and from as well as the time of day the passenger is travelling. For example, if I travelled from Stratford to Bond Street it would cost me £2.90 during the times 6:30-9:30 from Monday to Friday but if I travelled outside of these times it would cost me £2.40. These prices represent the cost with use of an Oyster card but if I purchased a one way ticket by cash through a machine then it would cost me £2.90. The DLR (Dockland Light Railway) serves mainly East and South London with only 45 stations and providing mainly an overground service, it's very useful when travelling to these areas. The DLR also follows the same rules of the London Underground in terms of pricing as it depends on what zones the passenger is travelling from and what zone their destination is.
An unusual mode of transport but a one with scenic views and fresh air, nothing could beat River Buses. With a limited service of only 6 routes serving 22 piers this service is more focused on seeing the sights of London such as stops from North Greenwich to Westminster allow passengers to see sights such as Westminster Pier and the London Eye. I would recommend this route to tourists since it can work out cheaper than paying for a specific river cruise along the River Thames through companies targeting tourists. Like the London Underground and the DLR there is also a zonal fare for passengers travelling on this service. The cheapest price being a standard rate at £4.10 for a passenger with an Oyster card or £4.60 for a passenger without an Oyster card. As mentioned before there are specific prices for River Tours, such as the London Eye River Cruise costing £12 for a 40 minute cruise.
The only tram system running in South London is Tramlink which covers 39 stops across 18 miles. Just like buses, tram fares are capped at £4.50 per day but has a single fare of £1.50. However, trams don't unfortunately have a "Hopper Fare" but there is an option to buy a Bus & Tram Day Pass which is priced at £5 which is only available for passengers with an Oyster card. During the day there is a frequent between 5am to 1am with trams arriving around every 10 minutes, there is no night service currently. On public holidays and Sundays there may be a reduced service as well as if there are any planned engineering works, most of this information is easily accessible and it's important to check the status of the tram route you're going to use.
Cycle Hire Scheme
Santander Cycles currently has nearly 14,000 bicycles located around 839 stations across London. This scheme was introduced to reduce the amount of people using public transport or driving to work, it's a healthier option to cycle as well as cycling producing no emissions at all as the Mayor of London is trying to reduce pollution in London. There is an initial charge of £2 for the first 24 hours but the first 30 minutes of your journey is free but each journey that goes over 30 minutes faces another £2 for an extra 30 minutes. For example, I rent a bike (£2) and do a journey for 25 minutes (completely free) but then I do another journey that takes me 35 minutes (I'm charged another £2). The reason behind this being Santander Cycles had the intention of only being used for short journeys rather than people trying to do the Tour de France. The one downside to using Santander Cycles is that the only form of payment is through bank card which can be paid through the app or at a docking station.
When people think of London and taxis most people remember the saying of Black Taxis, in which are the taxi services which can be hailed down from the street. These are deemed to be one of the safest options when travelling through London late at night but sadly it comes with a hefty price tag even though the driver would be using a regulated taximeter. The fare starts at £3 before the taxi has even moved and it can cost up to £10 for an 15 minute journey. There are three tariffs that drivers go by: Tariff 1, Tariff 2 and Tariff 3 - each one correlating to different times during the day, the actual day and whether this day falls on a public holiday. However, this price doesn't go unjustified since you will never see a taxi driver looking at their phone for directions since they have passed their Knowledge of London Exam which means they know the streets of London off by heart. These taxis are also licensed by TFL (Transport for London) as well as the drivers being previously DBS checked so there is no doubt these drivers are legitimate and safe. However, in recent years taxi services such as Uber and Addison Lee have become more popular, especially in London, as they're deemed to be a cheaper alternative. Through downloading an app onto your phone you're able to order a taxi, see the drivers picture and see the number plate of the car - Uber take safety very seriously. If you're in an Uber and feel unsafe then there is a part of the app which can alert the needed authorities to where you are as you have your tracking location on to which can be followed. However, Uber only accepts card payments only rather than cash, this might be more convenient for some but there may be instances where you don't have your bank card on you.
Emirates Air Line now offers passengers a way to travel which is very quick as it only takes 10 minutes each way as well as including scenic views of the O2 and Canary Wharf. There is only two routes available at the moment which goes from the O2/Greenwich Peninsula to the London Royal Docks and vice versa. This mode of transport is helpful if there are events at the ExCel Exhibition Centre and you want to avoid the chaos of the DLR. The standard price for a one way ticket is £3.50 and a return being £7 if you have a Travelcard (not the same as an Oyster card or a Freedom Pass). If you hold neither of these passes then it will cost £4.50 for a one way ticket or £9 for a return ticket. If you hold an Oyster card you're eligible for a 26% discount which makes the price for a one way ticket is £3.50 and a return being £7.
More information on each mode of transport:
I never thought to myself that I was raised well by my parents until I saw the manners of some gremlins on the London Underground. Some people may believe just because they have a fancy suit and fancy clothes that they are above everyone and that they paid their fare so it’s first come first served. When travelling if you’re sitting down and see someone who’s pregnant, unable to stand or someone who is elderly give up your seat to them if you can stand up. Not only is it a sign of respect but it’s the right thing to do since these people need a seat more than you, regardless of who got to the seat first or who paid more. If you’re travelling on a train that is packed and you are allowing a child to take up a seat, put them on your lap, unless they’re older and have to have a seat as they cannot stand neither can they sit on their parents lap. I used to travel to college during rush hour, the joys of being pushed around for 20 minutes while having to have my face pressed against someone’s sweaty armpit while there were six kids sprawled out on seats. If you do unfortunately have to take the train during rush hour, especially going through stations such as Canary Wharf and London Bridge, make sure you allow people space to make their way off the train. Don’t worry, if you do step off the train you will be able to make it back on, it won’t leave without you. I recommend this since I’ve nearly been carried all the way to the escalators with people pushing and shoving with a stampede of people realising they’re late for work. When using the escalators the most important rule to remember is that if you’re standing on the escalator then you stand on the right so other members of the public wanting to walk up the escalators can do so on the left. The amount of times I’ve been stuck behind a group of people who didn’t realise people do want to make it to work on time and can’t use the excuse of “Someone was in front of me on the escalator” when they turn up to work late. A final note on this section of courtesy, if you do find yourself in a situation where you are pregnant or unable to stand and deserve a priority seat (which someone who isn’t is sitting in) just remind them that they are priority seats and they can refer to the sticker behind them showing this. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing this for other members of the public, such as asking someone why they couldn’t give up their seat for an elderly person in which they replied “I didn’t realise”, sure Jan, the person standing right in front of you with a walking stick that’s elderly is just standing up for fun. Another cute little reminder is smaller badges that pregnant people wear that say “Bump on Board” which is a small reminder that this person is pregnant, even though the public might not be able to see it.
Travelling on the London Underground during the summer is a literal nightmare, it’s hot and overcrowded, with lots of festivals and events happening all over London. Always carry water with you for any journey, no matter how small, since it’s surprising how quickly you can become overwhelmed and feel ill. When at a station you may hear the repetitive message or see the signs encouraging the public to get off at the next station if they feel unwell. This message isn’t just for show, if you feel unwell get off at the next station and find someplace to sit or a member of staff to help you. If you stay on your journey then you may end up fainting or being sick, something that would hold up your journey even longer. When using the London Underground make sure you have all of your valuables with you when leaving the train as well as making sure you have nothing in coat pockets or back pockets. Believe me when I say that it will be gone in seconds, people I know had gone a few stops and then realised they had been the victim of pickpocketing. Regardless, this seems to happen everywhere and especially through routes that go through Central London as they are a gold mine for valuables waiting to be stolen from unsuspecting tourists.
Buy an Oyster
An Oyster card is a plastic smart card that holds credit which can be used to make journeys on buses, the London Underground, trams and other rail services in London. It can be topped up by cash or credit/debit cards at over 270 stations around London as well as stations just outside of London. From here an Oyster card can then be topped up accordingly, if you’re only taking one journey on a bus then it would be easier to just put £1.50 on your Oyster (the standard rate for a bus journey). However, if you’re making a range of journeys throughout London over the course of a day it’d be worth investing into a specific travelcard such as one that covers Zones 1-4 in London. Planning your journey is essential to save time and hassle as well as saving a lot of money. Some journeys on the London Underground can be up to £5 when travelling from Zone 1 to 6 during peak hours, with an anytime travelcard being just over £18. By making just 4 journeys then you would already have your money back as well as having a travelcard that is available for 24 hours allowing unlimited journeys within that time.
As mentioned before rush hour on the London Underground is not something you’d want to be caught in. The main times during the week where rush hour occurs is from 6:30-9:30am and then between 4:00-7:00pm (Monday to Friday) - these times are also linked to a fare increase in which you would be charged a peak fare when travelling during this time. This is because these times are when people commute to work as well as commuting back from work. During these times Tubes do arrive more frequently with them coming every few minutes or in some cases every minute. I would recommend that if you do have a pram or have young children, try and travel outside of these hours since you’d have to wait for a lot of Tubes to pass before attempting to getting on. Some people even push their way on when there’s clearly no space, which might make a child feel trapped or scared since it can become very confined and hot.
Before travelling it’s advisable to plan your journey since the London Underground has many routes and stations, with it being very confusing to tourists and sometimes even for people living in London. By using an app such as Tube Map or using an internet search it’s so easy to find the route you’d need as well as finding out what train you’d need to get on. If you got on the train at London Bridge and wanted to use the Jubilee Line then there’s two destinations - Stratford and Willesden Green. These stations are in the complete other direction to each other, with stations either way of them, which can make it very confusing since it’s unlikely that you’re not travelling to that specific stop but stops between them. When coming down an escalator there should be a clear indication of what stations the Tube is stopping at. Additionally, it’s important to look up at the screen to see where the Tube is actually going. For example, if I wanted to travel from London Bridge to West Ham I would need to make sure that my train is going all the way to Stratford. If it was terminating at North Greenwich then this would be no use to me since I would then have to get off and wait for another Tube that goes to Stratford.
Whatever form of payment you have whether it be a ticket, Oyster card or a contactless card, make sure you have it ready when getting to the barriers to enter or exit a station. The one thing I hate the most is to have my Oyster ready to then be waiting behind someone who is fumbling with the numerous cards in their pocket looking for their Oyster. To make myself more prepared when getting off at my chosen stop I would look for my Oyster while travelling up on the escalator since by the time I’m at the top I would be ready to go. People in London aren’t as nice as me and in some cases they will push past you to get to the barrier (especially during that dreaded rush hour).
Getting a Seat
Since I regularly travel to Bond Street and Stratford to do some shopping I frequently see central carriages full of people since they’re not bothered to walk to either end of the platform. By spending a few minutes walking down the platform I usually find myself able to get a seat as well as in some cases having a carriage to myself. The one thing that does amuse me is seeing people run for the Tube like their life depends on it when everyone on the platform knows that there’s going to be another one in the next couple of minutes. This is even better since it’s more likely that this tube is going to be less crowded and it’ll be more likely that you’ll be able to get a seat.
Tips and tricks for what to do in London as well as travelling around it.