Getting Around London
The best way to get around London is the rapid-transit London Underground, or what locals call "the Tube." You can even take the Tube from Heathrow Airport (LHR) – one of the world's busiest airports – into the city center. This widespread and efficient system stretches throughout London and beyond, and it is relatively easy to navigate. Buying an Oyster card will further simplify your travel since it can be used on the Underground system, as well as on city buses and other forms of transportation. Visitors should also bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes since meandering is the most atmospheric way to traverse the city. If you need a little guidance on where to wander, consult a local by taking one of London's top tours.
The London Underground, otherwise known as "the Tube," is simple to use and has extensive routes throughout the city and into neighboring counties. Tickets and rechargeable Oyster cards can be purchased at stations; we recommend the pay-as-you-go Oyster card, which will allow you to travel throughout the Underground's nine zones (though the great majority of tourist attractions are clustered in the first and second zones). Even if you don't plan on using the Tube throughout your entire stay, purchasing an Oyster card (versus a single-fare ticket) will always be cheaper. Plus, a Visitor Oyster card will allow you to take unlimited trips in Zone 1 and Zone 2, and you won't be charged more than 6.60 pounds (or about $9.30). A Day Travelcard will cost you almost double at 12.30 pounds (or about $17.30). Remember to touch your Oyster card to the yellow readers as you enter the Tube station and as you exit.
The allure to traveling by bus is that you get to see the sights. The London Underground is, well, underground, so you miss out on the city's scenic views. Fares start at 1.50 pounds (about $2.10) for a single ride with an Oyster card and at 2.60 (about $3.65) with a paper ticket, but keep in mind that buses don't take cash, so it's best to have a topped-up Oyster card to pay for your trip. Many bus routes cover the entire city and run 24 hours a day. According to the London visitor's bureau, routes Nos. 9, 14, 15 and 22 are particularly good for sightseeing.
London's infamous black cabs can be found throughout the city, as well as in designated lines at busy train stations, airports and hotels. When you're hailing one on the street, keep in mind that a lit-up taxi sign means it's available. Cabs are metered, and the minimum fee is 6 pounds (a little less than $9). You can pay with cash – or quid, as the Brits say – but many cabs accept credit cards, though there is a surcharge. You can tip as much as you want, but most cab riders tip to the nearest pound. Steer clear of unlicensed cabs, especially ones soliciting you; they're illegal in London and can be dangerous. The ride-hailing app Uber also operates in London.
Think twice before "hiring" or renting a car in London. For Americans used to driving on the right side of the road, keep in mind that Londoners drive on the left. The cars are also usually manual; automatics tend to cost more. In addition, traffic and parking are awful, and the cost of petrol (or gas) is high. That said, you can hire cars at the airports or at many locations throughout central London. When driving, keep in mind that using hand-held cell phones while driving is illegal; the speed limit on highways is 70 mph.
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