London is criss-crossed by many forms of transport: do you know how to get from the airport to central London to your hotel to your favourite attraction? It can be tricky to navigate when you’ve just arrived and you’re jet-lagged and tired. That’s why it’s important to do your research before you leave – so when you hit the Arrivals hall at Heathrow, you already know how to travel on the London Underground and you’ve sorted your Victoria from your Piccadilly (they’re both blue, it IS confusing.)
There are actually four rail networks running through London: the Underground, the Overground, the Docklands Light Railway, and mainline or “National Rail” train services. The first three connect up with each other at certain stations and are very similar, though they’re run by different companies. The DLR runs through East London and is marked in turquoise on Tube maps; the Overground runs mainly from North to South, and is marked in orange. The Underground is made up of multiple different lines connecting much of north London and some of south London. Each line is marked on the maps as follows:
- Jubilee – grey
- Piccadilly – navy blue
- Victoria – light blue
- Central – red
- Bakerloo – brown
- Northern – black
- Metropolitan – purple
- Circle – yellow
- District – green
- Waterloo & City – aqua
- Hammersmith & City – pink
National Rail services run from major stations like Waterloo, King’s Cross St Pancras, Charing Cross, Paddington, Vauxhall, Clapham Junction and Liverpool Street. They usually run to destinations outside of London in every direction, and you can easily book tickets online to take you anywhere you want to go. St Pancras, also known as St Pancras International, is the place to catch the Eurostar to France. However, to get to Heathrow Airport, you’ll need to either take the Piccadilly line of the Underground or the Heathrow Express train, which is based at Paddington. These are very near to London City Suites By Montcalm
You can use either an Oyster card or a contactless credit card to travel on all London’s public transport services. Oyster cards are useful because you can load them up with a travelcard, giving you unlimited travel within a defined area for a period of 7 days to a month for one flat fee. If you’re planning to use the Tube a lot during your stay and you won’t be leaving central London very often, this is a great way to add to the savings we’re sure you’ve already made by finding the best London stay deal.
An Oyster card or contactless credit card can be used to pay for rides on trains, Tubes, buses, ferries and trams within the London area. All bus rides cost a flat fee of £1.50, no matter how far you go – but be aware that Oyster and contactless are the only payment methods now accepted by London buses. You can still use cash or your bankcard to buy tickets for every other public transport service, but be aware that buying individual tickets is the most expensive way to use the Underground – your Oyster will get you a 30% discount on fares as well as a daily cap, after which you won’t be charged any more for that 24-hour period. Children under 10 travel free, but must be accompanied by a fare-paying adult.
As a visitor, locals understand that you’ll move a little slower – better to take your time and drink it all in than end up lost in the Tube network. They’re also generally happy to help if you need directions – however, there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a busy station during rush hour with no clue how to get where you’re going. Check the map before you leave your hotel and stay away from the Oxford Street area and major main-line train stations between 4pm and 7pm, and you’ll be just fine.