Surviving London Transport with half of the World on it

3.4 Billion People

It was reported last week that a record amount of people used the London Underground last year, and it was the equivalent to half the world’s population. That’s a massive 3.4billion people! That may seem a lot, but for me (who has used the Tube for over 25 years), it comes as no surprise – particularly if you go through London during rush hour!

London Traffic

Generally, I would try to avoid the Tube as much as possible. Unfortunately, to survive living in this city you have to live further out of the city centre, which means you have no choice. There are our famous double-decker buses of course but they are too unreliable. Over-ground trains are too infrequent. If you can afford to drive, then traffic jams will surely drive you crazy – as well as the congestion charge taking more money from you.

A Londoner’s Top Tips

So, as an experienced Londoner, here are my top 5 tips on how to survive transport in London:

  1. Get an Oystercard. Even if you are here for only a week, Oystercard fares are usually half the price than if you paid in cash if you plan to use any form of the London Transport system. There is a deposit of £3 but you can get that back or keep it for you next visit. Additionally, it’s faster to get through the gates.
  2. On weekends, check Transport for London’s website ( for tube line and station closures. One of the most annoying things about the Tube is when you get to the station and it’s not open due to engineering or maintenance works. You then have to get a replacement bus which can take up to more than an hour longer. So use the website’s useful alternative route planner to avoid being late.
  3. If you’re lost, ask for help. English people have a reputation of being unfriendly when travelling to work. This is true; however, you will find that it is only the exterior. Londoners will usually be polite and detailed if you ask them for help. If there isn’t a queue, than the ticket office inside the stations will be able to advise you on what platforms to go to, as well as helping with prices and ticket information to avoid any potential fines and penalties.
  4. Ask passengers to move down the carriage. Its rush hour, you can’t get on the Tube or train. Or can you? More often than not, fellow passengers do not know that an extra 10 people could get on if only they moved further inside the carriage. This is where you have to shout “move down” for people to realise. Don’t be scared, it’s now one of the few things people say to each other every day on the Tube.
  5. Avoid rush hour and walk. Rush hour is from 7am – 9am and 5pm – 7pm. Trust me, this bit of knowledge will be very useful. It is also takes longer by Tube than on foot from Oxford Circus to Great Portland Street … or from Tottenham Court Road to Leicester Square … or from Covent Garden to Charing Cross. In fact, when you’re in the centre of London, the best tip is to check your map and walk. For short trips, you can save time and money…and it’s much healthier.

Although it may sound like I hate it, I have learnt to appreciate how great the London Transport system is compared to some cities. We always say you have to take the good with the bad. It’s just that now and again, you need to know how to survive the times when they are really bad!

Transport Vocabulary

The Tube
another name for the famous London Underground.
Rush hour
the periods of the day when people are travelling to or from work.
Double-decker bus
the famous red London bus with two floors. There will be a new model soon!
not very often or regular, for example underground trains on a Sunday!
Traffic jam
when the road is blocked because there are too many cars.
the special travel card which integrates payment on all the London public transport system so you don’t have to buy lots of different, and expensive, tickets.
the security doors which stop you entering or leaving an underground station without paying
the word we use to describe the cost of using any system of transport, for example a bus or train.
Congestion charge
the special fare you need to pay if you want to drive a private car in the centre of London.
Engineering or maintenance works
the building and construction work they do on the underground system every weekend. They need to do this work for two reasons: because the system is so old and because it all has to be perfect for the Olympic Games next year.
Alternative route
a different way to travel because the road or means of transport you want to use isn’t working
a long line of people, for example when you want to buy a ticket.
the ‘bus stop’ for a train
Ticket Office
where you can talk to a real person and buy a ticket
Fine / Penalty
the extra money you have to pay if you break the rules, e.g. if you don’t have a train ticket or drive too fast.
the people on the train or bus
a section of the train. Most trains have about ten carriages.
To get on
when you enter the train; the opposite is to get off.
To go on foot
when you walk
in this context is another word for journey – but not travel as this is a verb. So you go on a journey/trip or you travel somewhere

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