With planning, London is one of the easiest European places for Americans to visit, first because we all speak English, even though some would argue that fact. In addition, public transportation, especially the subway which is called the Tube, is fast, easy and affordable.
My husband, Randy, and I buy an Oyster card as soon as we get to London. We have to pay a £5 deposit which we can get back the unused portion at the end of the trip. The length of our visit to London determines how much we initially put on our cards, but we can always add more if needed. Maps of the Tube are available online, and most of the tourist sites have the stops listed on their websites. We have also found Tube employees very helpful whenever we have questions. When you’re ready to go, put your card in the turnstile slot, retrieve it when it spits back out, and push through the gate.
Since our daughter and seven-year-old granddaughter often travel with us, we discovered that children travel free, but you’ll need to go through a handicap accessible gate where a Tube representative will help you. Tube maps are available many places and online at https://tfl.gov.uk/maps/track/tube.
Multiple car services exist and reservations from and to the airport can be booked online ahead of time. Taxis, though more expensive, are plentiful, and buses are also a good way to get around. We generally catch the Tube to the stop closest to our destination and then walk. At this time, Uber and Lyft are not allowed to work in London, but check before you go to see if this law has changed.
Another way to get around and play tourist is to jump on the Hop On/Hop off bus. Multiple companies provide this service so do your research to find the best one for you. We did learn a few tips…don’t take the HOHO bus if it is hot. There’s not much shade or moving air so it feels like Texas in the summertime! If you take the HOHO bus on the weekend, there is less traffic so you get around faster; however, St. Paul and Westminster Abbey are closed to tourists on Sundays except to those who want to worship. (Also, make sure you check the schedule for Westminster Abbey because it changes daily since it is an active church. We went one day during posted hours only to find them closed for a funeral.)
Perhaps the biggest key to traveling in London, as with any place you travel, is being flexible. Yes, we went to the wrong station while trying to find the original Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4, but we got to see more of London and have an adventure to remember!
Do you have questions or a favorite mode of transportation in London? Please share with us!