If there were ever a city so well-defined by its transport, that would be London. The ‘tube’, the bus, the historic black Hackney cab are as iconic as the Big Ben! From the Lancaster Gate hotels, you have plenty of options for how to get around London. We’ve compiled a handy guide to public transport in London, to help you make the most of your stay.
- London is divided into nine zones, with zone 1 being the most central part of the city.
- The cheapest way to pay for your travel is by Oyster card. There are two types, regular and visitor. The regular card allows you to add travel cards to the card, whilst the visitor card works only on a pay-as-you-go basis. You can also use your contactless bank card for the same price.
The London Underground
The ‘tube’ is the world’s original subterranean train system, and is the fastest way to get around London. There are 11 lines in total. Most lines operate between 5am until around 12.30am. The Victoria, Central, Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines operate a 24-hour service on Friday and Saturdays. So, guests of the Grand Royale London Hyde Park can enjoy a couple of drinks in Soho then be back at their accommodation hassle-free!
Zone 1 carries the highest single fares, and travelling through multiple zones will make your Underground journey more expensive. Avoid travelling during the peak hours of 7.30 – 9.30am and 5pm – 6pm. Fares peak and the lines are incredibly busy.
Stations can be easily recognised by the distinctive Underground logo. To access the platform, you must tap your Oyster card or contactless card at the entry barriers. Don’t forget to tap out, even if the barriers are open. Alternatively, you can purchase a ticket at the station.
The London Overground is a younger service than the Underground, and, as you can most likely guess – the lines operate above ground. It functions in zone 2 and beyond, and was developed to fill the gaps where the Underground is absent.
Thanks to the Overground, you can seamlessly travel from the Park Grand London Kensington to Clapham in the south, or Hampstead in the north of London.
The Overground follows the same pricing as the Underground and is recognised by its orange roundel.
Docklands Light Rail (DLR)
The DLR caused quite a stir when it opened as London’s first driverless train. If you sit in the covered front two rows of the carriage, it really does feel like you are driving the vehicle.
The DLR serves East London and connects The City to the secondary Central Business District (Canary Wharf) and City Airport, as well as to the popular neighborhood of Greenwich.
Again, the same fares apply as the Underground and the Overground.
London is very well-served by buses, with routes covering the entire city. Many of London’s buses operate a 24-hour service.
London buses are card only, so you must have a contactless credit card or valid Oyster card to ride them. Buses do not accept cash, and you cannot top up your Oyster card on the bus. You must tap in when you board, but you don’t need to tap out.
The fare for any single London bus ride, whether it’s 10 minutes or over 1 hour, will cost you £1.50. There are no price spikes during peak times, although be mindful that there will be more congestion on the road. This may make your journey slower, but it does give you time to soak up views of London at a fraction of a cost of the sightseeing bus!
London buses also operate a ‘hopper’ fare, which means that however many buses you board within one hour is included in the £1.50 value. You must still swipe your card when you board each new bus.
Anyone can hire a bicycle in London using the Santander scheme. You will need to pay by credit card at the payment terminal at the docking station, which provides an unlock code. It costs £2 for 24-hour access, and the first 30 minutes of cycling are free. After that, the journey is priced at £2 per 30 minutes.
Many of London’s roads feature cycle superhighways, where cyclists can cycle safely. It is not against the law to cycle in the UK without a helmet but it is advised to wear one. Alternatively, you can hire a bicycle and explore an attraction near the Park Grand London Kensington such as Hyde Park.
For something a little different, you can hop aboard the Thames Clipper river boat and turn travel into sightseeing. The service connects Putney with Woolwich, via a number of piers in central London including Festival Pier, Blackfriars Pier and Tower Millennium Pier.
The cheapest fares are via your Oyster or contactless card, or when you book your journey online. But do bear in mind the rates are much steeper than other means of transport. A single, adult journey made through Central London on an Oyster card will cost £7.20. Children under 5 travel for free.
If you want to travel in style, then you can hail one of London’s iconic black Hackney Carriages. These swarm the central streets, and an orange light indicates when they are available for hire. You’ll see no GPS or Sat Nav in a black cab; in order to become a licensed cabbie, all drivers must prove they have the ‘Knowledge’. Basically, they need to know the streets of London like the back of their hand!
Black cabs accept payment by cash or credit card. It is not mandatory to tip a cabbie, but if you feel inclined to do so then a small token would be appreciated.
Alternatively, many app-based taxi firms operate in London. Some of the most popular firms include Addison Lee, My Taxi, Gett and Ola Cabs. You will need an internet connection to hail a cab and in the most cases you will pay by credit card.