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London is a large city and at some stage during your short break you are bound to need to use its extensive public transport system, run by London Regional Transport (LRT). At first it may seem a little confusing, but it does provide a very efficient and comprehensive service once you understand the network.
The Underground (Tube), buses and overground trains principally make up the network, with the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), riverboats and Tramlink as additional options.
Of the two main choices, Underground or bus, the Underground is certainly the quickest way to get around. Buses offer views and a chance to get to grips with the geography of London. Taxis are useful for short journeys, but longer journeys can get expensive.
During your visit you can buy a Travelcard, which is valid for the entire transport network, or an Oyster Card if you don’t require overground rail. Both tickets will make you journey around London simpler.
Read more on this destination in the AA Key Guide to London.
Ways to get around in London
London’s Underground system is also known as the Tube. The earliest lines date from the mid-19th century and it’s the oldest and most extensive network of its kind in the world.
12 lines make up the Greater London Underground system and each has its own name and is colour coded on the Underground Map, running everyday (except Christmas) from early morning until midnight (11pm on Sunday). Pick up a free pocket-size map at any station.
London’s bright red double-decker buses have become an icon, you can not fail to notice them as you travel around the city. London bus routes run along most main roads in central London. For short journeys and if you are not in a hurry, the bus can be a pleasant way of getting around.
Buses come in 2 styles, routemaster buses, with a conductor, and driver-only buses. Driver-only buses have 2 doors, one at the front where you get on and pay the driver, and one midway, where you get off.
Hold on to your ticket until the end of your journey, because inspectors regularly board the buses to check tickets.
Dockland Light Railway
These are computerised and driverless trains (DLR) and serve the docklands area. For the most part, they run on elevated track, allowing panoramic views.
Trains run 5.30am to 12.30am, Monday to Friday. With more limited services at the weekend.
Most boats start and end at Westminster Pier, which is the midway point along the Thames. They operate from 6.30 through to 9pm.
Upriver you can go from Westminster Millenium Pier to Hampton Court Pier via Kew and Richmond Piers. Downriver, you can go from Embankment Pier to Greenwich Pier via Waterloo Millenium Pier, Bankside Pier and Tower Pier.
If you are a travelcard holder, you will more than likely get a third off most services.
London’s black cabs are world famous. The design remains distinctive despite the fact that cabs are now advertising and come in colours other than the traditional black. You can rely on a London cabbie (driver) to know where he is going, they must be licensed and have passed extensive exams.
To hail in the street, only those with an illuminated TAXI sign are vacant and can stop.
These are saloon cars and must be booked by phone or from the minicab firm office. Do not hail a minicab in the street, as drivers may be untrained and uninsured.
Avoid Taxi touts at airports and stations as they overcharge and are even more likely to be unlicensed and uninsured.
There are many organised tours in and around London and beyond. Choices range from escorted walking tours around the streets of the city to the tailor-made tours in luxury chauffeur-driven limousines. River cruises, evening tours and specialist interest tours can all be found. Most tours are available in different languages and car and coach tours will even pick you up from and take you back to your hotel.