So you’ve been told to stand on the left and walk on the right on the London Underground escalators. Easy, you may think. That’s all you need to know! But not so fast – there’s more to using the London Underground efficiently than that. While it’s important to know how to keep traffic flowing smoothly, you can also save yourself a lot of time and hassle by knowing these five simple tricks to getting around London below ground. These are tried and tested techniques used by London locals themselves to give you a smoother and quicker commute.
Boycott the Circus
Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus are two of the London transport network’s “black spots”: very busy stations where hundreds of thousands of people change every day.Oxford Circus is a stopping point for several Underground lines, but more importantly, both stations are in the centre of town in areas that attract the city’s highest concentrations of tourists. Londoners avoid these stations if they can, instead getting off at nearby stations like Bond Street and Leicester Square – which are still busy, but not quite as crazy. You’ll also see large crowds at Victoria Station, often with giant suitcases – it’s the main link between London and Gatwick Airport. Hotels close to Paddington Station are a good bet because while Paddington is a major mainline train station, it doesn’t attract quite so many tourists.
Explore Piccadilly Circus & China Town
Walk to Covent Garden
Yes, Covent Garden has its own Tube station; no, it’s not worth it. The reason for this is that there are no escalators and you will be crammed into an elevator to reach street level. It’s slow, cramped and frustrating. Get off at Leicester Square or Holborn instead and take a five-minute stroll to reach your destination. You’ll get to see some sights and become a little more familiar with central London.
Look at a map
One trap many tourists fall into is taking the tube one stop between Leicester Square and Covent Garden to save time: the truth is, you save no time at all! By the time you’ve descended underground, waited for your train, waited for the lift and come back up, you might as well have walked and saved yourself the Tube fare. This is something you can easily figure out by checking Google Maps or the Citymapper app – very popular with Londoners. Around the Regent’s Park area, it’s also faster to walk to most destinations: Great Portland Street and Baker Street stations (Circle, Hammersmith & City, and Metropolitan lines), Euston station (Northern line), Warren Street station (Northern and Victoria lines) and Regent’s Park station (Bakerloo line) are all within a five-minute walk of each other. Get out and stretch those legs!
As a visitor on holiday, you have the luxury of being able to choose your travel times, whereas commuters often can’t. This means you can easily avoid the official Underground peak hours of 6.30am-9.30am and 4pm-7pm, Monday to Friday. Not only will you end up with a more pleasant journey with a greater likelihood of snagging a seat, but outside Zone 1, you’ll pay less using your Oyster card.
You’re still in public
People sometimes do strange things on trains – the anonymity gives them the confidence to put their makeup on, have a nap and let their freak flag fly. Do remember, though, that you’re still surrounded by people and that most of them have cameras. You wouldn’t want the main memento of your trip to be an embarrassing photo of you gone viral on the Internet!