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A Quick Guide to Using the London Underground(often called the Tube)

A quick guide to using the London Underground

In many world cities people, including tourists, commute using taxis and other modes of transport such as rickshaws.  Often the cost of using these ways of getting about is extremely cheap when you factor in the strength of the pound or the dollar.  As you’ve probably found out London is a different story.  Black cabs, and even private taxis, can be rather expensive.  Especially when you take into account waiting in horrendous traffic jams.  Remember London’s streets were never designed for the volume of modern day car usage.  The solution people, and it’s great value for money, is the London Underground.  Often referred to as the Tube.

Where to access London’s tube?

As the tube runs more or less underground throughout London it’s not alway obvious to someone arriving here to know where to get the Tube.   Entrances to the Underground vary greatly from station to station.  These days you’ll find some are ultra modern glass fronted designs while others haven’t changed much in a hundred years.  Some will be a basic flight of stairs in a small brick building while others are to be found inside train stations or shopping centres.  However, there is one thing which will always identify one and that’s the round Underground logo.  This logo is known throughout the world and is the one thing which will enable you to identify your way home after a night out!

Which line will I take?

It’s inevitable that you’ll get lost on the underground at some point if you’re new to London.  There’s eleven underground lines which all have different names, and colours, and basically criss-cross over each other.  At some stations you’ll be able to access two lines while at others you can access more.  The iconic underground map is essential for the first time, and second, time visitor.  While it doesn’t accurately represent distances and locations in the real world it does ease the task of getting about using this system.  Remember and check you are travelling in the correct direction.  Trains will often have the destination on the front and there is plenty of other indicators.

How to pay for my trip on the London Tube

There a variety of means to purchase your ticket,  You can pay with cash at the automated ticket machines at each station or queue up and purchase from an actual person at some larger stations!  Commuters often buy weekly, monthly or yearly tickets at reduced rates.  Others pay by credit card as they travel round while a significant amount of people choose the oyster card payment system.   Remember and purchase your ticket before entering the train to avoid any problems!
Standing on the right on escalators
It’s traditional that those using escalators to access and exit the underground stations abide by the unwritten rule of standing on the right-hand side of the escalator to allow those in a hurry – which appears to be most – to walk quickly.   Those standing on the left tend to be tourist and are often viewed to be slowing everybody down.  As you’d expect this is frowned upon by the grumpy commuters.  Although trials have been made recently where people were told to use the escalators two abreast it seems that the tradition is still very much in practice.   It’s common sense I know but it’s worth reminding people that there are often gaps between the tube and the platform.  The size of this gap varies but on some lines it would be possible to get your foot stuck I guess.  It’s definitely wide enough to drop your wallet or mobile phone down.  There are warnings broadcast in the stations where this is an issue as well as signs.  There really is no excuse!
The London Underground is not a 24 hour service
Unlike subway systems in some other cities the Tube doesn’t run through the night.  This means that you need to organise how you’re getting home from a night out.  You don’t want to be stranded in central London at midnight having missed the last train.  You’ll face a hefty taxi fare to the suburbs or a lengthy nightbus home!!  There are plans for some lines to run through the night but make sure and check it’s the one you use. The above just gives you a little insight to using the underground in London.  It really is the best way to get about and is still quite an economical option.  If you avoid rush hour you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can get from one London tourist attraction to the next.  Safe travels folk!
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