London is a BIG city. You cannot cover London on foot specially if you are a tourist and time is of utmost importance for you. But not to worry as there are many cheap options to travel in London. More than a century old metro (tube) system is very efficient and covers London to the fullest (almost). Apart from the Tube, the bus network is also very good. You can also rent a car, but believe me you, it will be burn a hole in your pocket. City of London levies congestion charges on cars entering into its central zones (there are 6 zones as you will learn later). In addition the parking is very expensive. I would rather take the famous London taxi than rent a car!
Local Conveyance – Underground ‘Tube’ and Bus
The local public transport in London is governed by TFL (Transport for London) www.tfl.gov.uk. It is a comprehensive network of underground and bus.
You can easily pick a tube map for free at the airport itself. Go to the tourist information counter and ask for the map. Take your time to carefully chart out your journey to your final station. You can take help of the staff at the information counter. If you are first-timer in London the map may seem a little complicated with 12 tube lines on it. But believe me it is very simple to use the tube in London. It is the fastest and the cheapest option you have. Plus the biggest advantage is that you get to know London a lot better. Tube is the lifeline of London. Few tube stations are testimony to London’s modern history and the resilience of its people. The Tube is more than a century old, though some lines are relatively new but the tube stations have a very interesting history of their own, especially about the two world wars.
The bus service in London is very convenient and is 24 hours (Tube is from 5 AM to 12 AM). The downside is that buses do get stuck in traffic and take much longer than tube to get you to your destination. The bright side is that you move on London’s roads and hence see the beautiful city of London from your bus window. You don’t miss the hustle and bustle of London and can take in as much as possible during your stay.
I would suggest you mix and match and use both services as per your convenience. For the sake of time, to travel longer distances you should use tube. Remember, as a tourist, time is the most precious commodity you have.
Travel within London
London is divided into six concentric zones. While taking a tube or bus remember that you should first check out in which zone does your destination lies and take a ticket accordingly. Greater the distance between your zones, greater is the ticket price. For example a single ticket in central London (Zones 1 to any destination) costs £4.0. Single ticket from any zone(within 2-6 and not zone 1) to any destination (within 2-6 zones and not zone 1) will cost £3.2. DLR single tickets (zones 2 and 3) will cost £1.6.
But if you are in London only as a tourist, there is a cheaper option for you. You can buy a one-day or three-day unlimited Off-peak pass for £5.6(Zones 1-2) and £21.2 (Zones 1-6) respectively. You can use the tickets for unlimited travel on Tube and Bus after 9:30 AM. You can buy these tickets at any Tube station. You can also purchase anytime tickets (valid also from 4.30 AM to 9.30 AM and beyond).
For Bus and Trams, a single ticket costs £2.0 and a day ticket costs £3.8.
Oyester photo cards
A much cheaper option on London tube is Oyester cards. Oyester is a ‘pay as you go’ concept. The ticket prices are much cheaper and you will be charged according to the journey you take without bothering about the zones in which you are travelling or the transport you are taking.
For example, oyster single fare in zone 1 will cost you just £1.6 whereas a normal single fare ticket will cost you £4.0. The travel from zone 1 to other zones will vary with the distance with a maximum of £3.8 being charged from zone 1 to 6. Similarly an Oyester single on a bus or tram costs £1.0 whereas a normal single on the same costs £2.0.
There is a Daily Price Cap concept on Oyester. How so ever much you travel in a single day on Bus and Tram, you will not be charged more than £3.3 on Oyster (whereas a day pass ticket is £3.8). Similarly, Off-peak travel on Tube (zones1-2) is capped at £5.1 whereas an Off-peak Day Travelcard (zones1-2) costs £5.6. Thus using an Oyster is definitely the cheaper option.
There are a 7 Day, a Monthly and an Annual Travelcard is also available, depending upon your travel zones within London. For example a 7 Day Travelcard (zones 1-2) will cost £25.8 and a Monthly (zones 1-2) will cost £99.1. A 7 Day Bus and Tram pass costs £13.8 and a Monthly costs £53.0
Children and Student Discounts
Children under 11 travel free on Buses and Trams. They also travel free on Tube, DLR and London Overground but only when accompanied by an adult. If not accompanied, then a 5-10 free oyster photocard is needed.
Children 11-15 can travel free on trams and buses but need an 11-15 free Oyester photocard. 11-15 year olds pay child rates on tubes, DLR and London Overground. An Oyester photocard is needed. Else you can purchase child –rate cash single, Day or 3 Day tickets. 11-15 year olds can also get a £1.0 Day travel card when travelling with an adult with a valid travel card.
16-19 year olds in full-time education or on a work-based learning scheme and who live in a London borough can travel free on buses and trams with a 16+ Oyster photocard. With this you can also pay as you go at half adult-rate on Tube, DLR and London Overground services and buy half adult-rate Travelcard season tickets. 19 year olds need to have been aged 18 on 31 August 2008.Other 16-17 year olds with a 16+ Oyster photocard can use pay as you go at half the adult-rate on bus, Tube, tram, DLR and London Overground services and buy half price Bus & Tram Pass and Travelcard season tickets.