Quick Tips: Using public transport in London
London's excellent public transport system makes getting around easy.
If you're planning a trip to London, it's worth taking some time to get to grips with how to get around the capital before you set off. This way, you won't waste any of your precious holiday time trying to work out what an Oyster card is or how to pay!
Here are a few handy tips on using public transport in London to get you started. Visitor Oyster cards The London Underground is one of the quickest and simplest ways to get around the capital. While you can buy tickets at each station, it's much better to purchase a Visitor Oyster card - an electronic smartcard that you can pre-load with credit.
Visitor Oyster cards differ from standard Oyster cards, which most Londoners use to get around, in that they often come with deals and offers. If you can, order one online before you travel; this way, once you arrive, it will be ready to use.
Using your card is easy: simply remember to touch your card to the yellow card reader at the station when you begin your journey, and again when it ends. It's very important to do both steps, otherwise you might get charged a penalty fare.
Remember that each traveller needs their own Visitor Oyster card.
Contactless payment on the Tube
If you have a contactless debit or credit card, you can use this instead of a Visitor Oyster card.
They work in a similar way, requiring you to touch in and touch out at the beginning and end of your journey. Where they differ is that they take fares directly from your bank account, and that the amount you will be charged is calculated at the end of the day. As with an Oyster, you need to remember to stick to just one card to avoid being charged two maximum fares for incomplete journeys, or a penalty fare.
More than the tube
Remember that while the London Underground is a brilliant way to get around, it's not your only option. Buses can not only be cheaper, but also often get you closer to your desired destination.
Particularly good for families, buses are often an easier choice if you have a buggy, as you can avoid the stairs and escalators of tube stations and take advantage of designated buggy spaces.
You can use your Visitor Oyster on buses too; simply touch your card to the yellow reader when you board. There's no need to touch out. Another good option is the Thames Clipper Services. Yes, you can travel around the capital by boat!
This is brilliant fun for children, and also allows you to escape the crowds on the tubes. Find out more here.
Walking and cycling Don't forget that it's easy and enjoyable to walk around the capital too, particularly in the heart of the city, where many tube stations are just a few minutes' walk apart. Alternatively, why not hire a bike? The city's Santander Cycles system costs from just £2, requires no pre-booking and is an especially nice way to get around on a sunny day.
Image credit: istock David Henderson