How To Get Around London: A Complete Guide

So, you’ve booked a trip to London and now you need to make a plan to ensure you get the most out of your visit. Part of that planning is deciding where to go and what to see but you also need to plan how you’re going to get around. London spans across 607 square miles with 272 tube stations and over 19,000 bus stations. With so many options for transport it can be overwhelming deciding which mode of transport is best to get around London. This is where we can help! This guide will make planning your travel less confusing before you arrive so that you don’t waste precious exploring time trying to navigate London.

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How to Get Around London: Quick Answer

We know that planning a trip to London takes time, effort and let’s face it – it can be confusing. If you’re in the middle of planning your trip right now you’ve probably got tons to think about so to make it a bit easier we’ve pulled together a summary of this guide in the 10 most important things you need to know about how to get around London.

  • London is split into zones 1-5 with zone 1 being the most central and zone 5 being more suburban.
  • The London tube map comprises of 18 coloured lines, each one of these lines is a separate route across London and you can switch to a different route at any station where these coloured lines cross at the same station.
  • For ease, buy an oyster card when you arrive in London. It’s a pre-paid card that you can add some money onto and use on all public transport to save money even if you’re only in London for one day.
  • Where possible, always opt for the tube over any other public transport in London – for the most part they run every few minutes and are close to all major sights in the city. While you may see more on the bus, traffic in London is like any other big city so you risk wasting time just sitting in traffic.
  • Always stand on the right when on stairs or escalators in London as the left hand side is kept free for people to pass you because they’re in a rush. 
  • London is a working city and a busy city! If you want to miss the crowds as much as possible, aim to visit on a weekday and avoid rush hour (before 9am and between 5pm and 6.30pm). You should also plan your visit around the main UK school holidays in July, August and late December
  • Like any big city London is not immune to crime. I’ve never felt unsafe when travelling around London but you do need to be careful and aware of your surroundings to avoid falling victim to a pickpocket.
  • Although a traditional part of London is the black taxi cab they can be a very expensive mode of transport. Use them sparingly and for short journeys.
  • It’s not all about public transport, there are some great walking routes across London where you can see the main tourist spots within a couple of hours.
  • If you enjoy cycling you can hire a bicycle in London for a reasonable cost. Download the Santander Cycles app to find and rent a bike from one of the several locations dotted around the city.

What’s in this guide?

If there is a mode of transport in this post that you’re particularly interested in you can skip straight there by clicking on that section in the contents below. If not, then continue reading to learn all about how to get around London. 

How to Get Around London on the London Underground.

In London the underground (more commonly known as the tube) is THE most popular way of getting around the city and is used by up to 5 million passengers every day. This is because it’s easy to navigate, quick and is a vast network that covers most of the city – you’re never that far away from a tube station! 

There’s tons of history connected to the London Underground from 1863 when the world’s first underground station was opened to 2022 when the most recent underground line (the Elizabeth line) was added. Most notably, from September 1940 and May 1945 a lot of the underground stations are used as air raid shelters while some are closed to store British treasures. 

Top Tip: To help you get around London on the underground make sure to remember to stand on the right on stairs and escalators. This is because the left hand side is kept clear for people to pass and it’s considered rude to stand on the left and block people

There are 12 tube lines that run across and around London, each of these is identified by a different colour and name,

  • The Bakerloo (or brown) line runs from Harrow and Wealdstone in the north west to Elephant and Castle in the south. This line passes through some popular stations including Oxford Circus and Waterloo.
  • The Central (or red) line runs through the centre of London from Epping in the east to Ealing Broadway in the west. This line passes through some popular stations including Shepherd’s Bush, Bond Street and St. Paul’s.
  • The Circle (or yellow) line runs in a circle within zone 1 and connects Euston in the north with Tower Hill in the east, and Westminster in the south.
  • The District (or green) line runs from Ealing Broadway in the west to Upminster in the east, with additional lines running from Edgware Road in the north to Wimbledon in the south. This line passes through some popular stations including  Embankment, Westminster and South Kensington.
  • The Hammersmith and City (or pink) line runs from Hammersmith in the west to Barking in the East. This line passes through some popular stations including Paddington, Baker Street and Barbican.
  • The Jubilee (or grey) line runs from Stanmore in the north to Stratford in the east. This line passes through some popular stations and goes around central London through Green Park, Waterloo and London Bridge.
  • The Metropolitan (or burgundy) line runs from Uxbridge or Ammersham in the west to Aldgate in central London. This line passes through some popular stations including Barbican, Euston Square and Wembley.
  • The Northern (or black) line runs from Edgware or High Barnet in the north to Battersea Power Station or Morden in the south. This line passes through some popular stations including London Bridge, Bank and Camden Town.
  • The Piccadilly (or dark blue) line runs from Cockfosters in the north to the Heathrow terminals in the south west. This line passes through some popular stations including Hyde Park Corner, Leicester Square and Kings Cross. 
  • The Victoria (or light blue) line runs from Brixton in the south to Walthamstowe Central in the east. This line passes through some popular stations including Kings Cross, Oxford Circus and Victoria.
  • The Waterloo and City (or teal) line runs directly from Waterloo to Bank.
  • The Elizabethan (or purple) line runs from Shenfield in the north east to Reading to the west of London. This line passes through some popular stations including Paddington, Tottenham Court Road and Liverpool Street. 

To navigate the London underground you’ll need a tube map. This is how you’ll know which tube line you need to jump on to get to the right station. Every tube station has a map large printed but if you want to be more organised you can find a digital version of the tube map on the Transport for London website or download the TfL app. 

How much does the London Underground cost?

When travelling on the tube you can pay per journey (if you only need to go a few stops), or you can buy a travel card for the length of your visit. My preference, and what I’d recommend is using pay as you go because you’ll only be charged for what you use and the price is capped at a day rate so it will never cost you more and it may even work out cheaper. You can pay by oyster card (I’ll go into these a little more below), contactless card or mobile phone. Check on the TfL website for the most up to date underground prices before you travel.

Top Tip: always scan on the way in and out of a station – even if the barrier is open still scan to exit so you’re charged the right amount for your journey.

I mentioned oyster cards above, these are pay as you go cards that you can add credit to and are a secure way to travel around London if you don’t want to get your bank card or phone out every time you jump on the tube. It costs £5 for an oyster card and then you top it up with credit for your journeys.

You can buy and top up an oyster card at most train and tube stations, and there’s also an app where you can manage your card. Once you’re finished in London you can either keep your oyster card for your next visit as the credit doesn’t expire, or you can get a refund of the remaining credit on your Oyster card.

Is the London Underground accessible?

Having travelled through a few big cities with a pushchair I’ve found London to be the most accessible by far. Not only can you get assistance at any station but the TfL make it very clear on the tube map which stations have completely step free access from platform to street and which are step free from train to street.

If you arrive at a station to find the lift is out of order then staff will be on hand to assist you in continuing your journey (even if that means a taxi journey at their expense). There is also an accessible tube map available to download online.

Let’s face it, most of the tube network in London is irrelevant to tourists so there’s really no point in trying to figure out every tube station. Below you’ll find some of the most popular tourist sites, the closest tube station and the underground lines that run through them.

Buckingham Palace

The closest station to Buckingham Place is the St. James Park Station. You can get to the station on the circle and district lines. Green Park station is also close to Buckingham Palace and you can get to the station on the victoria and piccadilly lines.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

The closest tube station to St. Paul’s cathedral is the St. Paul station, you can get to this station on the Central line. Slightly further out but with better access is the Mansion House station that runs the circle and district lines, or the Barbican station that runs the circle, hammersmith and city, and metropolitan lines.

Tower of London

The closest tube station to the Tower of London is the Tower Hill station, you can get to the station on the circle and district lines. Just a short walk up the river to London Bridge is the monument station which runs the northern line giving you another option.

Natural History Museum

The closest tube station to the Natural History Museum is the South Kensington station. You can get to the station on the piccadilly, circle or district line.

London Eye

The closest tube station to the London eye is the Waterloo station. You can get to this station on the bakerloo, northern, Jubilee and waterloo and city lines. To take in some of the sights head to the Westminster station instead, this runs the jubilee, circle and district lines and is a short walk over the Westminster bridge with a great view of the London Eye.

Borough Market

The closest station to Borough Market is the London Bridge station, you can get to this station on the jubilee and northern lines. It’s also accessible by the monument station if you want to take a stroll across London Bridge, you can get to that station on the circle and district lines.

How to Get Around London by Foot

Whether your favourite kind of holiday is an active one with plenty of walking or a slower pace with lots of breaks, London provides as much or little walking as you like. Although London is a large city it’s surprisingly easy to see all of the main spots by foot, either walking the entire way over a few days or mixing some walking for the shorter distances with jumping on the tube or bus the longer stretches. 

It’s easy to navigate your way around London as there are regular maps along the way. The best part about walking around London rather than using public transport is that there is so much to see along your route. From historic winding cobbled streets to quaint little cafés, or mini park spaces – you risk missing out on a real London experience by going everywhere on the underground.

If you’re not quite comfortable with doing some self-guided walks yet and you’d rather have an experienced local guide then take a look at the below tours, available through Viator.

Hop on this London’s Palaces and Parliments Tour and you’ll be taken around 15 of London’s top attractions. This tour is great for kids as there’s an engaging guide and kids go free.

If the spooky side of London is more your thing then take a look at this Ghost, Ghouls and Gallows Walking Tour with the added benefit of a boat ride to London’s most haunted site – the Tower of London! Or follow in the footprints of the famous Jack the Ripper who terrorised London between 1888 and 1891.

Get the insider track on this Secret Walking Tour of Central London where a local guide will take you off the tourist trail so that you can experience the true side of London

Best Self-Guided London Walking Routes

To help you get started we’ve included some of our favourite walking routes below and you can read more on our post about the best self-guided London walking routes.

Buckingham Palace to Leicester Square – 45 minutes

This one covers all of the tourist sites starting with Buckingham Palace, before heading to the houses of Parliament, Big Ben and on to the Horse Guard Parade. After all this walking you’ll end up in Leicester Square where you can enjoy a bite to eat, see a show, or explore nearby Soho, China Town or Covent Garden.

Oxford Street to Covent Garden – 1 hour

This route is the best option for a bit of shopping or a show. Starting at the top you’ll walk the length of Oxford Street, one of the most famous shopping destinations. Nip down to Bond Street for a more exclusive shopping experience and continue on to Piccadilly Circus to shop at the famous Hamleys Toy Shop. From here continue on to Leicester Square, Soho or China Town for some good food or a show and finally ending at Covent Garden for some dessert and to watch the street performers.

South Bank – 1 hour and 15 minutes

This walk is my favourite and best done on a sunny day when you can enjoy the open spaces and beer gardens that line the bank of the Thames. You’ll start at the Tower of London and walk across the Tower Bridge before strolling up the South Bank of the river. On your way you’ll walk past several must visits including HMS Belfast, The Shard, Borough Market, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern and the London Eye. From here you’re a stone’s throw away from the Westminster Bridge if you still have some energy and want to continue your walk.

Other Ways to Get Around London

Apart from jumping on the tube and walking there are many other ways to get around London, some more common (like the buses) and others that are for specific destinations (like the IFS Cloud Cable Car). 


The famous double decker red bus is a common sight in London, but when you consider there are 9,300 buses and 675 routes it’s no surprise! While buses are slower than tubes they are cheaper and there are more routes meaning you can get anywhere. You can find out more about the bus routes available and the most up to date costs for a London bus journey on the TfL website.

River Boat

While the River Thames isn’t the prettiest river, it is a great way to get around London because the river runs close to many of the popular tourist sites. The Thames Link operates under the TfL to provide services from Putney in the west to Barking Riverside in the east, with key steps Iike Westminster, Embankment, London Bridge and Tower Bridge.


The overground is often on the same line as the underground as it was created to plug some gaps in the underground network. You can travel in the same way you do on the underground, with the same cost and the same accessibility. This is the best public transport option if you’re planning a trip to the UK and not just London.

IFS Cloud Cable Car

The IFS Cloud Cable Car is a small transport option in London taking people across the river from Greenwich (where you can jump on the tube) to the Royal Victoria Dock (where you can jump on the DLR).


There is a tram service that runs from Wimbledon in the south west and runs across South London. You can see the tram route on the standard tube map and is indicated by two green lines. It doesn’t run through any of the main tourist sites and doesn’t go into central London so is less busy than the tube.


You can hire an electric bicycle (or Boris bike as they’re also known) at over 800 locations across London for as little as £1.65 for 30 minutes. You can learn more and get the most up to date costs for hiring a bicycle in London online.


Aside from the red telephone boxes a black taxi cab springs to mind when most people think of London. There are plenty of cabs so you won’t have an issue getting the attention of one, however they can be an expensive way to travel so use sparingly and opt for a normal taxi or uber instead if you have a long journey.

Summary: How to get around London

Getting around London is simple and easy when you understand how to navigate the city’s large public transport network. You’ll find the tube to be the most efficient way to see a large part of the city but the other modes of transport, particularly the buses, river boat or a ride in a black taxi cab shouldn’t be dismissed. Ultimately no matter what type of transport you use to explore London you’ll never be in a position where you’re struggling to get around. Whether you’re here for a few days or an extended stay, London’s transportation system is your ticket to a memorable experience in this incredible city.

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