The London Underground is London's rapid transit train system that runs, you guessed it, underground. It is the cheapest and fastest way to get between two places in London. Unless you're from a city with an extensive rail network, it can feel a bit overwhelming or difficult to navigate. Do not be afraid.
In this post, we'll explain exactly how to use the London Underground. We'll start by explaining the London Underground system as a whole, then go into detail about timetables and prices, then combine it all with step-by-step instructions on how to ride the Tube in five easy steps. And of course, we've added some extra tips for good measure.
By the time you finish reading this book, you'll be ready to confidently travel anywhere in London on the London Underground. Ready to work?
in this post
This is what we cover in this post. Feel free to read the entire guide or skip to the section that interests you the most.
- An introduction to the London Underground
- working times
- How to use the London Underground in 5 easy steps
- 10 tips for getting around on the London Underground
An introduction to the London Underground
The London Underground, nicknamed the Underground due to the tube-shaped tunnels through which the trains pass, was the world's first underground rail system. It opened in 1863 with a single line as a way to reduce traffic congestion, and it continues to expand.
The underground train system connects Greater London with 11 lines that run through 272 stations. Up to 2 million people ride the London Underground every day, making it one of the busiest underground systems in the world.
It is also one of the longest subways in the world, with 250 miles of track. The London Underground is more concentrated in central London, but also serves regions outside of London, mainly north of the Thames.
The London Underground is just one part of London's larger transport system, operated by Transport for London. There are also London Overground trains, buses, river buses, trams and much more.
Advice: For more information on London's trains and transport systems, visitLondon Transport Museum.
Lines, stations and map of the London Underground
The London Underground is a complete and extensive network of railway lines. While it may seem intimidating to navigate a complex system, you'll get the hang of it quickly. In this section, we will explain the various components of the system as a whole. However, when you actually travel, you only need to know the details of the specific trip, which is much simpler.
London Underground lines
Each route or line has a name and is represented by a specific color. Here are the 11 London Underground lines currently in operation. This list does not include the new Elizabeth line, which is not technically a London Underground line, although it runs underground.
- Bakerloo (brown)
- Center (Red)
- circle (yellow)
- District (green)
- Hammersmith & City (rosa)
- Jubilee (gray)
- Metropolitan (magenta)
- north (black)
- Piccadilly (dark blue)
- Victory (light blue)
- Waterloo & City (turquesa)
Trains run on each line of these lines in both directions. The direction of the train is indicated by the destination. Some routes in the same direction may diverge at some point and have two different destinations.
London tube stations
The London Underground currently has 272 stations. Some stations are small, with only one platform serving a single rail line in both directions. Other stations are huge, with many different platforms on many levels and some of the longest escalators you'll ever see.
London Underground stations can beActuallyvery underground. Most stations are equipped with a combination of stairs, escalators, and/or elevators (elevators), but not all. Around a third of London Underground stations offer step-free travel. If you have mobility issues, be sure to check outavailability informationon the Transport for London website.
Stations often have multiple entrances, usually at each corner of the junction or at different ends of the train. London Underground stations can be identified by the red and blue London Underground icon which will be visible at the entrance.
Not all seasons are created equal. Some larger tube stations, such as Victoria or Waterloo stations, have toilets, restaurants, and shops. This usually only happens at stations that serve as interchanges with other metro lines or other types of trains. At the smaller stations, expect a ticket machine or, at best, a vending machine.
London Underground map (as of April 2023)
The London Underground covers London proper and Greater London. Most of the London Underground system is north of the Thames. In reality, there are only 29 stations (out of 272) that are south of the river.
The system is divided into 9 zones starting in central London with Zone 1 and extending outwards. Zones are used for pricing purposes, and transit to other zones or across multiple zones is more expensive.
You can view and download the most up-to-date London Underground map onlineHere.
(I'm not posting the actual image here due to Transport for London's strict copyright rules.)
The London Underground does not run 24/7. The subway runs approximately from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. m. until midnight, Monday through Saturday, with limited service on Sundays. Each line has a different schedule for the first and last train that you can seeHere.
There is also a Night Tube service on some lines (currently Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria) which runs 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.
Peak hours on the London Underground are 6:30am to 9:30am and 4:00pm to 7:00pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays). The trains are getting busier and busier right now. They are also more expensive.
Pay the London Underground fare
The London Underground is one of the cheapest ways to get around London, and by far the fastest. In this section, we will describe the different ticket options, prices and payment methods for the London Underground.
There are three main options for buying tickets for the London Underground.
- pay as you go. You just have to choose your payment method on the way to one station and another. The system will calculate and charge the appropriate fare based on your trip.
- point to point ticket. If you are going to make a single trip from one station to another, you can buy a paper ticket for exactly the same price.
- Unlimited travel card.Ride the London Underground anytime, anywhere, for as long as you want during the life of your card. Travel cards are sold for the day, week, month or year.
Please note that pay-as-you-go rates are capped at the maximum rate. Once you reach your maximum fare, you can continue driving as many times as you like at no additional charge. The maximum price depends on the travel time and the areas through which you move. You can calculate the maximum ratesHere,but it will never be more expensive than a Travelcard.
In some cases, the pay as you go limit may be lower than that of Travelcard. For example, a 1 day Anytime Travelcard costs £15.20 and is valid in zones 1-4. But if you're only traveling in Zone 1 and 2, a day's allowance is just £8.10.
For this reason, we recommend that you pay as you go and let the system do the math for you.
Determining the exact price of a trip on the London Underground is unnecessarily complicated. Prices vary depending on the distance you travel (depending on the zones you travel through) and the travel time (peak and off-peak hours).
In general, the trip will cost you between £2 and £4 per adult if you pay with a credit card or Oyster card. Tickets purchased with cash can be up to twice as expensive. Children 11 and under can travel free on the London Underground with a paying adult.
Given the complexity of the rate system, we suggest simply paying as you go and using automatic rate caps.
You can use any contactless credit card or Oyster card to pay for the London Underground. Just tap the turnstile card when you enter a station and again when you exit.
The Oyster card is a London transit card that can be pre-loaded and used on any public transport in the city. You can buy an Oyster card at any London Underground station or buy a cardoyster guest cardonline before you travel. However, you will need to pay an additional £5 per card plus delivery charges on top of the credit you wish to top up. Oyster's pay-as-you-go charges are slightly lower and also have a charge limit.
If you buy a direct ticket or Travelcard, you can pay by credit card or cash (pounds sterling) at the station ticket machine.
How to use the London Underground
Now is the time to really take a subway ride. In this section we will explain exactly how to use the London Underground to get around London. We have divided it into five detailed but simple steps.
- Enter a London Underground station.
- Tap your payment method on the card reader and go through the turnstile.
- Find a platform for the correct train going in the right direction.
- Going by train
- Tap the same payment method on the card reader to exit through the turnstile at your destination.
1. Enter a London Underground station.
Start by finding the nearest London Underground station. The easiest way to do this is to use Google Maps and search for "London Tube Station" or search for exact directions to where to go.
At smaller stations, you'll be able to quickly identify a single set of turnstiles to navigate towards the train platform. At larger stations you may first need to follow the signs for the London Underground (if there are other trains at that station) and/or the specific train you are looking for.
2. Tap your payment method on the card reader and go through the turnstile.
There will be a yellow card reader at each turnstile. Hold your contactless credit card or Oyster card to the card reader and go through the turnstiles.
As turnstiles are used for both entry and exit, some busier stations will have red and green lights to indicate which turnstiles should be used in which direction. Just touch the turnstile with the green arrow.
Keep your payment method handy for later (but don't lose it).
3. Find the platform for the correct train going in the right direction.
You then need to find the platform of the train you want to take, going in your chosen direction. There will be large signs at all stations to help you find the correct platform.
Knowing the final destination of the train in the direction it is traveling is helpful, as trains are marked by line and destination. If you're not sure, there's usually a sign on the platform listing the next stops for each direction. Check if your stop is listed on a train going in that direction.
NOTE: Some railways going in the same direction split at some point and have two different destinations. In this case, check if your stop is before or after this division. If it is before you can take any of the trains, but if it is after the split you have to take the train with the correct destination.
4. Take the train.
When the train arrives and stops, the doors will open automatically. Get on the train quickly and safely. Get in and head to the center of the car, especially if it's full. The door will close automatically.
Take the train to your intended destination. The stops will be announced over the train loudspeaker. They are also displayed on the walls of each station, which can be seen by approaching and stopping at each station.
Exit the train quickly and safely. Follow signs to the exit, which may require escalators, stairs, and/or elevators. If they are multiple, they will be labeled by street and cardinal point.
5. Touch the same payment method on the card reader to exit through the turnstile.
Before leaving the station, you will need to go through the turnstiles again. Use the same payment method and touch the yellow card reader again before going through the turnstile. If you've somehow lost this method of payment, whether it's a paper ticket or a credit card, you'll need to pay the maximum fare, which can be double or triple the actual fare.
Make sure you are using the same cardIdevice to charge the correct rate and apply charging limits. For example, if you have the same credit card on both your Apple Watch and your phone, you can't touch your Apple Watch and touch your phone.
10 tips for getting around on the London Underground
1. Watch out for the gap.
It's a small clue, but the announcements for the trains say so, and that's important. The space between the train and the platform can be quite large, either as a gap or as a step. Respect the distance and stay safe.
2. Don't buy a Travelcard.
The Travelcard gives you unlimited access to the trains, but you may not travel on the train enough to make it worth your while. With zones and times, it's really hard to know in advance if it's worth it, and with automatic upload limits, you don't have to. If you pay as you go, you can pay less or in the worst case pay the same as Travelcard.
we don't consider you eitherneedOyster card, but it's a fun souvenir.
3. Make a plan in case the group splits up.
The doors of the train can suddenly close and there is a small chance that your entire group will not be able to get on or off the train together. This can be disconcerting if you don't have cell service and can't text your group right away. This is weird, but it happened to us once and I've been nervous about it ever since.
Make sure everyone in your group knows what to do if this happens. The plan could be "the person on the train gets off at the next station and waits for the rest of the group at the next stop" or "everyone goes to their final destination separately and meets again."
4. Do not pay in cash.
A single ticket on the London Underground costs almost 3 times more if paid in cash. We recommend having a contactless credit card and only paying as you go. This is the cheapest and easiest option.
5. Stay off the tracks.
Always leave a few feet between you and the tracks, whether or not a train is approaching. This is basic train safety, but it's always a good reminder. Some of the newer stations have a glass wall and sliding doors along the tracks for safety, but all will have at least one yellow line to stand behind.
6. Charge your device.
If you're using a mobile payment method on your watch or phone, make sure your device's battery lasts your entire trip. If he passes away and you have to pay by another means, you will be charged the maximum rate.
7. Use the free Wi-Fi.
Most London Underground stations have free Wi-Fi. If you're looking for directions and anticipate needing a train, head to the nearest station and use the free Wi-Fi for public transportation instructions.
8. Practice good etiquette on the train.
- Wait for people to get off the train before getting on.
- After boarding the train, move to the middle of the train, leaving room for everyone.
- Offer your place to people who may need it more than you. (Londoners are very good at this!)
- If you have to eat or drink on the train, please do not litter or leave litter.
9. Always have your payment method at hand.
If you're coming from a transit system that doesn't involve getting on and off the train, this can be hard to remember. Personally, I have hit a closed tourniquet without tapping more times than I care to admit. Have your payment method handy so you don't waste time.
10. Visit the London Transport Museum.
If you enjoy riding the London Underground, consider a visit to the London Underground.London Transport Museum. You'll learn a lot about the technology that has moved Londoners over the years. There are also great children's play areas and a fantastic gift shop where you can buy your own London Underground train home.
Have a good trip!
- Plan Your Route. ...
- Make Sure it is Quicker Than Walking. ...
- Use the Right Payment Method. ...
- Have Your Ticket Ready. ...
- Prepare Your Phone. ...
- Left in the Corridors, Right on the Escalators. ...
- Avoid Peak Times. ...
- Be Aware of Opening Hours.
London's transport methods are easier to use than to describe. With a map or street atlas plus a Tube map and a bit of planning you'll find it not too complicated a matter getting from point to point. The best way to do it is to plunge in and get started - there's always a way to make a return journey.What app do I need to use the Tube in London? ›
Our travel app TfL Go is built around our iconic Tube map. Add it to your iOS and Android devices to plan your journey around London.How do I use my iPhone on London Tube? ›
Once your card is set up as your Express Travel Card, just hold your iPhone or Apple Watch over the yellow card readers on TfL services. You won't need to open Apple Wallet, wake your device or use Touch ID or Face ID.Do you need Oyster card for London Tube? ›
You can use contactless (card or device) or an Oyster card to pay as you go on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, most Elizabeth line services, IFS Cloud Cable Car and River Bus services. You can also travel on most National Rail services in London and some outside London.How much do you pay for Tube in London? ›
|Zones Travelled||Single Journey Ticket||Oyster / Contactless Payment Card~|
|Zone 1 to 4||£6.70||£3.20|
|Zone 1 to 5||£6.70||£3.50|
|Zone 1 to 6||£6.70||£3.60|
|Zone 2 to 6||£6.70||£3.50|
You only pay for the journeys you make and it's cheaper than buying a paper single or return ticket (train companies may offer special deals on some journeys). In Zones 1-9, your fare is capped so you can travel as much as you like in one day or week (Monday to Sunday), without paying more.Is it cheaper to use Oyster card or credit card on London Underground? ›
Is it cheaper to use Oyster or contactless? As both cards use the same Pay As You Go system and are compatible with the TfL Oyster & Contactless app, the costs are comparable.Can you bring coffee on the Tube? ›
The rules aren't limited to the items named, so coffee could be classed as a dangerous item. It has the potential to be spilt on someone, which is not a rare occurrence on the Tube when it suddenly comes to a stop. Anyone found to be carrying an item in breach of the byelaw will be asked to remove it.How much is an Oyster card? ›
How much does an Oyster card cost? The Oyster card costs £7. You then add money to the card to pay for your travel. The £7 fee is not a deposit.
Tube Map is the award-winning navigation app that includes the official TfL (Transport for London) Tube Map. Tube Map - London Underground works both on and offline and is the #1 Tube Map with over 22 million downloads! Key features: Uses the official TfL iconic Harry Beck London Underground map design.What is the best app for getting around London? ›
- Visit London app – official city guide and offline maps. ...
- TfL Oyster app and TfL Go. ...
- AccessAble app. ...
- Citymapper London app. ...
- Santander Cycles app. ...
- London Architecture Guide app. ...
- Uber Boat by Thames Clippers app. ...
- Raise Tower Bridge app.
The tube lines are: Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, and Waterloo & City. The additional lines operated by TfL are the Docklands Light Rail (DLR), London Overground, Emirates Air Line, and TfL Rail; which may charge special fares.Can I use my bank card on the London Tube? ›
If your bank card shows the contactless payment symbol, you can use it to pay as you go straight away. You'll pay an adult rate fare.How can I use London Tube for free? ›
If you're 60 or over and live in a London borough, you can get free travel on our transport services with an Oyster photocard. Who is it for?Is London Underground app free? ›
Our free app lets you manage your contactless and Oyster cards on the go. Why use the app?Can I use my American iPhone in London? ›
Will My US iPhone Work in the UK? The brand of the phone doesn't matter as much as whether or not your phone is “unlocked” and able to accept other SIM cards. What is this? Typically, you will have no problems using a US iPhone in the UK if it is unlocked.What happens if you don't tap out on train? ›
If you don't touch in and out, we can't tell where you've travelled from or to, so your journey will be incomplete. Maximum fares don't count towards capping.Can I tap my debit card on the tube? ›
2.5 You must touch your contactless payment card on a yellow card reader at the start and end of each journey by Tube, DLR, London Overground, Elizabeth line, London Cable Car, Thames Clippers River Bus or National Rail journey (or any combination of these) and at intermediate points where required.What is the cheapest way to use the London Underground? ›
Pay as you go
You don't have to work out the cost of your journey in advance. You can pay as you go using contactless (card or device), an Oyster card or a Visitor Oyster card. It also offers great value as pay as you go is cheaper than buying single tickets and you get daily and weekly capping.
There is no price difference between the Oyster card and contactless card. Every time you travel on London's public transport, your contactless payment card is charged the same fare as your Oyster, including cap prices (the maximum amount you'll pay daily and weekly to travel throughout London).Do I need cash in London? ›
With the exception of places like airport stores, you'll need to use UK currency in cash or a payment card during your time in the UK.How much is 1 ride on the Tube? ›
Single tickets on the underground cost £2.80 with an Oyster card/contactless card. The full cash fare is £6.70.Can you pay cash on the underground? ›
You can pay cash or credit card. However there are no longer manned ticket offices at Underground and DLR stations, you have to buy from a ticket machine. If you prefer a human to serve you there are also many Oyster Ticket Stops all over London in neighbourhood stores, newsagents etc.Can you still pay cash on the Tube? ›
Usually, cash fares are much higher than the other payment options, plus some services, like the bus, don't even accept cash any more. Basically, don't use cash to pay directly for your ticket in London if you can avoid it! If you do want to use cash, the best option is to buy an Oyster Card.How much is a daily Travelcard in London? ›
|One Day Travelcards|
|Transport Zones||Off Peak||Anytime|
If you will be travelling frequently every day, a £50 card is a good option. Want to spend 3 days in London and travel by regular Double-Decker bus? Buy a £20 Visitor Oyster card and save on an iconic London bus journey: £1.75 for a single journey, with £5.25 as a daily cap!How much is London Tube per day? ›
|Zone(s)||One Day Anytime||One Day Off-peak|
|Zone 1 and 2||£8.10||£8.10|
|Zone 1, 2 and 3||£9.60||£9.60|
|Zone 1, 2, 3 and 4||£11.70||£11.70|
|Zone 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5||£13.90||£13.90|
European travelers should always have some cash on hand; getting it from an ATM abroad is usually the easiest, most advantageous way. If you need cash from an ATM, it's usually better to use a debit card, because credit cards often charge a high interest rate for a cash advance.Is it worth getting an Oyster card when visiting London? ›
Great value. Pay as you go fares are cheaper than buying a paper single ticket or Day Travelcard. Your Visitor Oyster card offers daily capping. This means you can travel as much as you like in a single day and the amount you pay for your travel is limited (or capped).
The only reason you would want to just buy individual tickets is if you are only using public transportation once or twice during your stay. However, the average visitor will use public transportation multiple times each day and the Oyster card can save both time and money.Can you take suitcases on the Tube? ›
Can you take suitcases on the tube? Yes, you can take as much as you can comfortably carry on the tube, as long as it's under two metres.Can you eat food on Tube? ›
Food is legally allowed to be consumed on TFL services. But still, there are a lot of legal things that are considered rude, like staring, or refusing to give up your chair for an elderly person. This is where our moral compass has to kick in.Can I travel with a bag of coffee? ›
Can you take tea bags and coffee in carry-on bags? Yes, you can take tea bags and coffee in your hand luggage, but it is recommended that you pack them in a sealed bag to prevent any spills or messes. This same rule applies to coffee powder, coffee pods, and coffee capsules.Is it cheaper to use an Oyster card or buy a ticket? ›
The Oyster Card is a magnetic rechargeable plastic card valid for all of London's public transport. It not only simplifies the payment system, but it's also cheaper than paying for a single journey ticket every time you ride the Underground, bus, DLR, or Overground.What is the point of getting an Oyster card? ›
An Oyster card is a smart card that you add money to, so you can pay as you go. You can pay as you go to travel on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, most Elizabeth line, IFS Cloud Cable Car and Thames Clippers River Bus services.What are peak times for London Underground? ›
Peak fares - Monday to Friday (not on public holidays) between 06:30 and 09:30, and between 16:00 and 19:00. Off-peak fares - at all other times and if you travel from a station outside Zone 1 to a station in Zone 1 between 16:00 and 19:00, Monday to Friday.How do you pay for bus in London? ›
London buses are card only, so you cannot buy a ticket with cash. Use a Visitor Oyster card*, an Oyster card, a Travelcard or a contactless payment card to pay your fare. Unlike the Tube zone fare system, a single London bus journey costs £1.75 no matter how far you go.What is the least used line on the London Underground? ›
Roding Valley is London's least used tube station. Roding Valley is found on the central line.
Central London Railway – blue. City and South London Railway – black. Great Northern and City Railway – orange. Metropolitan Railway – red.
Typically, people tip around 10-15% in London, except for when using taxis or public transport, where a smaller tip is frequently accepted. Tour guides do not need to be tipped, but this is up to the customer to decide. Some restaurants add an automatic tip to your bill.How to get around London quickly? ›
The Tube (London Underground Train / Subway)
The tube is the quickest way to travel around London, and you'll find that most places you want to go will have a tube stop close by. Plan your route here. Once at a tube station, you can pick up a free pocket-sized map to carry with you on your travels.
London's favourite app for using the Underground.
Tube Map prepares you for the journey ahead with line status updates, real-time routing to anywhere in London and of course the latest official Tube Map from Transport for London.
Opened in 1863, The Metropolitan Railway between Paddington and Farringdon was the first, urban, underground railway in the world.What is the most popular London Underground line? ›
|1||King's Cross St Pancras||1|
The District Line has the most stations: 60. 24. The Underground name first appeared on stations in 1908.How do you pay to use the Underground in London? ›
Pay as you go
You don't have to work out the cost of your journey in advance. You can pay as you go using contactless (card or device), an Oyster card or a Visitor Oyster card.
Yes, each person travelling needs their own Oyster card, Travelcard or contactless payment card. If you are coming to London in a group of 10 or more people who plan to travel around the capital together, you can buy a Group Day Travelcard*.How much does it cost to use the Underground in London? ›
Single tickets on the underground cost £2.80 with an Oyster card/contactless card. The full cash fare is £6.70.Can you use your debit card to pay for London Underground? ›
If your bank card shows the contactless payment symbol, you can use it to pay as you go straight away. You'll pay an adult rate fare.
Anyone with a contactless debit or credit card can use it to pay for travel in London. It's ideal if you don't have or want an Oyster card. Or if you run out of pay as you go credit on your Oyster card.How much does Oyster card cost? ›
How much does an Oyster card cost? The Oyster card costs £7. You then add money to the card to pay for your travel. The £7 fee is not a deposit.Is it better to get an Oyster card or a Travelcard? ›
As a general rule a Travelcard is more expensive than an Oyster card or Contactless payment card. The exception is if you make 3 or more journeys for 6 days or more within a 7 day period. In this case a 7 day Travelcard works out cheaper than an Oyster or Contactless payment card.Can you pay cash on the Underground? ›
You can pay cash or credit card. However there are no longer manned ticket offices at Underground and DLR stations, you have to buy from a ticket machine. If you prefer a human to serve you there are also many Oyster Ticket Stops all over London in neighbourhood stores, newsagents etc.What is the cheapest way to get around London? ›
- Get an Oyster card. ...
- Go contactless. ...
- Know where you're travelling to. ...
- Avoid travelling during peak hours. ...
- Take the bus for long distances. ...
- Take advantage of the Hopper fare. ...
- Rent a bike when it's sunny. ...
- Walk wherever possible.
If you're 60 or over and live in a London borough, you can get free travel on our transport services with an Oyster photocard.