The public transport system can seem incredibly daunting to anyone who is moving to London for the first time – it certainly did to me when I started my studies at LSE. However, it has quickly turned out that my worries were unfounded, and the system is much easier to navigate then it may seem at the first glance.
Here are a few tips and pieces of information on how to find oneself in a labyrinth of buses, DLR, and underground and overground trains.
Zones, tickets, caps – all you need to know
The London public transport system is divided into zones. Zone 1 covers the central areas and tickets cost the most there. The further out, the greater the number and the cheaper your ticket.
The easiest way to pay for a fare is with a contactless card or mobile payment. Touch your card or mobile in on card readers at the station and touch out at the end of your journey.
In buses and trams, touch in only once at the begging of your journey inside a vehicle. Don’t worry that something’s wrong when you don’t see the fare on your bank account immediately – it appears there the following night.
There are some other options to pay for your journey (which you can explore here), but contactless payment is without a doubt the most popular and convenient one.
Although public transport in London is rather expensive compared to other European capitals, the good news is that there is a cap that limits how much you can spend during the day and week so you won’t overpay.
Use apps to help you
The best way to navigate the public transport system and all the options available to you is by using apps.
Google Maps, Apple Maps, Citymapper, what3words – these are just a few examples of the indispensable apps that can help you every day with finding a perfect route to your destination.
Switch to buses as a cheaper alternative
Buses are much cheaper than trains – pay as you go fare is only £1.65. What is more, there are lots of them so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that suits you.
The priceless benefit of taking a bus is that you get to do some sightseeing on your way. If you’re lucky, you can catch the best views from the front seats in a double-decker.
Have a trial month
Are you wondering if it’ll be more affordable for you to get an Student Oyster photocard as opposed to paying as you go? That’s actually quite hard to predict.
A good idea might be to have a trial month during which you will track your expenses on transport. It may turn out that you don’t need to use public transport that often and it’s cheaper to pay as you go.
Every situation is different – most likely, you won’t be going on campus every day, but you may have a part-time job that requires commuting. You might live within walking distance of the campus or quite far away. You might need to hop on a bus to go shopping or use the tube every now and then to visit a museum. All of this will have an impact on the frequency of using public transport.
Every case is individual and therefore ultimately you are the best judge of what the most cost- and time-efficient public transport option is for you. Don’t worry – you will become an expert soon enough!