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Explore the city,

March 07 2024

Our top tips for navigating the London Underground

If you’ve never visited London before, the prospect of getting around can be daunting. But the London underground is the perfect way to go from one London neighbourhood to another, especially when you know what you’re doing. So, we’ve crafted this handy guide to help you become a master of navigating the London tube. 


1. Stand on the right

This is the first of our London underground tips. When you enter an underground station, the rule is to stand on the right. This is to create a clear route for those in a hurry, preventing people from weaving in and out of slower movers.


So, even if you’re in a group as you ride the escalator, go in a single file. If you stand on the left side, you may get someone barking at you to get out of their way. 


2. Tapping on and off

Look for yellow tap points when you’re entering and leaving an underground station and tap them with your paper Travelcard ticket, Oyster Card or contactless device.


An Oyster Card is available online and from most tube stations, London newsagents and visitor centres. 


A Travelcard gives you unlimited travel in specific zones for a specific time. You can buy paper Travelcard tickets from machines in most tube stations, use the TfL Oyster and contactless app or put it on your Oyster Card. If you tap your contactless device on the yellow disc, you automatically pay for one adult rate fare. 


You need to remember to tap in at the start of your journey and tap out at the end and when you’re changing stations. If you forget, you may pay more than you need to.


3. Avoid peak times

If you’re in town as a tourist, it’s best to avoid navigating the London tube during the morning or evening rush hour. The busiest times are 7:30am to 9am and 5pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday. Although even avoiding those times, we can’t guarantee it won’t still be busy! 


4. Don’t rush

Avoid the urge to dash down the escalator and jump onto a train just as the doors are closing. This is the London underground, so you rarely have to wait more than seven minutes for the next train, and often it’s just a minute or two. So avoid the panic and take those extra minutes to make sure you’re on the right line and getting on a train going in the right direction.


5. Let people off first

If you want to know if a Londoner is furious, listen for the sound of a tut. You’re highly likely to provoke such a sound if you get on a tube carriage without first letting other passengers off. When the tube carriage doors open, stand on the platform, keeping to the side of the doors, so people leaving have a clear route off the carriage. Oh, and mind the gap! 


6. Plan your route

Here are some London underground tips and tricks for making sure you’re going the right way in the best way. Make a note of the stations, the names of the lines and the direction of travel (eastbound, northbound, etc.). 


There are always maps in the stations, but when it’s crowded, trying to work out the map can be stressful. Instead, use apps like Citymapper and the TFL Route Planner to plan your route before you leave the comfort of your hotel room or home. 


The London Underground map doesn’t give you distances between stations, so sometimes you could end up taking a tube ride when it’s only a two-minute walk above ground or a quicker bus journey with some fantastic views. 


7. Have water with you

In the summer, London’s underground can get swelteringly hot. Especially on the Central Line! This is largely because extensive sections of the underground are old, deep underground and poorly ventilated, so there isn’t much fresh air to cool it down. So arm yourself with a water bottle or two to stay hydrated and cool. 

If you’re travelling around the city and using our tips to master London underground navigation like a pro, base yourself close to major underground transport hubs in the centre of the city with fantastic hotels like Thistle Trafalgar Square, Thistle Piccadilly, Thistle Marble Arch and Thistle Hyde Park Lancaster Gate.