An International Student’s Guide to the London Transport System: Part 3 The Underground

Access to good transport is always important to me when I choose my student housing. London’s underground train system is huge and there will probably be a station that you can access from your accommodation. I have put together some tips I have found useful for finding my way around by Underground.

You may know this type of transport system as a subway, metro, Underground, light rail, monorail or rapid transit. Here you’ll call it the Tube, and it can take you almost anywhere in London and its outskirts.

Fares & Zones

When you are budgeting for your semester here, it will be important to consider the exact location of your student housing. London’s Underground network is divided into zones (1-6) and the cost of your transport will depend on which zone you live in.

Almost all of the city’s main attractions can be found in Zone 1, but few local residents will actually live here. Most people will commute to this area from zones that are further from the centre.

Your travel costs on the Tube are reduced by living in or close to Zone 1 so you may want to consider this when you choose student housing. London accommodation can be more expensive in this area, but for me it’s worth it for the experience and the savings on transport.

Paying for Your Journey

Tube journeys are paid for with your Oystercard, Travelcard or contactless bankcard. At the entry to the platform you’ll have to touch your card onto the yellow pad and when you exit the station at your destination you must repeat this to complete the journey.

Sometimes you’ll need the card to open barriers to reach the trains, other times there’s no physical access to the trains but you still need to find the yellow pad to pay for your journey with your card.

Finding Your Way Around

In my experience I have found the Tube network to be fairly logical. There are several lines, each with their own name and designated colour that you can follow on all maps of the system.

The train’s final destination is advertised on the digital countdown displayed on the platform and on the front of the train. If you have picked the correct line then your stop will be on the route to this destination.

The map of the Tube system is so well known that many people display it in their homes as art. I have a poster on my own bedroom wall. On a more practical level, you can pick up free pocket-sized paper maps in every station or download a map to your phone from Transport for London. The app is free and you don’t need a live internet connection to read it so it works under ground.

Assistance

One of the reasons I always find the Tube so easy to use is that it has extremely helpful staff on most platforms and at most station ticket halls. You must never feel shy about asking questions. Even Londoners will often ask for help, and the staff are really experienced with providing directions, explaining the system and helping out with all sorts of strange requests.

Best of all, they have a sense of humour. It’s not unusual to hear a funny announcement or see a station guard joking with a passenger.

Some Handy Tips

  • Some Underground lines operate a Night Service which gives you 24-hour transport. Check online to see which lines offers this.
  • Avoid travelling in rush hour. One of the benefits of being a student is that you don’t have to commute. The Tube is particularly crowded (and expensive) between 07.30 and 09.30am and then again between 17.00 and 19.30 on weekdays.
  • It is a London convention to stand on the right and walk on the left of the station escalators. Blend in like a local by following this rule!
  • I always tell people not to forget to touch the pad as you leave the station – otherwise you will be charged a maximum fare.

Are You Having Difficulty Choosing The Right Student Accommodation For You?

Choosing the right area is crucial to choosing the right student housing. London has a wide variety of options and a transport system to help you reach wherever you want to go during your stay here. At Britannia Student Services we can help you pick a location that will suit you best and enable you to get the most from your experience studying abroad.

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