An International Student’s Guide to the London Transport System

It doesn’t matter how comfortable you find the bed in your student accommodation, London’s temptations will force you out. To make sure you see the best and the most of the city you’ll need to understand the transport system.

London is a huge mass of streets and areas connected by an extensive but sometimes confusing network of trains, metro/subway trains, buses, trams, rental bikes, taxis and even river boats. For me the transportation is an experience in itself and makes an outing even more fun.

Relax…You Are Going to Get Lost

Even Londoner’s need to pay attention when trying to get across the city, to train platforms and bus routes. Make sure you check the arrivals and departure boards at the front of any tube and train stations to make sure you are going to get to where you need to be! If you still need help there is often a friendly member of Transport for London staff who will be more than happy to assist.

It took me time to get used to the routes that I use regularly from my student accommodation. Whenever you try to go somewhere new be prepared to need more time to get there than the journey planners recommend.

Getting Started

In other posts I will be looking at each type of transport in more detail but in the first part I will give you some of the basics so that you are ready to travel.

TfL: What is It?

TfL stands for Transport for London, and their website is your basic guide to everything you need to know about getting around the city and its outskirts. You can use the Journey Planner, find out when your bus is due, download maps and keep track of station and trainline closures.

It is a bit slow and a bit difficult to use on your phone so I prefer to download a free app like Citymapper. You can pick your favourite from this list.

Oyster Card: What is It?

An Oyster Card is something you should get even before you leave the airport for your student accommodation. London’s entire transport system (apart from taxis) accepts Oyster Cards for payment. You won’t be able to use cash to buy tickets. If you have a contactless credit or debit card this works exactly the same and costs no more than an oyster card!

I ordered an oyster card before I left my home country via this service. However, friends of mine have been able to get a Student Oyster Card which gives them travel fare discounts. Check with your university or school about applying for one of these.

You must always touch your card on the yellow pad at the entry and exit of every tube station or bus entrance to make sure that you pay the cheapest fare for that journey. I didn’t do this one evening and was charged the maximum daily fare for my trip.

The Tube: What is It?

The tube is a term Londoners use for the underground or metro trains. It is called ‘ the tube’ because the tunnels run underground and the trains fit perfectly inside them like toothpaste in a tube!

You’re Almost Ready to Go

So now you know where to find your maps and information. You know how to pay for your journeys and you know what a tube is. You’re definitely almost ready to go exploring so all you need to do now is to read my blog posts about how you can use the trains, buses and other transport options to get to where you want to be.

Britannia Student Services can help get you start your London journey from ideally located student accommodation. London living experiences are unique to the area where you are staying. Let us help you choose the perfect location for your time here.

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