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Tips for Traveling on the London Underground

The London Underground System, informally known as The Tube, is an under and over ground fast rail system that has over two hundred and fifty stations across London and parts of Buckinghamshire, Herefordshire and Essex. The tube system is divided into six zones and each line is named and colour coded, for example Bakerloo line is brown and Jubilee silver.

The tube system is open throughout the year, other than Christmas Day, seven days week from early morning to midnight. Trains in central London tend to run every four to five minutes but delays do occur.


Tickets can be bought using cash, credit or debit cards from any tube or rail station either by machine or a manned ticket office. Tickets can be obtained for a day, week, month or year.

When buying a ticket the traveller needs to be aware of the zones in which they intend to travel otherwise strict penalties will be issued if the ticket is not valid. Ticket inspectors and or ticket machines are located at the entrance and exit to all tube stations and inspectors may at times undertake spot checks on trains. If a traveller needs to go beyond the stated zone then a second ticket has to be obtained during the journey to cover that area.


When travelling on the tubes it is best to plan ahead using a tube map or on line facility. It is important to know which lines need to be taken and also in which direction, for example east or west bound. All stations have tube maps displayed on boards but it is advisable to have a pocket map readily available to prevent getting lost.

If travelling in a group it is helpful to arrange a meeting point in the event that people become separated. In addition if travelling with children be aware of what they are wearing and if possible place a note in a pocket or bag containing contact details.

Safety Factors

At times the tubes can be extremely crowded, particularly during the morning and early evening rush hour. It is important to ensure that personal belongings are safe, for example suitcases are not left unattended in the door entrance or wallets visible in pockets. Pickpockets work throughout London, particularly during tourist seasons and are skilled at removing items from unsuspecting victims.

Caution also needs to be taken by lone travellers, particularly females, when using the tube at night. Whilst trains are fitted with emergency alarms and connecting doors it is advisable to enter a carriage that has several other travellers rather than being alone. If possible once outside the tube stations try to avoid using dark underground street walkways. Guards and Transport police are available at most tube stations during the day and evening but not all. If concerned for personal safety it is best to leave the train when possible and contact a staff member.

Other Issues

When waiting for a train, take care not to stand near to the edge of the platform, accidents can occur particularly when non-stopping trains travel through at fast speeds. Also some stations have large gaps between the platform and trains so take care when leaving the carriage.

During rush-hour, in particular, trains and platforms become extremely crowded and it is better to wait for the next train rather than trying to squeeze into shutting doors where bags and arms can be trapped.

If travelling on the tubes during the summer months it is advisable to take cold drinks, carriages are not air conditioned and can become extremely hot and uncomfortable, particularly if at a standstill in a tunnel.

Neither smoking nor drinking alcohol is allowed on the trains or in the stations and fines will be imposed by the transport police.

When using the escalators there is an unwritten rule that customers will stand to the right and ensure that bags are not blocking other travellers.

Bicycles are allowed on the tube but will not be treated kindly if travelling during rush hour and blocking carriages.

Travellers also need to be aware that it is not uncommon to be approached by women carrying children begging for money. Cleary it is up to the individual whether to give money or not, but the majority of these women are part of organised gangs. Buskers and muscians may be seen and heard along the connecting tube walkways and are in general pretty harmless and will not be offended if money is not given.

Remember it is not common practice for London commuters to have eye contact with each other, let alone have a conversation so don’t feel offended.

As a final tip it is a good idea to carry deodorant or perfume because travelling in a crowded tube carriage can leave rather unpleasant odours.

Travelling on the tube system can be fun and is certainly a quick method of travel. However travellers need to plan ahead, use common sense and be aware of potential dangers.