When you’ve grown up in a big city and then chosen to raise your kids there, it’s hard to understand what the fuss is when visitors stress out about visiting with their own family. Well, at least that was how it felt until I visited a city with a population which totally eclipsed that of London and I finally got what it must feel like to fear losing yourself or worse, your kids to a sea of people. With that in mind, I’d love to share a native’s perspective of getting around London. These tips ring true with or without your kids in tow!
The Tube and Buses
London has a great transport system. Even if, like today, you are faced with a strike on the London Underground, you can still find a multitude of buses, trams, overground trains and taxis to ‘magically’ transport you from A to B.
Children under 16 travel for free on London buses, though children aged 11 and under must be accompanied by an adult. If you’re aged 11 and under, you can also travel on the tube, DLR and London Overground for free, again, the same rule applies with regards to having to be accompanied by an adult.
London buses are cashless so you’ll need to purchase a travel card in either paper form or on your electronic oyster card. Oyster cards are available to buy in tube stations and some shops. They cost £5 and can be topped up with ‘pay as you go’ cash or daily / weekly etc travel cards.
The London Underground, otherwise known as ‘The Tube’ is a fast and usually reliable way to get across London. It’s worth noting that the maps aren’t drawn to scale, so what may look like a long distance may actually be quicker covered above ground by foot. I use an app called Citymapper to help me plan my journies in London as it lets you know how long it will take to get to your destination via different means. When you’re in central London, many of the stops are walking distance, but once you venture into zones 3-6 they become further away, though even then, it’s sometimes nicer to walk above ground!
Hop on- hop off open top buses
Yup, I’m a Londoner and I really do use these, though maybe only once or twice a year during the summer with my daughter or when visitors come to stay! It’s a nice way to get around, if even for one day. You can hop on and off as much as you like during the validity of your ticket (usually 24/48 hours) and the bus stops are located close to many popular tourist attractions and major train stations in central London. If you go very early in the morning, the open top tourist buses are relatively empty and the tour guides are still riding high off their caffeine fixes to be highly entertaining, not just informative. Granted, it costs more than a travel card but you can tick off a whole bunch of tourist attractions in one go, including Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square.
Black cabs are easy to come by and can be hailed down, whereas mini cabs must be booked in advance. You can also book uber cabs easily in central London, with them being a bit sparse on the ground once you get out to the suburbs.
Personally I like taking uber cars as I don’t have to worry about carrying cash and I’m off the app generation!