Local Guides

The London Travel Survival Guide

The capital of the UK is a vast, bustling metropolis. There are over 9.5 million people rubbing shoulders on the streets of the city, and it simply wouldn’t be possible for this many people to live together without first negotiating a few house rules. Over the years, the city has evolved its own book of unwritten regulations to keep all those busy people working in harmony. This is especially true of our transport system.

Used by over 5 million people every day, the Transport for London network of buses and trains is the lifeblood of the city. This well-oiled machine keeps the city and its many inhabitants moving along. In order for us all to use it quickly and safely, there are a few points of etiquette we all need to be aware of. If you’re new to the city, you can find yourself in a few embarrassing situations if you don’t know how things work.

Make your journey around London a pleasant one with our London travel survival guide; 5 essential tips to bear in mind when navigating London’s vast transport network.

Don’t obstruct the doors

train pulling away from the platform of a london underground station

If you’ve ever got your backpack caught in the door of a subway train, you know just how embarrassing this can be. Unfortunately, getting a body part or piece of clothing stuck in the doors is a lose-lose scenario. At best, you’re holding up the train, which can have a knock-on effect further down the line. At worst, the train could leave, putting you in all sorts of danger.

If the bus or train you’re trying to get on is full up, don’t try to squeeze in behind the doors. There will be another one along in a few minutes, so just sit tight and wait. You’ll be glad you did (especially if you get a seat!).

Have your payment ready

woman prepares to pay for her travel using contactless payment

London is a fast-moving city. You’ll notice this the second you step foot in an underground station, where thousands of people stream in and out of the tunnels every day. Queues for the gates can be long at peak times, so people move quickly to tap in and out of the barrier and make way for others.

If you want to go with the flow, make sure you keep your Oyster Card, Contactless Payment Card or Smartphone at the ready to tap on the reader. If you’re scrambling for your wallet at the gate, you’re bound to get a few eye rolls from the people stuck behind you.

Wait before you get on

Whenever you’re waiting to get on a train or bus, remember that the people coming off the vehicle always have priority over people getting on. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, people exiting the carriage make space for those getting on.

Secondly, it’s not such a problem if you miss this one, as another will be along in a few minutes. If somebody misses their stop, though, they could have a nightmare trying to get back. Always make way for others before you try to climb aboard yourself.

Stand on the right

view down the escalators of a station on the london underground

It’s amazing how many people forget to follow this simple rule. If you’re riding an escalator, the unspoken rule is that if you want and stand and wait, you should move to the right side of the stair.

This makes room for anyone that wants to walk up the escalator to pass you on the left. Standing on the right is a tradition that originated in London’s underground stations, but you’ll see the same thing in airports, shopping centres and wherever else there’s an escalator.

Look out for each other (and say sorry!)

inside shot of a typically busy carriage on a london tube train

London’s city links can get busy at times. However, never lose sight of the fact that we’re all in this together. Not everybody is able to keep up with the pace and may need a little extra help. This might mean giving them a hand up the steps or making sure they don’t get hit by closing doors.

Watch out for each other, apologise if you have to inconvenience someone else and always try to think of the bigger picture. Follow these rules, and you’ll likely find that your fellow passengers do the same for you.

If you’re looking for some less conventional ways to travel around London, check out our fantastic river cruises.