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How to Use the London Underground

The London Underground, also called the Tube, is a transportation rail network that services London and the surrounding areas. If you’ve never used the London Underground before, it may seem like a daunting task. Luckily, if you prepare ahead of time and keep a few tips in mind, you’ll be able to confidently navigate the city like a pro.


EditNavigating the Lines and Stations

  1. Keep a map of the Tube on hand. If you’re unfamiliar with the Tube, a map is essential. The lines are clearly marked and color-coded, making it easy for you to determine the best route to your destination. You can pick up a free map at Heathrow Airport or from any Tube station, from a London Underground Information centre.[1]
    Use the London Underground Step 1.jpg
  2. Find your departure and arrival stations on the map. Mark the closest station to your location on the map. Then find the closest station to the destination where you want to end up.[2]
    Use the London Underground Step 2.jpg
    • Be aware that the Tube stations are currently open between 5:00 a.m. and 12:00 a.m.[3]
  3. Trace the Tube route between those stations. In some cases, you may need to transfer to a different line to get to your destination. Memorize or write down the name(s) and/or color(s) of the line(s) so you know which train(s) to take. Make sure you know the direction of the line you need to use. Many stations have two platforms, East or West Bound or North or South Bound. [4]
    Use the London Underground Step 3.jpg
    • You can also use a smartphone app, like Tube Map by MapWay, to figure out the best route.[5]
    • Note that the Tube has 11 lines that service 9 zones.

EditPaying for Your Fare

  1. Expect to pay £2-£6 per trip. The price of your journey on the Tube is based on a variety of factors, including how you pay, what time of day or night you are traveling, which of the zones you travel through, and the duration of your trip.[6]
    Use the London Underground Step 4.jpg
  2. Purchase a paper ticket if you only need to ride the Tube once. One-time tickets cost more than the other options, so it only makes sense to purchase one if you need a single fare. You can purchase a paper ticket at designated ticket stations at any London Underground or Transport for London station.[7]
    Use the London Underground Step 5.jpg
  3. Opt for a Travelcard if you plan to use the Tube for a specified time period. A Travelcard allows you to use the London Underground and Overground transportation services for an unlimited number of rides in a specified time period, like a single day, full month, or calendar year. Like the other options, Travelcards are available at all Transport for London, Underground, and Overground stations.[8]
    Use the London Underground Step 6.jpg
  4. Use an Oyster Card to save money if you ride the Tube frequently. Oyster Cards are the most popular way to pay to ride the Tube. This card can also be used to pay for trips on buses and trams around the city. You can purchase one at any Underground, Overground, or Transport for London station.[9]
    Use the London Underground Step 7.jpg
  5. Pay using Contactless to have the funds withdrawn from your bank account. The Contactless service allows you to use a designated credit card or mobile device to pay for your fare. The funds will be automatically withdrawn each time you swipe your card or device when passing through the barrier.[10]
    Use the London Underground Step 8.jpg

EditRiding the Tube

  1. Enter the Tube station and scan your card or ticket to get past the barrier. There are 270 Tube stations, so find the one nearest you and make your way inside.[11] Follow the flow of traffic until you reach a yellow card reader. Touch your paper ticket, Oyster Card, Travelcard, or mobile device to the reader to scan in.[12]
    Use the London Underground Step 9.jpg
  2. Make your way to the correct platform. Follow the color-coded signs to get to the right line. Make sure to choose the Tube going in the direction you need to travel. Wait on the platform until the Tube arrives.[13]
    Use the London Underground Step 10.jpg
    • Be sure to read the information on the front of the train to ensure it’s going to the right destination before you embark.[14]
  3. Mind the gap! Once the train arrives, prepare to board. Note that you will have to step up or down about from the platform to the train car, hence the famous saying “Mind the gap!”[15]
    Use the London Underground Step 11.jpg
    • If you have decreased mobility, try to use the first train carridge so you’re in view of the driver and they can allow you extra time to get on board. For more information about accessibility, go to: https://tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/[16]
  4. Settle in for the journey. Cell phone signal is spotty at best, so don’t expect to spend the ride scrolling through social media or catching up on calls or emails. Take a book, crossword puzzle, or some other form of entertainment to keep you busy during the ride. Try The Metro, a free newspaper avaiable in stations or sometimes discarded on the seat next to you...if you get a seat...[17]
    Use the London Underground Step 12.jpg
    • If you’re unable to find a seat, hold onto the rails while the train is moving.[18]
    • Pay attention during your trip so you get off on the right stop. Watch out for station signs and listen for announcements. There are electronic notices on the trains advising where you are and where the train is headed. If you do miss your stop, don’t worry! Get off at the next stop then look at a Tube map to determine how to get your final destination. Some times you can go one stop back in the opposite direction on the same line.[19]
  5. Transfer trains if necessary. If you need to take more than one line to get to your destination, exit at the necessary station, follow the signs to locate the right platform, then get on the next train. You won’t have to pay more or scan your ticket or card unless you exit the station through one of the yellow barriers. Often there's an announcement on board advising where you need to get off to chsnge to another line.[20]
    Use the London Underground Step 13.jpg
  6. Scan your card or ticket to exit the gate at your departure station. Once you disembark from the Tube, make your way to the gates. Touch your ticket, Oyster Card, Travelcard, or mobile device to the scanner and proceed to exit the station. You must scan even if the gates are open. If there isn’t a gate, use a yellow card reader to scan your ticket or card.[21]
    Use the London Underground Step 14.jpg
    • Don’t forget to scan before you exit! If you don’t, your journey will be considered “incomplete” and you’ll end up paying more than the cost of the fare you actually took.

EditFollowing Etiquette and Staying Safe

  1. Have your ticket or payment card ready. Nothing will annoy busy Londoners more than someone who holds up the queue because they can’t find their ticket or payment card. Get your method of payment out before you enter the station so you can quickly pass through the barrier.[22]
    Use the London Underground Step 15.jpg
  2. Wait to board until other passengers have disembarked. Don’t try to squeeze through the doors as soon as they open. Be patient and allow other people to get off the Tube before getting on. Then, make your way through the train car to provide spaces for other passengers to embark.[23]
    Use the London Underground Step 16.jpg
  3. Relinquish your seat to expectant mothers. The regulations of this transportation service dictate that passengers must yield their seat to pregnant women. Fortunately, they’ve taken the guesswork out of this potentially awkward scenario by providing “baby on board” badges to expectant mothers.[24]
    Use the London Underground Step 17.jpg
    • Similarly, it’s polite to give up your seat to passengers that are sick or elderly or parents with small children in tow.[25]
  4. Stand on the right side of the escalators at the Tube stations. Some folks are in a huge rush and won’t appreciate you blocking the escalator. If you’re going to stand instead of walk, move to the right side so that others can pass on the left.[26]
    Use the London Underground Step 18.jpg
    • If you're walking down stairs or escalators, stay to the left.
  5. Keep your personal belongings close by. Always keep your belongings within sight and avoid setting them down on the platform. If you carry a bag, choose one with a zipper to prevent pickpockets from snatching items out of your satchel. A cross-body bag is also a good choice as it can deter thieves from grabbing your bag and taking off.[27]
    Use the London Underground Step 19.jpg


  • Check for line closures and delays on the Transport for London website (https://tfl.gov.uk/) ahead of time.
  • Be prepared with an alternative to your preferred route. Any Tube train can terminate unexpectedly several stops before you get to where you need to be.
  • It's useful to know the last stop of the line you need to make sure you are on the right train.
  • Start getting ready to get off the train one stop before yours.
  • Some stations are actually pretty close together and may be within walking distance. Check to see how far you are from your destination on foot before using alternative transport such as a cab or a bus.

EditSources and Citations

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