How to use the London Underground


The London tube is ancient and sometimes doesn’t make the world of sense, especially if you come from a city that does not have its own underground facilities. Living in London for most of my life, this is something which I took for granted until travelling back from a bloggers conference with a group of women from other parts of the UK.  For those non-Londoners, whether you are a tourist visiting London from another country or another town within the UK, here are some tips to make your tube journey easier.

Oyster Cards

Always buy an Oyster card. They are £5 to purchase and you can top them up with money for use on the buses, underground, most of the overground and also the DLR. The fares are cheaper if you use your card than if you paid in cash. Also, when going through the barriers for the trains, it is much quicker to tap in and tap out than if you had to use a paper ticket.

You can buy daily, weekly and monthly travel cards covering various zones to suit your needs and as long as you register your card, you are able to reclaim your pay as you go or long term tickets if you lose your Oyster card.


Stand on the right hand side of the escalator and walk on the left. Quite simple really, there are even signs on the escalators to remind you. This rule goes for your luggage too, there’s no point in standing on the right if you plop your luggage beside you blocking up the left.  Sometimes the British are too polite to ask you to move it, but if you hear loud sighs, coughs or feel the back of your head being bored into by some viscous stares, that’s why; they want you to move your things!

Waiting for a train

You may have noticed people standing in clusters along the platform, even though the public service announcements insist on you using the full length of the platform. These people are not standing in these clusters as a two fingered salute to authority, they are well seasoned commuters who know the tube like the back of their hands. They are standing where the doors will be once the train arrives, you’d do well to follow their lead, otherwise you may find it takes a few trains to pass before you manage to get on one!

On the train

Once you are on the train, don’t be afraid to go right through into the seating areas, even when there are no seats. If you’ve got luggage, stay by the doors otherwise, those sighs and grunts we talked about earlier, you’ll get them only ten times worse. Even more likely, you’ll get someone being very vocal about the fact you’re blocking their path or taking up their space and be stuck trying to avoid eye contact for the remainder of your journey.

If you’re travelling during rush hour, it may look like there’s no room left on the train for you. This means there is room for at least an extra ten people. Stand back and watch if you don’t believe me, then get ready to do the same when the next train comes. On average, most lines on the underground run one train every two minutes but nobody wants to risk waiting for the next train. We are always in a hurry and in most cases the next train will be just as packed with commuters anyway. Bottom line, if you can avoid the rush hour altogether, it’s probably your best bet, at least on your maiden journey.

 Fellow Tube Travellers

Yes it’s true, other than late at night when everyone is jolly and on their way back from a great sporting event or concert, Londoners tend to avoid eye contact with other passengers at all costs. A great feat when you’re actually facing people but one we accomplish very well with the use of newspapers, headphones or just zoning out.

We are however, approachable. I kid you not, if you are lost, need some advice on an easy route to a tourist attraction or where to change lines, don’t be afraid to ask someone. Normally if the person you have asked doesn’t know the answer, someone else in your carriage will pipe in and give it to you. The same is true when you’re on the platform, stand near a map, ask someone to point out where you need to get to and they probably will! We may even crack a smile when we do it.

Are there any other tips on the Tube that you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment with your own tube tips or stories. Perhaps you have friends who may find this interesting? You can use the sharing buttons to do just that!

by Tin x