Getting around London

Your Handy Little Guide to the Top Ways of Traveling Around London Town.

From the tube to renting a car and hailing a bus, this is how you can really travel the city like a Londoner.

Luke Abrahams
20 May 2023

With over 8 million people calling London home, it's no wonder the British capital has one of the most advanced, efficient, and convenient transport networks on the entire planet. Our handy little guide unpacks all your questions, from renting a car to hailing a cab, and how and where to get an Oyster Card.

Getting Around London by Car

Despite so many efforts to get cars off the road in London, it remains one of the most popular ways of getting from A to B around the city. Car rentals won’t break the bank, but the cost of gas might – so it’s also worth preparing a budget before you hit London’s streets with four wheels.

Before you even consider renting, it’s worth noting that London’s traffic can be notoriously bad, especially in between airport runs and during the morning and evening rush hours. Tensions can rise, as well as stress levels and any Londoner will tell you to avoid driving at all costs during peak hours. The roads and dual carriageways are also much smaller in comparison to other countries, so if you are used to driving big cars, hire something smaller to make the adjustment that little bit easier.

That being said, there are easier days. Early mornings (from 5 am to 6:30 am) are a lot less manic, and if you head into central London around the same time on a Sunday, you virtually have the entire city to yourself. Just remember, you will have to pay the congestion charge in addition to any other fees your type of vehicle might incur, from size to fuel type.

You can rent a car from the airport, in the city, and in all local London boroughs – so even if it is a last-minute choice to add to your itinerary, you are covered.

Getting Around London by Taxi

If you want to go proper tourist in London town, take a black cab. They are generally cleaner, and more environmentally friendly (especially the newer hybrid styles) and the drivers love a good old chat, especially when it comes to tips and tricks if you are new here. Another benefit is that they can drive in the bus lanes, a godsend when it comes to beating the traffic.

You will find most black cabs in dedicated “Taxi Ranks” clearly marked at major transport hubs (train and coach stations, airports, and more) and you can hail one from anywhere on the road as long as their light is switched to amber. If it is off, the cab is in service. Nowadays you can order one on taxi ride-share apps, but the quickest and easiest option is simply to find one on the road and stick your hand out.

All rides are metered and vary depending on the time of day and the time of year. Generally, fares start at £3.20 (around $4), but this price can be higher on Sundays and other public holidays.

Getting Around London by Ride Share

Ride shares are a huge deal here in London and are especially popular for early-morning airport runs and late-night outs. Uber, Bolt, and Gett are the most common options to choose from and can be a much cheaper alternative to riding the traditional black cab. Ride shares, private, executive, luxury, and pet options are available, and if you are registered to things like Uber+, a discount of 5% is applied to each ride.

While it’s a popular way of getting around, drivers can sometimes be uber fussy (no pun intended) and can cancel your ride without warning, so if you are trying to catch a flight or a show, think twice before pressing the confirm button.

Getting Around London on the Tube

London has the most advanced, and perhaps, most efficient underground transport system on the planet. The Tube is the oldest rapid subway network in the world and is a tourist attraction in its own right. Several lines service the entire capital from Heathrow, all the way through central London, some Greater London boroughs, and out into the surrounding home counties. Most lines run every minute, so if you miss a train the next one is never that far behind.

No matter what anyone says, the tube is the best and quickest way to get around London, but as so many of the stops in the city are so close together, a great alternative is simply to skip the depths of the city's abyss and walk. You'll see so much more, and you'll avoid stressed-out Londoners on their evening and morning commutes.

In addition to the Underground services, there are also Overground services that run out of central London into the suburbs and beyond. These also include the newly opened Elizabeth Line and express airport train services like the Gatwick and Heathrow Express, though these both require additional tickets.

There are six travelcard zones and an additional four outer zones that incur an additional fee to the capped daily, weekly, and monthly travelcards that can be purchased at London Underground ticket offices, as well as at bus stations and some local convenience stores and supermarkets. Oyster Cards remain a popular way of loading these passes for locals and tourists, but if your card is enabled for contactless payments, you can tap in and out of the train barriers at your convenience. For journeys that run out of the six travelcard zones, you will be required to book a separate ticket otherwise you risk being fined.

Single rides on the tube cost £2.80 (around $3.5) a ride and the full cash fare (without an Oyster card) is £6.70 (about $8.3). To get exact costings, you can plan your journey on the Transport for London website or mobile app.

Getting Around London by Boat

The Thames is not just a body of water that pretty bridges were built over. Since Roman times, the river has remained a strong part of daily life in London and is used by several commuters and tourists as a speedy way of getting around the city. Several companies offer riverboat services from Westminster Pier to Greenwich including City Cruises, Uber Boat, and the London Clippers. These stop at dedicated ports down the river from Embankment to Blackfriars and Tower Bridge. One of the major benefits of riding a boat is that they are never really that busy and it’s one of the most scenic ways to see London. Plus, depending on which service you take, your boat ride comes fully equipped with a snazzy audio tour that points out all the big attractions along the way.

Single one-way rides vary depending on the company and hop-on and hop-off options are available, too. Expect to pay anywhere from £12 (around $15) and £20 (about $25) for this option. Family tickets can also be purchased.

Getting Around London by Bus

Buses are easily the cheapest way of getting around London. 95% of all the Londoners living here live roughly 400 meters away from one another, and hopper fares allow for unlimited fares within one hour of touching out on your payment card for as little as £1.65 (about $2). Download the TfL Go app to plan your journey, access interactive maps, and live bus times and pinpoint your exact pickup or drop-off point.

Be Prepared

London's transport network gets extremely busy at peak times, and if you are here in the summer months, it's best to pack a small portable fan and carry a reusable bottle of water as all modes of transport can get seriously hot.

Another perk is that all London buses are low or zero-emission, so a ride on a bus helps improve air quality and pollution levels across the capital. You can see the city in all its glory from the comfort of your seat, another reason to ditch the tube for the bus in our books.

To hail one, simply put your hand out at your desired bus stop and the driver will pick you up. It’s also important to note that you cannot pay by cash. All London buses accept Oyster and contactless card payments.

About the author

Luke AbrahamsLuke Abrahams is a London-based freelance journalist specializing in news, luxury lifestyle, and travel features. Luke was previously the features social media editor at the London Evening Standard. His work has appeared in more than 25 U.K. and U.S. publications, including British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, The Times, Town & Country, The Telegraph, Condé Nast Traveller, Time Out, House & Garden, Suitcase, Elite Traveler, Insider, and more. So far, Luke has visited 82 countries. His favorite is Italy, and it always will be.