London is a wonderful, and beautiful city. It’s also quite big in general, but you would be surprised how close things actually are in Zone 1. I see tourists get on the tube at Leicester Square, only to get off again at Covent Garden – a journey which can take ten minutes on tube (get in the station, go down, wait for the train, get out, wait for lift, exit) can be done in just two minutes by walking.
So why don’t people walk? Maybe they are too lazy, maybe they don’t know the way, maybe they just don’t realise how close they actually are to where they want to be. London streets can be confusing if you don’t know your way around.
Here are my top 7 methods of moving around this magnificent city. I have included bicycle and roller blading as my least favourite as I do not have a bike, and my roller blading skills are not good enough for general commuting – but they are still worth mentioning.
This is at number 7 due to the fact I don’t actually have a bike, otherwise I’m sure it would be further up the list. You see plenty of people cycling around London, and it certainly does appear to be an easy, and quick way to navigate the busy streets. As I’m a non-cyclist, I can’t really comment on how many suitable places there are to leave your bike padlocked up whilst you go to work, or to the shops or to a gallery, but I’m sure if they are safe. I do see many semi-bikes also chained up, after certain parts have been stolen by someone or other who, I imagine, will be looking to build a complete bike out of all of the parts one day.
Advantages: Initial outlay for a bike can be quite reasonable, so you would save a lot of the usual public transport fares.
If you do cycle everywhere then you will certainly become healthy because of it.
Wherever cars can go, you can too – and also over the pavements if you’re cheeky. The government recognises the need for people to commute via ‘other methods’ than the public transport system, so are investing in having cycle lanes on the roads – which means cycling should be much safer than it used to be.
Disadvantages: Not all work places, and unfortunately houses, have the space to accommodate a bike so having somewhere to leave it may be a problem.
Leaving it locked up in a public place will always give you the concern of someone stealing it, or part of it.
Drivers, and cyclists themselves, are not as safe or conscientious as they should be so you can easily be knocked off your bike if you’re not careful.
London weather isn’t best suited to someone on a bike, especially if you’re wearing a suit.
Number 6 is roller blading, which I have one ahead of cycling for the simple reason I own a pair and could technically get from A to B using them…eventually. Though I can skate, I don’t think I am road worthy yet, and would probably be a danger to myself and others if I attempted to use this as my primary mode of transport. You do see people skating around, which is fantastic, but then you will see a lot more skaters in the park instead of on the roads simply due to the dangerous conditions and how vastly different the surfaces are.
You may walk around the streets of London and think the roads are quite pleasant and straightforward. If you wear high heels you may notice that the streets aren’t quite as good as you thought they were, with a lot of bumps and holes, and my word some places have a lot of cobbles. However, it’s only when you strap a set of wheels to your feet that you realise just what condition our pavements are in, how many holes there are in the roads…and you wonder why you hadn’t realised just how many manholes there were previously. I think if you can roller blade around London then you can do so pretty much anywhere, and hear that Americans do get a little shock if they come here to skate – as the roads are certainly not as smooth as they are used to over in the States. They are narrow, they are bumpy and they are busy – be warned.
Advantages: As with a bike, roller blades aren’t a huge initial outlay and will save you a fortune on public transport fees.
Skating is even more of a workout than cycling is, so it acts as a great source of excercise for your whole body, not just your legs.
There’s a whole community of skaters that you can get involved with, just go down to Serpentine Road in Hyde Park one sunny weekend day and you’ll meet plenty of other skaters who are a great bunch of people.
Disadvantages: As mentioned previously, the streets and roads can be hard work to get across.
Depending on the individual, skating can be very weather dependent – and it rains a lot here, so you may not be able to use it as your primary mode of transport.
It’s not a good idea to skate home after a a night out on the town.
Pedestrians see skaters as cars and feel we should be on the road. Drivers see skaters as pedestrians and feel we should be on the pavement – so it’s a bit of a lose/lose situation for us. I think taxi drivers also have a monthly league and win points for forcing you off the road.
For me this is more a novelty form of transport, so I don’t use it very often – but at the same time it can be quite nice and convenient for the occasional trip up or down the river, especially on a nice sunny day.
It’s quicker than you may originally anticipate a boat trip being, which in some way is actually rather disappointing as when I take the trip it’s a treat, and a quick journey means the treat doesn’t last too long. Greenwich to Westminster is my favourite part, though St Katherine’s Pier is a lovely place to visit.
Advantages: It’s quite fast, it’s a novelty and it’s really quite scenic.
Disadvantages: Stormy days can make the trip a little choppy and unpleasant. Also, you get to see close up just how dirty the Thames is – icky.
One of the more famous aspects of London is our underground transport system which has been moving tourists and commuters from one place to another since 1863. It’s old, it’s hot, it’s crumbling year by year, but it’s the choice of transport for millions every day. Actually, for many it’s the only choice of transport if they want to get to work on time from the suburbs.
I loved the tube when I first moved to London, and found that a train coming along every few minutes was amazingly good, especially in comparison to the 1 train per 30 minutes from my old place of home. Over the years though I’ve started to dislike it more and more, and so only travel on it now when really necessary.
The Tube probably is the best form of transport in London in terms of coverage, speed and even reliability – but it’s certainly no longer at the top of my list.
Advantages: The tube is fast, and is frequent. If you want to get from one end of the city to the other, you can do so with ease using the tube.
Disadvantages: It’s hot and it’s crowded, you really don’t want to be stuck down there on a summer’s day. When it works, it works well, but when it doesn’t you can be left standing around without a clue how to get to where you need to be. It’s also getting quite pricey to use…especially for visitors to this city. Finally, as it’s underground you don’t get much chance to view the wonderful sights London has to offer.
I love taxis. There’s nothing nicer than leaving a pub late at night and seeing a shiny black car with a glowing orange light indicating a free taxi that can take you home. No journey in a hot underground carriage, no drunken revelers on a night bus and no long walk in the chilly air. You can sit back and relax whilst the driver takes you from the pub to your doorstep.
Now that I live in a convenient location I find myself taking taxis more and more, as it costs £10 to get home instead of £40. Though this doesn’t mean I can take a taxi every day of the week, it does mean that I can afford the luxury of a taxi a lot more than I could have done previously.
Advantages: Door to door service without interchanges, and no need to make the short trek from tube/bus station to the final destination. Many taxis now have a television in the back so you can relax with a little music or poker on the way home.
Disadvantages: Obviously not the cheapest mode of transport, so you can’t do it all the time. It’s frustrating sitting at a red light and watching the meter rising more and more whilst you sit there helplessly. Making small talk with the driver can be nice, but is often forced and not something you can be bothered with.
London is big, sure, but you never really need to travel the whole way across it. A lot of people don’t know the directions to where they wish to get to, so they rely on public transport to get them where they need to go. Slip on a comfortable pair of shoes and arm yourself with a Buy yourself a London Street Atlas so that you can hit the streets and get where your going without the need to rely on the mechanical beasts that dictate so many lives – you may be amazed how close that museum you want to visit actually is.
Tube strikes or power cuts can be good things sometimes. You see so many people walking, and the whole attitude of Londoners seems to change from tight oppression to that of lighthearted joviality. Walking really is good for the body and mind.
Advantages: It’s free, so you can save money on other forms of transport. It’s also a great form of exercise that will leave you feeling exhilarated. You will start to get your bearings on this great city, and know how to get somewhere without having to rely on others, plus it’s great when someone asks you for directions and you can give them clear guidance without hesitation.
Disadvantages: If you really don’t know where you going you can get lost, and you’ll be in very unfamiliar territory just a street or two away from the landmarks you would recognise. Unpredictable weather can catch you unaware and leave you soaked if you don’t carry the appropriate protection. It will take much longer to get somewhere walking than it would on a bus or tube, and you may smell and feel a bit sweaty when you do get the place you’re going to.
Though I do enjoy walking, the bus has to be my favourite form of transport when traveling around London – possibly because I’m often too lazy to walk everywhere.
There are many bus routes available, as you would expect, and if you’re taking a journey you haven’t been on before you may find it difficult to establish just which route to take and which stop you need to get off at. If you know where you want to go though, you could find the bus very enjoyable. A choice of two decks (unless on one of those weird bendy buses) you can have two different viewpoints of the same route.
Journeying by bus is often quite swift, though not as fast as the tube can be, and the beauty is that if you do hit a bad part of the trip you can always jump off and decide on another route to take – something which really isn’t possible when traveling by the underground.
Advantages: Many routes available, often several different ones that take you to the same destination. Travel by Bus is much cheaper than via tube, just 90p per trip with an Oyster card. Overhead journey so you can take in the scenery.
Disadvantages: Sometimes a bus will terminate unexpectedly, and when it does you end up paying for 2 bus trips when you could have completed the journey in 1 had the bus not stopped unexpectedly. Weekday mornings can be very busy, especially if the tubes are not working quite right, which means you may have to let several overcrowded buses past before you can get on one of them.
Check out the Transport for London website for planning your journey, looking at maps and seeing if there are any current transport issues.