Buses are great for short hops, and between multiple competing services you'll never be short of a cab when you need one. Here are 6 tips and tricks to make your London travel even easier...
1. You might not need an Oyster card…
Years ago, figuring out the best-value ticket was a complicated business. Transport for London (TfL) swept all that away when it standardised pay-as-you-go pricing and fare capping. Unless you need unlimited travel for a week or more, PAYG is usually the best value – and pricing and capping is identical across Oyster and contactless card or phone payments. So if you're an ApplePay or Android Pay user, or have a bank card with contactless payments enabled, you won't even need to get hold of an Oyster card to access public transport.
2. …but for longer stays, a Travelcard might be better value
Coming for an extended visit? It might be worth picking up a weekly or monthly Travelcard. This will be loaded onto an Oyster card, and gives you unlimited travel within specified zones for a flat up-front fee – so depending on your reporting process it can also be easier on expense claims, saving you the hassle of tracking and consolidating multiple journeys. If you're going down this route, plan all the travel for your trip out in advance so you know which zones you'll be visiting. If you don't need the outer zones, you can save money by buying a zone 1-only pass (and vice-versa).
3. Don't forget the river
If you're taking an east-west journey between two riverside spots, Thames Clippers are sometimes the best way to travel. There are around 20 piers up and down the river's central stretch, from Putney in the west to Woolwich in the east – and they include key locations such as London Bridge (for the City), Westminster (for Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament), and Canary Wharf (for London's other financial hub). They're also handy for riverside leisure spots such as Greenwich, the O2 and the London Eye. If you're carrying a pay-as-you-go Oyster card, you can use it to board the ferry. Unfortunately, that doesn't go for Oyster Travelcards, but Travelcard holders do get a discount on fares.
4. Carry a Tube map
It has been updated several times over the years, but Harry Beck's original Tube map has never really been bettered, offering the clearest and most logical possible depiction of London's somewhat complex underground network. Nobody expects visitors to memorise every station and connection, so either pick up a printed Tube map from a station (if you can't see any, try asking at the ticket window) or download a PDF to your phone before your trip – WiFi coverage on the Tube is patchy and limited to stations, so it's worth having something you can access offline. Bonus tip: check out TfL's maps page for extra maps covering cycle hire points, bus routes, river routes and more.
5. Know your station distances
Many a newcomer has fallen into the trap of jumping on a tube or changing lines to reach a station that's five minutes' walk away. Here are some of the easiest station-to-station walks – keep them in mind, as going on foot can sometimes be quicker than heading underground. Walking times come from Google Maps; you might be faster or slower.
- Embankment to Charing Cross: 2 minutes (they're part of the same complex)
- Regent's Park to Great Portland Street: 3 minutes
- Charing Cross to Leicester Square: 7 minutes
- Liverpool Street to Moorgate: 7 minutes
- Waterloo to Southwark: 7 minutes
- Bank/Monument to Moorgate: 8 minutes
- Euston to King's Cross / St Pancras: 9 minutes
- Bank/Monument to London Bridge: 10 minute
6. Got some leisure time? Walk!
London was never really planned. It's the product of countless neighbourhoods and noblemen's estates gradually merging into one. And that's a good thing because it means the centre of the city is full of surprises. Go on foot and you'll discover backstreets lined with cafes and boutiques; hidden parks and odd, obscure monuments; tiny churches and traditional pubs. When you hop on the tube or the bus from major attraction to major attraction, you miss all that. So if you have a day or two of downtime, plan an itinerary that takes you from one stop to the next on foot, and save your public transport ride for a journey back to your hotel at the end of the day.