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London: Underground

There are several transportation options in the London - black cabs, double-decker buses, bikes and scooters. We usually rode the Tube, London's underground rapid transit system. The Underground was the world's first underground railway. A single station may have several entrances and a few times we came above ground, and walked around a corner only to discover another entrance directly in front of our destination.

Westminster station sees a lot of traffic as it is the main station for Parliament and sits in the heart of several iconic tourist destinations. It took a bit of patience but we finally got this shot of Liz that combined buses, Tube and the Union Jack.

Trains run every few minutes. Stations are clean and directions are well marked. Electronic boards indicate what train is arriving next and which route it is on.

Some stations serve several lines and it's important to know which direction you are travelling. We found that despite feeling the American rush to jump on the next train, it was nice to wait through a couple trains and enjoy each station's unique designs.

Each station has its own architecture or design theme, often tying it with the local area. For example, Bakers Street retained the old Victorian seals, brick work and archways. The period wooden benches were a nice touch, too.

At Charing Cross, the walls were covered in woodblock prints from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The stations were clean, well lit and even the busy stations felt safe. Some stations had dedicated spaces along the corridors where street musicians could perform. Even the smaller suburban stations had a station worker on duty, ready to assist if needed.

On the walls opposite the platform and inside every car, were posted the listing of each stop. As the train approaches and leaves each station, a recorded voice announces the next destination.

Mind the Gap

Our flat was a minute walk from the Northern Line, one of several that remain open late at night and on weekends when many of the lines close. If you are planning to stay out late, it's important to know which lines stay open.

We purchased Oyster cards and pre-loaded them before leaving home. Liz was able to get a photo travel card and student travel discount. This allowed her unlimited travel between zones 1 and 2 for a whole week.

The city of London is divided into several zones with fares depending on how many zones you pass through. There is a daily fare cap too. Swiping your card at turnstiles when entering and leaving each station determines how much fare your card is debited.

It only took us a day or two to feel completely comfortable riding the Tube. Our Oyster travel cards would have also worked on buses and above ground trains but since we mostly stayed in the heart of the city I thought it best to master one mode of transportation.
Our Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Quick Review: No better way to move quickly around the city. Some lines can be crowded during peak times. Take your time, enjoy the ride and understand how the city is laid out so you know where you are.
Helpful Tip: Download the Android Tube Map App. This app had the best directions and travel planning features, including walking directions. And it still worked without WiFi or a data signal.

To read more about our trip to London, click here.

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