So, you’ve arrived in London, you’ve found your Cambridge English course, and now all you need to do is find out how to get both to your first class, and around London in general. It’s a big town and it might seem daunting to begin with, but, don’t worry: Richmond English School is here to help! Here are our 8 top tips to help you get about London like a local!
- Plan ahead!
If you have an important journey, or you’re going along a route you’re unfamiliar with, then it’s always a good idea to plan ahead to make sure you don’t get caught out by any unexpected surprises. (Once you’ve been in London for a bit you’ll know that the transport network can be effected from time to time by traffic congestion or things such as engineering works.) So, plan your journey using the TFL (Transport for London) journey planner or Citymapper London.
- Buy an Oyster Travelcard.
The easiest way to pay for travel around town is by using an Oyster travelcard to ‘touch-in’ and ‘touch-out’ of stations and on buses – and you can now also use your bank card to do the same thing providing it’s one which has a ‘chip’ in it (contactless cards). You can either ‘pay-as-you-go’ – if you don’t travel that much on public transport – or alternatively buy a weekly or monthly travelcard. The most cost-effective option will depend on how much you travel. For more information have a look at https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/ways-to-pay/whats-the-best-way-for-me-to-pay#on-this-page-0 The price depends on the zones you want to cover. If you live in Mortlake and want to go to the city centrr every day, for example, you’ll need a travelcard for zones 1-3 (1: city centre, 3: Mortlake) and travel in zone 1-3. All the buses are included with your travelcard. One option, in this case, would be to take the bus to Hammermsith and from there the tube (zone 2) paying the travelcard only for zone 1-2 and saving some money.
- Ride the Tube.
With 270 stations and 250 miles (400 km) of track, the tube network is often the most convenient way to get about London. Each line is a different colour to help you navigate your way around the system, and the destination of each train is usually on a noticeboard above the platform and on the front of the train itself. Look for signs saying ‘Northbound’ if you want to go North, ‘Southbound’ if you want to go South, ‘Westbound’ if you want to go West and ‘Eastbound’ if you want to go East. Also, if you want to keep the locals happy, be sure to stand on the right-hand side of the escalator if standing still, so that those in a hurry can walk on the left. Likewise, when waiting to board the train, stand to one side of the opening doors and only get on once the passengers inside the train have got off.
4. On the Buses.
Going on the bus can be one of the nicest ways to get around London, especially on the top-floor of a ‘double-decker’ which can offer some great views of the town. But buses can be less easy to navigate than the tube, so a little planning is advisable, or alternatively just stick to the routes you already know to begin with. Also, apps such as ‘Bus Times’ or ‘Citymapper’, which tell you when the next bus is going to arrive at your local stop, are extremely useful and save lots of irritating waiting-time – so make sure you download one on to your phone! Also, beware that buses don’t always stop if nobody wants to get on or off so if you do need to get off at the next stop, push the nearest red button to notify the driver. If you need to take 2 buses to come to our school, don’t worry the second one is free of charge. In addition, if you pay for 3 journeys, the fourth is free.
There are times when only a taxi will do and London has plenty of them. In addition to the traditional London ‘Black Cabs’ there is a huge number of other local taxi companies, as well as the ubiquitous Uber. Remember that if the taxi isn’t metered, then the driver should tell you the price before you begin the journey. Also, unless it’s a Black cab, beware taxis offering you a ride home ‘out of the blue’ when you come out of a pub or a nightclub. It’s safer to travel in a ‘pre-booked’ taxi, so you know whose car you’re getting into. All the taxis show their licenses on the front and back windows.
- “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” ― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
The river Thames was once absolutely stuffed with boats of all shapes and sizes, and the trade in transporting passengers through its murky brown waters was first regulated by none other than Henry VIII. Now known as The River Bus service, the Thames transport network has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years, and you can now boat along 5 main river routes which run from 21 piers between Putney and Woolwich. Pay using either your Oyster card or contactless payment with your bank card. For more information go to https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/river/about-river-bus
- Night Bus and Night Tube
If you take a little time to plan ahead, then just because you’ve stayed out late doesn’t mean you have to pay a huge taxi bill at the end of the evening. Many of London’s buses run all night, and there is also a night bus network. (Beware: night buses only stop on request, so you’ll have to signal to the driver if you want to get on or off.) There is also now a Night Tube service on Fridays and Saturdays on the Victoria, Jubilee, and most of the Central, Northern and Piccadilly lines, but (as with night buses) plan in advance. Don’t assume that there will be a bus or tube train which is going to take you home because there might not be, and you don’t want to be stuck in an unfamiliar part of London late at night. Plan your journey!
- Why not walk?
Who says you have to run the London marathon, when all that most of us need to do is just walk a little more? Walking around London might seem intimidating at first because it’s a big town, and you might get lost. But even if disaster does strike and you do get lost, the chances are that you will end up close to a tube or bus stop from where you can get to where you want to go. So be brave, and give it a try! London is full of sights, smells, architecture and history which can only really be appreciated on foot. Put those comfy shoes on and get going! Click here for a clear and simple guide to walking in London https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/
We hope the above is helpful, but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to drop us a line. And for directions to Richmond English School, whether you’re walking or taking the bus, click here.
Happy travels folks!