1. Mind the Gap
This really won’t be that hard to do considering those exact words are painted on the ground and announced from the speakers at every single tube station stop. You’ll actually grow quite fond of it and may even find yourself reciting it to your friends in your best (or worst) British accent. Regardless, this is an important tip because there is indeed a gap between the train and the platform and falling victim to it would really put a damper on your London adventures.
2. Buy an Oyster Card
An Oyster Card is a handy, dandy little card that holds the amount of fare that you load onto it, and you scan it each time you enter and exit the Tube station. If you don’t purchase a card, then you’ll have to buy a ticket for each trip. The card itself costs a few pounds, however, if you return the card to a kiosk before you leave London, you’re refunded that fee. Stay aware of how much money you have on your card because if you don’t have enough for a trip, the gates won’t let you through and then you’ll have to reload, or “top up”, which can take a while depending on the crowds.
3. Avoid Rush Hour
Just like you experience “rush hour” on the highway, the Underground also experiences this dreadful occurrence, especially considering most people use this public transportation to get to and from work. If you’ve ever heard the saying “like a can of sardines” and never actually experienced what that may be like, hop on the Tube during the evening rush and you’ll soon find out. You’ll be packed in with as many people that can squeeze into that car, plus a few extra. My best advice here- try to get to the back of the car and find a standing spot. Not only is it convenient to have the wall to lean on, but there is a sliding window that creates a marvelous breeze that will be a lifesaver when the temperature is rising and you’re feeling Closter phobic.
4. Blend In
This technically could be general advice for the American traveler in any country. Americans are notoriously known as loud and obnoxious and you don’t really want the stares that accompany this idea. The British are quiet and reserved people, especially on the Tube. Most people are by themselves, listening to music or reading a book. Those in pairs or groups either sit silently or converse in hushed tones. Hopping on the train with you girlfriends and giggling loudly will cause you to stick out and reinforce the “noisy American” stereotype, and you’ll probably earn yourself some dirty looks.
5. Map Out Your Route Beforehand
If you haven’t seen the Underground route map yet, go ahead and take a second to Google it right now. It’s a bit overwhelming, but once you learn how it works then it’s a breeze to navigate. Before you depart to a new place, I’d recommend going to http://www.tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/, and you’ll be able to map out the journey. Just be sure to pay attention to the station names as you’re going along and hop off the train at the correct one! If your destination requires you to get off of one line and then onto another, don’t panic, just prepare ahead of time and pay attention while you’re on the Tube, and you’ll be fine!
6. Take Advantage
London is a marvelous city, and the fact that the public transportation is at your fingertips is just another reason to step outside of your comfort zone and explore. You can get from one side of the city to the other in such a small amount of time, so utilize this incredible underground transportation and have a blast in London!
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