London Underground 101: A guide to getting the Tube in London

Sep 5, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

A guide to getting the Tube, seriously?

Yes. Though you might not have initially thought so, there’s a lot more to it than just getting to a station, getting on a train and then getting off again.

The Cheapest way

First of all, let’s make sure the price is right.

There are many ways you can pay to travel around London and get on and off the Tube. But in a nutshell, using a debit, credit or Oyster card to tap in and out at the barriers of your start and end station is likely to be the most convenient and best value for money for most people. The same goes for using contactless on your phone. By traveling this way, the amount you’ll be charged per day is capped depending on which of the nine zones you’re traveling in.

For full details and to work out exactly which is the right method of payment for you, check out the TfL website.

(Photo by Tim Grist Photography/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Grist Photography/Getty Images)


According to the dictionary, etiquette is defined as “The customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group”. And believe it or not, the Tube has its code of polite behavior. It can pretty much be simplified into three main rules:

1. Escalator etiquette

Perhaps the most important thing to adhere to is the “stand on the right” rule on the escalators. This allows for those in a rush to glide down the escalators in a flash to avoid having to wait an extra minute for the next train.

2. Mindful Tubing

Everyone getting the Tube has somewhere to be, and likely in a hurry. So, by letting all passengers get off your carriage before boarding will enable a smoother, quicker and more pleasant journey for everyone.

Related: How to spend a Sunday in London

(Photo by Image Source/Getty Images)
(Photo by Image Source/Getty Images)

Many choose to pass the time on the Tube by burying our heads in our phones (on rare occasions maybe even an actual book or a newspaper). That’s great, but lifting your head once in a while to check if there’s anyone in need of your seat will go a long way to making someone’s journey better, if not their entire day.

This applies mainly to busy commutes: Squishing as tightly as possible into the area closest to the doors benefits nobody. Why are we so averse to simply moving down the carriage? It makes for a more comfortable, less sweaty journey for everyone.

3. Queueing

In general, queueing is somewhat of a national sport for Brits. We do it anywhere and everywhere, and anyone who fails to queue correctly will receive passive-aggressive eye rolls and tuts from all who witness it. This also strictly applies to the Tube — whether it’s waiting to get through the barriers, waiting to get on or waiting for the stairs/escalators/lift to leave the station. Save yourself from the glares and cranky tuts of fellow passengers by simply falling into line.

The quickest route might not be the obvious one

If you’re not used to London, you might think that you have to take the Tube to get anywhere. For longer journeys in and out of the city, the Tube is likely to be your best bet. However, for shorter journeys in central London, it will likely be quicker for you to just walk.

When planning your journeys, the TfL website even has a handy box to help you work out which routes are quicker to walk.

Read more: The Royal Treatment: 8 royal places to visit in London

(Image courtesy of TfL)

Not only will it be a quicker journey, but you’ll breathe in less thick soupy air and swap it for the (slightly) fresher air of the city. The views are guaranteed to be an improvement, too.

Tubing to Heathrow

Depending on where you’re traveling from, the likelihood is that getting the Tube will be your cheapest and most direct route to Heathrow (LHR).

Related: The best ways to get from Heathrow Airport to London

While there’s extra space on the Piccadilly Line for suitcases, trains on other lines aren’t always as accommodating. Either way, traveling with multiple cases at peak times can make for a stressful and awkward journey for you and those around you.

It’s not always possible to get to Heathrow without getting on the Tube during peak times, but, if possible, try to leave earlier to avoid the morning or afternoon rush — you’re likely to have a far more comfortable journey.

COVID-19 era

COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work and — more than ever — travel. This also applies to getting the Tube.

There are signs everywhere to remind us all that wearing masks is mandatory and that social distancing rules apply where possible.

Read more: 8 ways to spend a rainy day in London

(Photo by Westend61/Getty Images)
(Photo by Westend61/Getty Images)

If you can avoid getting the Tube at all, then it’s advisable to do so. If it’s your only feasible means of transport, then traveling at off-peak times is advised.

The only way a mask is beneficial is if it is worn over both the mouth and nose. If your nose is poking out or you’re wearing it as a chin strap, you may as well not be wearing one at all.

Bottom line

Love it or hate it, without the Tube, London would likely come to a standstill. So whether it’s your first time in the capital or you’re a seasoned Londoner, the above tips will serve you well — remember, above all else, stand to the right!

Featured photo by Spartak/Twenty20.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.