IHG Travel Blog

Traveling London’s tube


The cheap way to travel in London — and steer clear of traffic — is on the Tube, a.k.a. the London Underground rail network. Taking on public transportation in a foreign country can be a bit daunting. But, there are several aspects of traveling the Tube that separate it from what you might expect.

First, you don’t have a language barrier! Navigating public transportation not using your native language is close to impossible. Second, these aren’t ill-kept transportation vehicles. The city of London is making constant improvements to the cars and the tube stations, including adding air conditioning to 103 trains in the fleet! Let’s learn a little bit more about the Tube.

Tube lines

Currently 11 Tube lines transport locals and tourists throughout this great European city:

    • Bakerloo Line
    • Central Line
    • Circle Line
    • District Line
    • Hammersmith & City Line
    • Jubilee Line
    • Metropolitan Line
    • Northern Line
    • Piccadilly Line
    • Victoria Line
    • Waterloo & City Line


These Tube lines cover nine zones and stop at more than 200 London stations. Although there are nine zones, tourists typically stay in Zones 1 and 2 because they cover Central London where many of the major tourists attractions and London hotels are located.

The general running times are between 5:00 a.m. — midnight, Monday through Saturday, while Sunday times are reduced by a few hours with later starting times and earlier stopping times. You’re able to look up and download the times for the first and last Tube services from the TFL website if you so desire.

Payment options

The amount of time you’ll be in London and how often you plan on using the Tube as your means of travel determines which ticket type you need. Here are your options:

Oyster Card: With an Oyster card, you can do the pay as you go option where you just put a certain amount of money on a card and then add to it as needed. What’s nice about this option is you don’t have to carry around cash or worry about losing a paper ticket. Should you lose your card, it can be stopped and replaced, or should you not use up the amount you’ve put on the card, the remaining balance will be refunded to you. You also have the option of putting a Travelcard on your Oyster card, which allows you to travel as much as you like on the Tube.

Paper Tickets: The types of paper tickets tourists would use include Day Travelcards, single and return tickets, and Group Day tickets. Day Travelcards let you travel as often as you want throughout the whole day. Single and return tickets are pretty self-explanatory — you buy a ticket for a Tube ride to where you’re going and then buy a return ticket for the ride back. To purchase a Group Day ticket, which allows you to travel as frequently as you want for the day in the zones on your Travelcard, you must be traveling in a group of 10 or more.

Sites along the Tube

Since London’s Tube takes you all over the city, several of the city’s top tourist attractions are within walking distance of Tube stations. Below are some must-see attractions accompanied by the nearest Tube station and line to each.

Big Ben

A huge clock tower standing at 316 feet. It’s London’s most iconic attraction.

Photo by Anthony Kelly

Nearest Tube station and line: Westminster on Jubilee Line

Covent Garden

The place to shop, eat and check out local markets in London.

Photo by S Pakhrin

Nearest Tube station and line: Covent Garden or Leicester Square on the Piccadilly Line

London Eye

A giant Ferris wheel giving you a bird’s-eye view of London at nearly 400 feet up in the sky.

Nearest Tube station and line: Waterloo on Northern Line

National Gallery

An art museum with more than 2,000 paintings dating back to the mid-13th century. Entrance is free 361 days of the year.

Photo by Maurice

Nearest Tube station and line: Charing Cross on Northern Line

St. James’s Park

The oldest and one of the most beautiful of London’s eight Royal Parks.

Photo by Herry Lawford

Nearest Tube station and line: St. James’s on the Circle & District Lines

Tower Bridge

A Victorian bridge crossing the River Thames and providing great views and photo ops for those who cross it.

Photo by Leetneko

Nearest Tube station and line: Tower Hill on the District & Circle Lines

Tower of London

A historic palace, fortress and prison made up of 20 towers with more than 1,000 years of history.

Photo by Xiquinhosilva

Nearest Tube station and line: Tower Hill on the District & Circle Lines

Whether your goal in London is to life the life of a local or a royal, there’s no better, easier, or cheaper way to navigate the city than by Tube.

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