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Getting Around in London: Do’s and Don’uts

London is a BIG city.  We spent over two weeks here and it feels like we barely scratched the surface.  There are lots of different ways to get around in this daunting metropolis; buses, cabs, bikes, pedestrians and the TfL Overground all share the roads, but the primary method of transportation for locals and visitors alike is the infamous London Underground.

Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas

DO: Take the Underground

Known simply as the Tube, this sprawling underground rail network connects everything and services the boroughs surrounding the city center.  Regardless of their station in life, everyone sits (or stands shoulder-to-shoulder) in the crowded commute on the Tube, and you should too.  We used this metro service daily and never ran into trouble (on one occasion a friendly platform officer gave us a few pence out of his pocket so we had enough money to buy the proper ticket).

Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas

We were endlessly impressed by the sheer volume and frequency of the service.  If you arrived on the platform just in time to see the last person squeeze in before the train speeds off, no need to panic because the next train will arrive in seconds.

Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas  Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas

^^^Jaime searches for Whitechapel station.  No relation to the band.

Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas

DO: Visit Iconic Stations

London transportation centers are things of beauty.  Make sure to visit King’s Cross station (of Harry Potter fame) and visit platform 9 3/4…

Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas

^^^…so you can get a really cool photo like this!  How much does the photo cost?  IT’S FREE!  Who’s atlas is this?  The Alternative Atlas!

Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas

^^^aaaannnnddd they have an awesome Cornish Pasty shop inside!

Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas

DO: Walk

London is pedestrian-friendly enough where a short distance is always walkable and some of our best afternoons were spent wandering through the imperial streets and soaking up the city sights.  Any longer distance travel is always serviced by the Tube if you aren’t feeling up to the trek.

Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas

DO: Take the Bus

The iconic double-decker bus is a great way to get an elevated view of the city.  The metro and bus ticketing system is sophisticated, and the single journey fare fluctuates depending on how far you travel, so we decided to purchase Oyster cards (sold at all Tube stations and also in corner stores) which are blue credit cards which you scan upon entry to the Tube platforms and buses.  Since we were taking multiple daily trips on the Tube we bought the unlimited travel weekly pass, which gets you – yup, you guessed it! – unlimited travel for one week.  You can ride the Tube and the bus with the Oyster card, the price is the same.

Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas

DON’T: Take Black Cabs

Most travel guides celebrate Londons infamous black cabs, but unless you have a lot of money to burn you should avoid them, and probably avoid budget travel guides in general.  Check this guy out, he looks totally miserable.  Anyways life is short so we should stop talking about don’ts and start talking about don’uts!

Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas  Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas

DONUT: Crosstown Donuts!  

This gourmet donut staple has outlets everywhere, including the entrance to King’s Cross.  What flavor is that one there?  Oh yes, Crème Brûlée of course.

Getting Around in London | The Alternative Atlas

Don’t let me get away with endlessly hyping up the Tube like this, because like everything man-made, it’s not perfect.  The trades unions went on strike TWICE during out stay and chaos ensued… London literally shut down as Tube service halted and protests broke out across the city (Jaime snapped this photo of an empty Underground walkway and was contacted by a news agency during the strike to use the image on their report).  London is one of the few cities of its size which doesn’t have an all-night or late-night service schedule, and the trains usually stop running around midnight.  There are currently plans for adding a late-night weekend service (hence the strikes) so make sure to check out the metro service website if you plan on staying out.

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