Getting Around London – The Tube Alternatives

Getting around London - Tube Alternatives
people on Westminster Bridge at sunset, London, UK Stock Photo

Latest figures reveal that over 1.305 Billion people use the London Underground annually. This is the highest number of users the Tube has seen in its 153 years history and it continues to rise.  With all of this in mind, and the dreaded tube strikes hanging over us, we decided to look at some alternative methods of transport in London and what they can offer that perhaps travelling underground doesn’t.

The Healthy Options

On Foot

Stock photo

Stock photo

Walking has to be one of the best ways to get around the city.  It is free from delays or traffic issues, cost effective and environmentally friendly.  London is also packed full of amazing sights and exploring by foot is a great way to see things off the usual tourist trail.  Lifestyle blogger Emma Copland shares her top tips on commuting in London “ I walk to work most days. I think my number one tip would be to get up early and take the opportunity to explore a new route. I try and take a slightly different path every day because down London’s cobbled streets and canals there are so many hidden gems to stumble across. “  The Walking Tube Map  from TFL is great for giving you an idea of the time it takes to walk between the Underground Stations.

The Walking Tube Map from TFL

The Walking Tube Map from TFL

 

The plus points

  • Avoid delays and traffic issues
  • Free
  • Healthy
  • Environmentally friendly
  • See more of the city

 

Cycling

A lot of time and money has been invested in London’s cycling network over the past few years.  There are now a lot more cycle lanes throughout the city and cycling is a highly accessible and affordable option for getting around London.  The Santander Public Cycles Scheme offers 750 docking stations across London where you can simply pick up and drop off a bicycle.  You can use your bank card to hire them and the first 30 minutes are free.  The bikes are available 24/7, 365 days a year.  If you need some inspiration for what routes to take, TFL has some great free guides and routes available.

The plus points

  • Wide range of cycle routes and guides available
  • Cost effective
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Keep fit as you travel
  • Santander public cycle scheme offers over 10,000 bicycles in over 750 locations
  • Available 24/7

 

Public Transport

Buses

Stock photo

Stock photo

The iconic London double-decker buses are a great economical way of getting from A to B. Plus you get to see more of the city than you would on the Underground.  Many of the central bus routes even pass historic London sights. Unfortunately, you can’t pay by cash on the buses but they do accept oyster cards and contactless card payments.  Bus services are frequent and if the tube strikes do go ahead, TFL London is also likely to put on extra buses.

Travel blogger Sabina from girlsvsglobe.com adds  “I would highly suggest exploring London by bus. Those iconic red double-deckers are the perfect way to see the British capital. I’d recommend taking bus 24 or 29 and going all the way from quirky Camden Town to Trafalgar Square. Such a scenic route! Two tips though… Firstly, avoid the madness that is rush hour which happens on weekdays between 7.45-9.30am and 4.30-7.00pm. Secondly, try to get one of the frontmost seats on the second floor and ’you’ll feel like ’you’re driving the bus. Trust me on this!”

The plus points

  • Experience the iconic London double decker bus
  • See the sights
  • Cost effective
  • Regular services
  • Avoid the unpredictable weather
  • Pay using Oyster card

 

Thames Clipper

As the River Thames runs right through the centre of London, a river boat is a great option for travelling around the city.  The Thames Clippers offer a fast and frequent service from the many piers you’ll see dotted alongside the river banks.  You need to pre-purchase your ticket before boarding or use an Oyster card.

The plus points

  • Scenic –enjoy the views from the River Thames
  • Fast & frequent services
  • Pay using Oyster card

 

Tram

If you are travelling around South London the Tramlink network is a great option.  Frequent services run between Wimbledon, Croydon, Beckenham and New Addington and you can use your Oyster card to pay.  All trams are step free and fully accessible making them easy for anyone to use.

The plus points

  • Tramlink runs between Wimbledon, Croydon, Beckenham and New Addington.
  • All trams are step free and fully accessible.
  • Pay using Oyster card

 

Alternative Methods…

Taxi/Black Cab

London Black Cabs

London Black Cabs

The iconic London Black Cab will always be a great option for travelling around London, and it’s definitely a must do for every tourist.   It’s a great way of seeing the city and as every driver has to learn ‘the knowledge’, which takes around 3 years to complete, it beats any satnav hands down! You can hail a black cab direct off the street (if the orange light is on, it means it is available) or they can be pre-booked by phone or designated taxi ranks. The most spacious licenced vehicle on the road, they are ideal if you are travelling with luggage, children, elderly friends or relatives… and all black cabs are wheelchair accessible and will carry assistance dogs.

Paula from theldndiaries.com find taxi cabs a great alternative to the tube “When I can’t get the tube I always rely on taxis to get me about London. I have taxi apps on my phone such as Uber and also Halo which offers licensed black cabs. They are so easy to use and can call a taxi very quickly, as well as letting me pay on my account so there is no worry about needing cash for the journey.”

The plus points

  • Experience the iconic London Black Cab
  • Regulated & knowledgeable drivers
  • Readily available
  • Spacious & comfortable
  • Great for groups and those with luggage
  • Wheelchair accessible and will carry assistance dogs

 

Duck Tours

More of a tourist ‘tour’ than an option for commuters, the ‘Duck Tours’ are quirky amphibious vehicles that travel on both the road and river and provide a unique way to see London’s sights from different viewpoints.  You can choose between a range of tour routes, but all have a guide commentary throughout.

The plus points

  • A unique experience
  • Travel by road and river
  • Range of routes available
  • See the sights and guide commentary.

 

Canal Boat

Photo credit: Londonwaterbus.com

Photo credit: Londonwaterbus.com

A leisurely canal boat ride may not be the fastest way to get around but, if you’re not in a rush, it does provide a nice relaxing way of seeing the city from a unique view point. London Water Bus runs canal boat trips between Little Venice, London Zoo and Camden Lock.  Services run hourly throughout the summer and there’s no need to book – just turn up and pay on the boat!

The plus points

  • Slower paced relaxing option
  • Canal Boat trips run between Little Venice, London Zoo and Camden Lock
  • Hourly services
  • No need to book

 

Emirates Air line Cable Cars

This Emirates Airline Cable Cars crosses the River Thames and links the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Victoria Dock.  During the 1 km journey you get a fantastic bird’s eye view of London, including some top sights such as the business hub of Canary Wharf, the impressive Olympic Park, the O2 Arena and the Thames Barrier. Operated by Transport For London, you can pay by using your ‘pay as you go’ Oyster card.

The plus points

  • Enjoy a bird’s eye view of London
  • See the sights
  • Cross the Thames from above
  • A memorable experience
  • Pay using Oyster card

 

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

If heights isn’t your thing and you don’t fancy using the cable cars, how about going under the River instead? Originally opened in 1902, the Greenwich Foot Tunnel runs 50 feet under the Thames and was designed as a cheaper option for the dock workers to cross the river from their homes in the South to the shipyards over at Isle of Dogs.  The tunnel is a public highway so it is open 24 hours a day and free to use.

The plus points

  • Historic tunnel that opened in 1902
  • Runs 50 feet under the River Thames
  • Connects Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs
  • Free to use
  • Open 24/7

 

Rickshaws

Pedicabs or Rickshaws provide a novel way of getting around London.  These specially designed three-wheeled cycle’s seat 2 to 3 people plus a driver who pedals you to your destination.  Most of these tend to operate around central London, especially in Soho and the West End.  They have had some bad press recently over high charges so always make sure you agree on a price before your journey.

The plus points

  • A unique experience
  • Personalised routes
  • Seat 2-3 people (plus a driver)
  • Agree on price before travel

 

Limobikes

Limobikes are motorbike taxis, carrying solo travelers who wish to get from A to B in a hurry.  Set up by Virgin’s Richard Branson back in 1995, Limobike was originally created to look after business class Virgin Atlantic passengers, specifically to get them to and from the airport.  As word got around, the demand for Limobike grew and they are now available to anyone who requires quick and easy transport across London.  The bikes have all been fitted with a rear seat back, storage space for luggage and intercom enabling you to talk to the driver (if desired).  You don’t even need to worry about London’s unpredictable weather conditions as full protective clothing, helmets and blankets are provided.  Limobike can be booked over the phone or by email here.

 

Inline Skates

Inline skates is a cool and quirky option for getting somewhere quickly with the added bonus of offering the user a low-impact cardio workout, improving core stability and burning calories! The freedom of skating means they are becoming popular with commuters who can weave in and out of busy streets and travel routes cars and other vehicles can’t use.  If you fancy trying inline skating, London Skate Centre in Bayswater provides inline skates for individual or group rental. The essential wrist and knee pads are provided with every rental.

The plus points

  • Quirky option
  • Low-impact cardio workout as you travel
  • Free and flexible
  • London’s many public parks make perfect skating ground

 

Moped/Scooter Rental

London is renowned for its busy roads, so a good way to avoid some of the traffic hold ups is to travel on two wheels instead of four.  It is usually free to park a moped and, as they are exempt from the congestion change, they are fast becoming a popular option for commuters.  Due to the nature of London roads and their busyness, training is advised and a helmet essential! About Town Bike Hire provides long and short-term scooter rentals.

The plus points

  • Free parking (usually)
  • Exempt from the congestion charge
  • Avoid many of the traffic delays bigger vehicles suffer
  • Helmets essential & training recommended

 

Useful Travel Tools:

City Mapper

This FREE interactive downloadable map is a must have tool when it comes to getting around London (or any other major city come to that). You can plan your journey and it shows all the different methods of transport available to you – it even updates with live travel information and times.

Uber

This app enables you to hail a taxi with one tap.  It uses GPS technology to locate available drivers and notifies them of your request.  The app even arranges the payment too so no cash changes hands.

Street Art London App

Whilst enjoying your alternative methods of transport why not enjoy some of London’s more alternative sights.  The Street Art London App has all the latest information on London’s street art with hundreds of locations and artists listed.

London’s Best Coffee

Ok, some may argue that this isn’t a transport essential but whichever method you chose to get around London it is always better with a good coffee (or tea) in hand.

 

We have also put together this handy infographic which lists all our top Tube alternatives:

Getting Around London

Sources:
https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/what-we-do/london-underground/facts-and-figures
https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/media/press-releases/2015
https://citymapper.com/london
https://www.uber.com/
http://streetartlondon.co.uk/
https://tfl.gov.uk/
http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/data/faq_details.cfm?id=1227
http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/calories_burned.asp?exercise=185
http://londonsbestcoffee.com/
http://www.londonducktours.co. uk
http://www.greenwich-guide.org.uk/tunnel.htm

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