Navigating The London Underground

The Tube

For anyone who lives in London, the Underground, or the Tube as it is more affectionately known, can be both a lifesaver as well as the bane of your existence. Strikes (like the one last week), leaves on the track, sunshine, snow, almost anything can cause severe delays or cancellation. However, in a city gridlock with traffic and where taxi rides don’t come cheap, the Tube gives you easy access to everything on offer. Pretty much all parts of Central London are within walking distance of a Tube station. For visitors, navigating the Tube is relatively easy – all the lines are color coded (even the subway cars) and you travel in the direction of the station at the end of the line – unless you are on the Circle Line which is usually west or east.

Much like any city, there exists an unwritten etiquette that you must follow in order not to anger the indigenous population or stand out as a blatant tourist.

1. Under no circumstance, make eye contact with or speak to anyone (unless you are horribly lost or hurt). Read the free Metro paper. Play with your phone. Anything.

2. During rush hour, when the Tube car pulls up to the station absolutely packed to the gills, complete with condensation rolling down the windows, don’t be that blue Smurf who pushes his way in just to make kickoff for the footy match—instead wait for the next train, or two. Top tip—people don’t seem to enjoy walking to the end of the platforms, so the first and last cars are usually less crowded.

3. Be a nice person and give up your seat to the elderly, pregnant, or any others in need. Not enough people do this in London, so please set a good example.

4. On the escalator, by all means stand to the right. NEVER stand on the left side or you will get yelled at very quickly by some Londoner in a hurry (which means all of them).

5. In the winter, wear gloves. This way, when you hold on to the railings or center pole, your hands won’t be covered in germy “tube juice”. No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to avoid someone sneezing or coughing directly on you. All of London is sick in winter.

6. You will regularly see and hear people snacking on packets of crisps while riding the tube. Try and refrain from yelling at them: “no crinkling!”, even if the noise is overbearing. Also beware the man in the business suit who looks a little green.

7. Do purchase an Oyster Card and by all means make sure it has the proper available balance before you try and go through the ticket barriers. You will make enemies quickly otherwise, especially at rush hour.

And most of all, don’t forget to Mind The Gap.

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Amy Jurries

Amy is a freelance travel writer and editor.

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