London is no longer contained in just the city walls (as it was under the Romans and then again under Alfred the Great). In fact, Greater London now encompasses both sides of the River Thames as well as 32 London boroughs (excluding the City of London). According to Google, London extends over 1,572 km square whilst Paris only covers 105.4 km square! It is scary to think that London is still rapidly expanding, even as you read this post. As a result of the sheer size of London, you have to travel a lot and that can be expensive.
You can always travel in an infamous black cab. They are easy to find outside the major stations (King’s Cross/ St Pancras International/ Victoria/ Charing Cross/ Waterloo etc) or at tourist locations. However, travelling around London by taxi will soon break the bank.
Black Cabs run on a metre, so you are charged for what ever is clocked up on the metre by the end of the trip. Luckily, there is no extra charge per head or for luggage. You can try and negotiate a set fare before the journey begins but I cannot guarantee that all cab drivers will be up for that!
The fares are also dependent upon when you are travelling. For example, whilst a 1 mile journey is a taxis between 5am and 8pm can cost from £6, it will rise to at least £7 between 10pm and 5am. Also, be aware that as soon as you sit in a taxi, there is a minimum fare of £2.60 (£2.80 from Heathrow). Additionally, there is obviously an additional charge on certain days such as Christmas and New Year; usually it is an extra £4.
More recently, cabs have been joining companies that have apps, such as Uber. Through these apps, you can pre-book a taxi and you are given a rough price in advance (which is taken from your card). I also like the fact that these apps provide you a with a photo and profile of your drive as well as their registration number before they arrive. I just feel more comfortable getting into a strangers car when they are officially registered with a proper company.
2. London Underground
Travelling by Taxi is by far the most expensive way of get to and from places in London (apart from possibly by private limo :p ). Therefore many Londoners opt for the London Underground- which is considerably cheaper! The tube system running beneath London is extensive yet fairly comprehensive and easy to navigate (especially if you have a tube map of app!).
BE AWARE that the tube will be absolutely packed to the brim during rush hour (7am-9am and 5pm-7pm). So unless you can avoid it, be prepared to get a strangers sweaty armpit in your face. That is another thing- the tube can be sweltering. Almost suffocating on hot summer days. When you stick hundreds of hot, sweaty tourists/workers into a tight tube that travels under the ground, then it is bound to be boiling. I would advise you to wear layers that you can easily remove or accept the fact that you are going to sweat profusely. However, please do not let my disgusting descriptions put you off the tube. Despite how much I moan about it, the London tube system is one of the best undergrounds in the world and I could not survive in London without it!
If you are travelling by tube, you need to get yourself an Oyster Card! Not like the shellfish but a plastic card that you upload money onto and can use to travel on the underground, buses and trams. You have to pay an initial £5 deposit that can be refunded if you return it.
Most single journeys cost £2.40 for an adult and your daily fare is capped at £9.50 between zones 1-4. So once have carried out £9.50 worth of tube journeys (in one day), charges stop. You can still travel on the tube, but you are no longer charged!
As I mentioned earlier, travelcards are also accepted on buses and buses are cheaper than the tube. However, London buses do not accept cash, which seems strange to me. So make sure that your Oyster card is topped up before getting a bus.
4. TFL River Boat Services
Surprisingly, Oyster cards will also be accepted by TFL River Boat Services. I have yet to travel through London this way, but they offer services that take you along the banks of the River Thames. They depart from major London piers approximately every 20 minutes and on a sunny day it would be 100x more pleasurable than the tube.
If you are travelling into London by train then it might be worth looking into buying a day travelcard which doubles up as your train ticket and a ticket version of the oyster. So a travelcard allows unlimited travel around London. It costs me approximately £8 extra on top of my train ticket but the cost obviously depends on where you are travelling from. You can also buy a weekly, monthly or annual travel card. These can be uploaded onto your oyster! However, they are only financially beneficial if your are spending a long time in London.
Santander Cycles/ Boris Bikes can be hired for JUST £2 for 24 hours (and the first 30 minutes are free). You can hire one from any docking station (you just need a card) and you can return it to any docking station once you are done. They are dotted all over London, as you can see in the image below.
I think that cycling around London gives you a whole new way around the city… plus it is good exercise. However, please make sure that you are road aware. If you have any doubts about cycling on the roads and you live, work of study in London, you can sign up for a free basic cycle lesson and an urban cycle lesson.
If you are trying to save money and you are not in a rush, then you can always… walk. I know- WALKING! This might be a shocking suggestion but you can in fact walk around London. I appreciate London, its history and its sights SO much more when I am forced to walk around London (because the tube is on strike… AGAIN). When you walk around London you get a chance to see the hidden gems that are not listed on Tripadvisor nor other Guides to London. Also, many of the most famous locations in London are close together. For example Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Westminster and Piccadilly Circus are all within a 10 minute walk of Charing Cross.
As you can see, there are so many different forms of transport available in London. You just need to find which one will suit you best… or give them all a go! Whilst walking is cheaper, on a rainy day or in order to get somewhere quite far away the tube is probably more effective. Whilst a Uber taxi might be safer late at night, the bike would be cheaper and healthier in the daytime.
Love Soph xxx