9 tips for the tube on the other side of the pond

Navigating London underground

This post is not intended for seasoned travellers who have many times over had to discover how to figure out big city underground transport, nor those who live in cities with subway systems. But rather for those, who like me who are newer to the game and may want some navigational pointers. As well, for us overly polite “sorry abusers” and space sensitive types (yes Canadians I am looking at you), this post should better prepare you.

This wasn’t my first subway. No, I was introduced to my first underground system in New York years ago, which admittedly I found quite simple. And this too was not a complex system to understand. But, I found there was definitely a protocol in London.

Below are tips based solely on my first time visit to London and how it could be made easier for new travellers to quickly acclimate to the tube system, with a few simple considerations.
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1. Figure the tube out and quickly. Keep a copy of a free tube map handy, it will be your best friend. You can find one at any station. You will soon get to know your stops and if you like adventure, try getting out at any stop in Zone 1 as there is something great to be found at each of them.

2. Buy a day pass for zones 1&2. If you are there for seven days, get a card. It’s worth it and taxis are very expensive.

3. You’ve gotta move it move it (& bring a belt). You may not be walking everywhere but you will be hustling to and from stations and in the mean while doing a lot of small sets of stairs. If you are not the hustling type not to worry as the next tubes arrive frequently. The latter half of this tip is based on me losing weight during travel. Hustle = calories burned people!
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4. Mind the side of the road. Yep, think of yourself as driving on the right hand side even down below or annoyance by the locals will be apparent. Stay right if you walk slowly or if you don’t walk up/down the escalators, as people will be looking to pass. Or if you are a hustler like me (see #3) keep left and keep on movin.

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5. Plan ahead. Avoid rush times and if you don’t like crowds get off at less busy stations. Although it seems you are travelling a fair bit underground most stations are situated quite close together so if you are up for it, just walk it and see.

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6. Know your NEWS (north, east, west, south). Get your bearings and understand the direction you are going. Yes, it sounds simple enough. But, when you get down to the station platform and trains are approaching and you feel rushed to have to choose left or right quickly, a north or south (or east or west) reference will come in handy. Use your tube map and then you won’t panic when you are among a large crowd and needing to choose which train to board.

7. Tube etiquette. Don’t take it personally. People here aren’t overly apologetic like us Canadians. It’s about getting to point A to B and if you cut off or get shoved a bit it’s par for the course for this mode of transport. Personal space like we know it in Canada isn’t observed. Bonus, sometimes you get too close for comfort with a hotty.

8. Walk with the pack not against. It’s likely you are going the wrong way if there is a large group of people coming toward you. But that should be obvious.

9. Lastly and of utmost importance, mind the gap.
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10 thoughts on “9 tips for the tube on the other side of the pond

  1. I’m used to the tube in London, but I enjoyed reading your pointers. Have you ever read the book Neverwhere. You’ll never see Mind the Gap the same way.

  2. I read elsewhere a piece of advice about having your ticket ready before you get to the gantry – I sometimes forget to do that and can feel the immense virtual pressure of 1000 bodies from behind!

    • Wonderful piece of advice-thanks so much. I certainly felt that way more than once.

      Here are a few more great tips that were sent my way today (thanks Rachel! @rmol 😉):
      ‘Allow everyone to exit the carriage before you board.’ Also, ‘Don’t speak.’

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