For many people, the London Underground – better known as the `Tube’ – remains a labyrinth of mystery. For first-timers, it can prove to be a highly-daunting prospect weaving in and out of the huge network of underground maze that is the London Underground.
I remember getting lost the first time I journeyed solo on the London Underground. Everything just seemed extremely complicated. Where do I go to as soon as I’ve passed through the ticket barrier? How do I know which train to get on? How do I know where to get off? How do I know at which point should I get on another train?
Firstly, take a deep breath. Secondly, head down to the nearest train station and arm yourself with a pocket tube map – it should be available at all Central London tube stations free of charge. Study the map carefully, and be sure to keep it with you at all times, at least during the first few journeys on the tube, until you’re more familiar with the workings of the London Underground.
In the Tube map, London is divided into 6 zones: Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 & Zone 6. Zone 1 covers Central London, which has all your regular touristy spots; the more the increase in Zone number, the further it is from Central London.
You can buy your tickets at the ticket machines or from at a ticket counter. Fares for adults cost GBP 4 for a single journey which includes a Zone 1 destination and GBP 3 for a single journey which doesn’t include a Zone 1 destination. Fares for children 16 and below cost GBP 2 for any single journey regardless of destination. Alternatively, you can also opt for a Travelcard which is available for one day, three days, one week and a whole month. A Travelcard allows unlimited journey within the covered zones and during the stipulated period of time, and is also valid for travels on the DLR (Docklands Light Railway), buses and trams. It’s the most economical way to travel if you plan to cram a lot of sightseeing into one day. Adult Travelcards cost from GBP 6.60 during peak period (Mondays to Fridays) and GBP 5.10 during off-peak periods (weekends and public holidays) for a One-Day Travelcard, while Children Travelcards cost from GBP 3.30 during peak periods (it is free of charge during off-peak periods). You can also purchase travelcards at most newsagents and independent retail outlets.
There are 12 lines on the London Underground – Bakerloo, Central, District, Circle, East London, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, and Waterloo & City – all colour-coded on the Tube map for easy reference. Determine your route on the map by deciding where you want to go to in the first place. For example, if you want to go to Piccadilly Circus from West Ham, you need to take the Hammersmith & City Line to King’s Cross St Pancras, then change for the Piccadilly Line to Piccadilly Circus. Alternatively, you could also take the District Line all the way to Embankment, then change for the Bakerloo Line to Piccadilly Circus, or take the Jubilee Line all the way to Waterloo and change for the Bakerloo Line heading for Piccadilly Circus. As you can see from the map, there are various alternative ways to get from Point A to Point B, and once you’re familiar with the routes, finding your way around via the tube comes naturally.
First-timers only have to follow these two simple pointers to ensure a headache-free journey on the London Underground: always carry a pocket tube map with you, and always follow the directions as indicated on the signage around the tube stations. You will get the hang of it in no time – in time, you won’t even need a pocket tube map to accompany you on your journeys!
For more information on the London Underground, visit its official website at www.tfl.gov.uk