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Using the Tube System


"over 80,000 umbrellas are lost every year on the London Underground"

London Underground, or, the Tube as it is commonly known, is perhaps the most convenient way to get around central London.


It covers the heart of the city very well, and only becomes less useful when you might be visiting some of the suburban areas in which the stations are set further apart. 


The first Tube trains ran between Paddington and Farringdon stations on what is now the Metropolitan Line. The London Underground ran the very first electric trains in the world from 1890. The service was incredibly popular from when it first started and was carrying 26,000 passengers a day within a few weeks of having opened. Its popularity inevitably led to the opening of new lines, and the extension of the very first ones. The network has grown and spread until today, when it covers not just the centre of the city but stations very distant from the city centre.


What is most important when navigating the Tube is having a Tube Map. These are available in racks at the stations. If you do not see any available then the ticket office should be happy to give you one. The map should also be printed on every platform at some point along its length so that you can plan your journey.

"the tube from Leicester Square to Covent Garden is the most popular tube route for tourists despite the fact that it is actually much quicker walk"

Planning is vital if you are new to using the Tube. Before you set off, find out which Tube station is your end destination and plan how you are going to get there, as having to do it once you are underway can lead to confusion. Make a note of which stations at which you will have to change. 


The are many services including posters on the walls of platforms and and London Underground app for smartphones that can help you estimate you journey time between any two stations. As a rough guide, however, you should leave three minutes per station you are passing through, and five minutes for any changes you have to make. Many of the lines that run through Zone 1, the central area of the city, however, run significantly faster than this. As a general rule, if you have a choice of routes to your destination, take the one that has fewer station stops on it. 


The Tube map, although incredibly helpful for navigating the underground system, bears little relation to the actual shapes of the lines, or their relationship to each other. You can buy tube maps which show how the lines actually relate to the city above if you are interested. It is always worth looking at an A To Z to see what the nearest stations are to your destination, as sometimes many extra stops and changes can be cut out of a journey just by changing which station you are going to, if it is not too excessive a walk from your destination. You may find with many Zone 1 stations (most of which are within walking distance from each other) that you can shave a lot of time off your journey by simply walking a little further at the far end.


Payment can be made by cash or card at any of the tube stations, and if you intend to make more than a journey or two in one day then you will probably find that a Travelcard is the cheapest option, as this gives you unlimited travel for the rest of the day.