Local Transport in London
The black taxicabs (http://www.londonblackcabs.co.uk/) are as common on the streets of London as the red bus. Licensed drivers of these black taxicabs go through a period of intensive training and examinations before they are given their licenses. They are therefore expected to know every street in central London, and are generally knowledgeable in this regard.
Cabs that are on hire have a yellow light lit above the windscreen. You can hail a cab by simply signaling with your arm. The cab fares are metered. The minimum fare that covers the first 336 meters (weekday rates) is £2.20.
This rises by 20 p for each 168 meters thereafter. The black cab fares rise further in the evenings and if you also pay more if you are a traveling overnight. Tipping the cabbie up to 10 percent of the fare is widely accepted. However, people usually round the fare off to the nearest pound instead.
Hailing a Taxicab in Nightlife Areas
It is difficult to flag down a taxicab late at night in the popular entertainment and nightlife districts of London such as Soho. This is especially true after 11 pm, which is the time when the pubs close their doors for the night. Most taxi drivers are choosy about the fares that late at night. If you are in any such area, then it is advised that you hail any passing taxi, including those with their lights off, and try to appear sober.
You can also ring in a taxi from Computer Cabs (7908 0207) or pre-book a taxi before your outing. You will be charged £2 as booking fee and the cost of getting to your location, in addition to your actual fare. If you are paying by cash, the company allows you to ring when you want the cab. If you are a pre-booking, you must use a credit card.
Another alternative to Computer Cabs is Zingo Taxi (0870 070 0700). This company uses GPS to connect passengers looking for a taxi to free black cab drivers. The service charge is £1.60, which is included in the final fare. However, Zingo Taxi only has 1000 vehicles, and if none of these is available, it will connect you to a Computer Cab which is more expensive. Nevertheless, it is an excellent option late at night when taxis are hard to find.
Minicabs are freelance and often unlicensed taxis, whose drivers are usually untrained and not as knowledgeable as licensed taxicab drivers. These cabs are not metered and Minicabs may also lack adequate insurance. It is not legally possible to flag down minicabs on the street. Instead, passengers must hire a minicab by phone or else from the several minicab offices across the city. There is a minicab office almost at every High Street. This is also the safest way of booking a minicab. There have been rape allegations made against some minicab drivers, so when approached by a cab driver looking for a fare, it is safest to decline.
For safe transport at night, it is best to ask locals for recommendations of reliable minicab drivers. Or passengers can call a large operator that operates 24/7 (7387 8888, 7272 2222, 7272 3322, 8888 4444).
Ladycabs and Liberty Cars
Women may feel safe at night hiring Ladycabs (7272 3300) with women drivers. The LGBT community also has a cab service dedicated to it called Liberty Cars (7734 1313) though by no means are straight passengers denied service. However, gay couples rarely face any homophobia from black cab drivers.
Taking the Underground (subway)
London has the oldest and most comprehensive subway system in the world. The Tube is fast and convenient, and just about everyone but the royals uses it. Everywhere you want to go is near a Tube stop, each of which is clearly marked by a red circle with a horizontal line through it. You can find an Underground map on this link.
Thirteen Underground lines crisscross the city and intersect at various stations where you can change from one train to another. On Underground maps, every line is color-coded (Bakerloo is brown, Piccadilly is dark blue, and so on), which makes planning your route easy. All you need to know is the name of your stop and the direction you’re heading. After you figure out which line you need to take, look on the map for the name of the last stop in the direction you need to go. The name of the last stop on the line appears on the front of the train and also on electronic signboards that display the name of the arriving train. (The one exception to this rule is the Circle line, which runs in a loop around Central London.) Inside the trains, electronic signs, recorded voices, or both, announce the name of each approaching stop.
Traveling to your destination by Underground may require transferring from one Underground line to another. All Underground maps clearly show where various lines converge. Signs in the stations direct you from one line to another. To get from one line to another, you go through tun- nels (which the Brits call subways), and you may have to go up or down a level or two.
The Underground system operates with automated entry and exit gates. If you have a regular paper ticket or Travelcard, you feed it into the slot; the ticket disappears and pops up again, the gate bangs open; you remove your ticket and pass through. Be sure to keep your ticket during your ride because you need it to get out. At the other end, you put your ticket through as you did upon entry, but this time the machine keeps the ticket (unless you have a multiuse Travelcard ticket, which the machine returns to you).
Underground service stops around midnight (a little earlier on less-used lines). Keep this in mind when you’re out painting the town red. If you miss the last train, you must take a taxi or one of the night buses.
Bus & Tram
The iconic London Routemaster, recognized as the red double-decker buses that used to ply the streets once, had been phased out. But popular demand brought the bus back to some routes such as the bus routes 15 and 9. Even the modern single decker and double decker buses provide a better view of the city than the underground tube. However, traffic on the road can be slow thanks to the four million people who commute through public transport each day.
A single-journey bus ticket for adults costs £2 within London. No tickets required for children below 16 years. Under-18s who are full-time students also travel free. Commuters can avail of the Oyster Card, which is valid on all buses (night buses included), and costs 90 p only for a journey.
Other Travel Passes
Saver Tickets: A Saver Ticket is a book of six bus tickets for £6, which can be used on all buses. These tickets are transferable. However, they are only valid for one journey.
One Day Bus Pass: For travelers who plan to use only buses during their London stay, the one day bus pass can be a money saver. These passes are £3 for adults and £1 for children, are valid on all buses throughout London and even before 9.30 am. This is a benefit over the Travelcard, which is valid only after 9.30 am. You can buy weekly passes for £13/£4 (adult/kid) and monthly passes for £42.30/£15.40 (adult/kid).
Oyster Card: Whether or not you are staying in London only for a weekend or longer, you should get an Oyster Card, since without it you will find yourself paying double.
Tramlink is a small tram network in South London, operating three routes. One of these runs to Elmers End from Wimbledon via Croydon. Another runs between Croydon and Beckenham. The third runs from Croydon to New Addington. Bus passes and Oyster Cards can be used on the trams. Single tickets are priced at £1.20/40p (adult/child).
Most transport information centers have maps of the London public transport system, through the website http://www.tfl.gov.uk/buses or the Transport for London Order Line (7371 0247). You can also call 7222 1234 any time of day for general London bus information.
There are more than 60 night bus routes (prefixed with the alphabet ‘N’). These run between midnight and 4.30 am, during the time when the daytime buses are off the road and the underground shuts down. The main hubs are Trafalgar Square, Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus. Information boards at bus stops have more information about bus routes. Night buses stop only on request, so you must clearly signal the driver for it to stop.
Many day buses ply throughout the day, though at less frequencies at night. Bus timetables will provide greater details on the routes.
Long Distance Buses in UK and to Europe
Megabus (0900 160 0900, 60p/min), http://www.megabus.com/) and National Express (0870 580 8080, http://www.nationalexpress.com/) are the major bus operators on a national scale. Megabus has no-frills airline seat pricing with some seats selling for as low as £1. To compete with Megabus, National Express has also lowered its fares. Green Line (0870 608 7261, www.greenline.co.uk) is another small service that operates on the major UK routes.
Eurolines (0870 514 3219, www.eurolines.com) operates buses to the rest of the continent, via National Express. These buses depart from Victoria Coach Station.