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The London public transport system is for both the leisure visitor and residents alike. An organisation called Transport for London coordinates the various transport options offer; namely buses, underground railway, overground railway, Docklands light railway, and river transport. This network covers the whole Greater London area with a comprehensive network of services. The only airports within this area are Heathrow and London City Airports.

The area is organised in six circular zones which ripple out from the centre. Nearly all the places visitors want to travel to and nearly all hotel accommodation is in Zones 1 and 2, through Heathrow is in Zone 6.

Public transport here is dominated by the London Underground and London’s famous red buses.


You cannot board any bus or train without pre-purchasing a ticket. The singla fare on a bus is a flat fare however far you travel. The London Underground fare is determined by the number of zones you travel through on a journey. You can switch trains between the various lines within any single journey.

Ticket Machines

At Underground stations there is always a manned ticket office and automatic ticket machines. At bus stops there is a ticket machine where you can purchase bus tickets.

Multi Trip Passes

Nearly all travellers on London’s public transport system do not pay for individual journeys though. Instead one of the multi-trip passes is used. The fares set by Transport for London make it much cheaper to purchase one of these cards than to pay individually for each journey.

For example, students can purchase a Unirider student bus pass. They just need a student ID with a photo. This is a much cheaper option and allows the student to travel almost unlimited within that period.

Where to Buy

For the visitor the easiest place to purchase any of the passes is a London Underground ticket office or a local retail ticket point. You will see signs in the windows of many shops, especially newsagents, advertising that they sell the range of ticketing options at the same price as from the Underground Stations.


The most popular option for the visitor to London is the one day or three day Travelcard. This covers all public transport options within set zones. The Heathrow Express train is not covered by the pass. For the vast majority of visitors to London this means a Zone 1 & 2 Travelcard.

On buses, you just show your card to the driver as you board. If you board one of London’s long single deck ‘bendy’ buses get on through any entrance and be prepared to show your ticket for inspection. Hit squads of inspectors descend on a bus sealing all exits and will demand a valid ticket to be shown. On the Underground you will have to insert your ticket into a barrier on entering and exiting stations to gain entry and exit.

You will also see many references to the ‘Oyster Card’ scheme. There are really aimed at residents of London.

Andy McGowan
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