London rent is notoriously high, so if you're moving to London finding somewhere relatively cheap will probably be at the forefront of your mind. But finding somewhere close to your place of work is also important, and navigating London's vast public transport network can be confusing, especially if you've never done it before.
Here are some very useful tips to help you a) save money on your daily commute and b) enjoy it and be as comfortable as possible.
With 260 tube stations covering around 250 miles of track, the London Underground is understandably the most popular method of transport in and around the capital. There are over a billion passenger journeys each year and as a result it can get very cramped during rush hour and peak times in the morning and early evenings.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Underground to note is that it can get incredibly hot down there; particularly between the warmer months from May to October. In July and August it can be almost unbearable and it is therefore recommended to dress appropriately for the heat and always carry a bottle of water with you.
Statistics indicate that regular Londoners spend as much as 18 months of their lives commuting across the capital; although not usually on a single journey. If you don't want to be lugging books around you may want to invest in an e-book reader such as a Kindle to give you something to do on long, crowded journeys, though always be sure to store it securely after use – pick-pockets love an open bag. Also, remember that there's no phone signal for the majority of the network so if you're someone who likes to listen to music on their commute then make sure it's available offline.
There is a general level of etiquette amongst commuters on the Underground network. When boarding trains it is polite, not to mention sensible, to wait until all passengers exiting the train have left. When riding escalators you should stand on the right-hand side to enable passengers in a hurry to get past on the left.
Note: Do not attempt to carry a bicycle on the tube through Central London in rush hour. The tubes are not set up for this and it is in fact prohibited on certain sections of the route; check with the TfL site to find out. Folding bicycles are allowed on any tube line at any time, but on the more crowded lines it's probably best to avoid them if you can (also if your journey involves tubes and buses, bear in mind that a bus driver can refuse you entry if you have a folding bike and the bus is very busy).
Be aware that pickpockets and thieves do operate on the London Underground network and that you should be vigilant at all times to protect your belongings on the trains and walking between stations.
As the urban train service across London, the London Overground offers an arguably more comfortable journey across the capital with brand new air-conditioned electric trains now operating on almost all Overground services.
The Overground consists of five lines – the East London line (starting at Dalston Junction to West Croydon and New Cross), the Gospel Oak to Barking line; the North London line (from Richmond to Stratford); the West London line (from Willesden Junction to Clapham Junction); and the Watford DC line from London Euston to Watford Junction.
The London Overground virtually acts as a railway M25; orbiting the capital and the final branch of the £1.5 billion redevelopment of the network was completed at the end of 2012, connecting Surrey Quays and Clapham Junction.
Commuters with Oyster Cards will also be interested to note that Oyster pay-as-you-go is now accepted on all Overground routes.
Would you prefer to stick to the roads and enjoy some regular daily exercise in the process? Heading to work in London on a push bike may be the answer. Cycling in rush hour across London can however be a veritable minefield with many motorists failing to respect cyclists. With that in mind here are some useful tips to keep you city cyclists moving.
Don’t be afraid to manoeuvre in traffic – the advantage cyclists and motorcyclists have in London traffic is that they can weave in and out and move slowly and safely to the front of the queue.
Anticipate traffic – this will come with experience of London’s roads, but it is important to be able to spot opportunities to change lanes to one that is moving faster and will get you to work in good time.
Bike maintenance – with the volume of traffic in London it is essential that you keep your bike in top condition; ensuring tyres are suitably inflated and that gears and chains are well oiled.
Investigate alternative routes – don’t just stick to the same route to work each morning. In the event of an accident or a serious traffic jam it pays to know of alternative ways to work or possibly routes with fewer traffic lights or pedestrian crossings that allow you to stay moving for longer.
Are you faced with a daily commute from East to West London and don’t fancy the masses on the Underground? London’s bus network also offers ample opportunity to get around the capital even during rush hour.
At a cost of around £70+ for a month’s bus transport across the whole of London it works out significantly cheaper than the tube’s Zone 1-2 Travelcard. Not only will you save money you will also enjoy a more comfortable journey, with no train delays or crushes in Underground stations, you can simply sit down and let the driver do the work.
Many commuters find London’s bus network significantly more convenient than the Underground. The chances are you are more likely to have a bus stop on your doorstep than a tube station and with new bus lanes cropping up across the city all the time it has never been easier to rely on the bus to take you from A to B.
If you’re new to the area and are looking for potential bus routes that operate in close proximity to your new London home then take a look at the bus network map.
Never underestimate the power of your own two feet. Walking parts of your journey can avoid busy stations, save money, and can often end up resulting in a faster journey time. And you can get those steps in!
Updated August 2020