navigating the underground in london

London Underground: 5 Hacks to Navigating Like a Native

Tourists and newcomers beware, the London underground transit is one of the oldest but most confusing public transport systems.

Made up of over 270 stations, connected through 11 lines, figuring out your route can be an arduous task.

Even seasoned travellers can be flummoxed by tube maps, with overlapping train and bus lines in a rainbow of colours, it can feel like you’re reading spaghetti.  

It’s hard to fully experience London without jumping on the tube, so we’ve compiled our biggest tips to going underground, and coming out at the right place!

Buy an Oyster card to travel on London Underground

Buy an oyster card

An oyster card is a smart card for London’s public transportation system. Whether you plan on taking a bus, tube, rail or tram, you’ll probably need an oyster card. 

You can buy one online through the Oyster TfL page, preloading it with the funds you’ll need to get around.  The card will subtract your fare as you go through the ticket barrier.

While they’re also available in the stations, buying online can come with a significant discount.  

London Underground map

Double-check the Underground lines map

Maps are located throughout the tube system. The stop in bold is where you are, next find the stop you are going to and the colour of the line it is on. 

Solid colours are underground lines, and lines with a number of colours have multiple lines running the same tracks and stations.

On these lines, exercise extra care to get on the right train!  

The grey and white shadings in the background of the map are the zones, which determine how much your ticket is going to cost.

If you’re staying in Zone 1, then it’s going to be a minimum cost, but if you’re travelling to Zone 6 (such as travelling from Green Park to Heathrow), it’ll cost more.  

Mind the gap on the London Underground

“Mind the Gap” and pay attention to signs

“Mind the Gap” is the phrase you’ll see and hear the most in London’s underground, reminding passengers that there is a substantial space between the train door and the platform. 

Additionally, keep an eye on the electronic message boards, they’ll tell you which train will be arriving, in how many minutes, and which stop it’s heading towards next. 

Smart Route Tube Planner

Use the Tube Exits app

The Tube Exits app can tell you the inside scoop, such as station entrances or exits to take and the time needed to reach a different platform. 

It’ll even tell you which carriage of the train to enter in order to arrive at your destination as close as possible to the station exit.

The Tube Exits app also offers live status updates, so you can find out real-time about delays. 

Crowded tube station platform

Check for football matches or events to avoid crowds

Sports matches or events such as the Notting Hill Carnival or London Pride bring in large crowds on the Underground.

The English League’s football, especially the Premier League, generally have the largest followings. 

When navigating larger crowds, have your oyster card ready, and when standing on escalators, keep right so those in a hurry can pass on the left.


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