I never thought that I would ride on a subway train anywhere in the world more busier than the New York city subways. Then I took a trip to London and realized how wrong I was. The New York City Subway system is a far larger system than the London Underground. The New York City Subway system reaches across four of the five boroughs of New York city such as Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. The London Underground stretches across the different zones of the city of London. However the London Underground trains are much smaller than the New York City Subways. There small size makes it incredibly uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous to ride the London Underground. There were many times when I felt as if I would never get off the train before the doors closed. People are so tightly squeezed together without anything to hold on to. When comparing ridership between New York’s Subways system and London’s Underground, New York is a much busier system. However the size difference between the trains makes it feel as if the London trains are so much more packed.
The London Underground Trains also move incredibly fast. Much faster than the New York City subways. At times, the London Underground Trains were going so fast that the speed caused this incredible high deafening sound that was so piercing it made you dizzy. As in any city, the high pitched sounds did not seem to bother the locals who were used to it, but the tourist were extremely taken back by it.
To be fair to the London Underground Trains, not all the lines were extremely busy and there were some train trips that were comfortable. If I had to compare the London Underground to another city’s subway system, the Boston subway system would be the one most comparable.
One unusual aspect of the London Underground system is the fact that you have to tap out when you exit the train station. London’s Underground tickets system and pricing is based on length of ride and the time of day of your ride. It is not a one price fare system like New York City or most city train systems. London’s pricing is comparable to suburban transit trains in which passengers pay peak and non-peak prices along with tickets based on the journey. The difference is London Underground travelers do not pay the separate price before hand. The price is determined by where the traveler taps out. To ride the London Underground travelers must purchase what is called an Oyster Card. It is a card similar to New York City’s Metro Card. Travelers can purchase an Oyster Card and deposit as much money on the card as they wish. The cards are much sturdier than most transit cards. The Oyster Card feels like a credit card. When a traveler exits the tube station they must tap the card against the large illuminated button on the exit gate. The tapping out is what determines how much of a fare will be deducted from the card. If one fails to tap out , they will be charged the maxim fare meaning they will be charged peak price for the longest distance ride. So, don’t forget to tap out.
The London Underground Tube is deep deep underground at many points in the city. There are some stations that you will travel down three very lengthy escalators until you get down to the train platform. While traveling down the escalator, make sure to stay to your right or you will be yelled at by a very fast moving traveler who will only probably wind up standing right next to you on the train anyway.
If your traveling around London and must use mass transit, the London Underground Tube will get you anywhere you need to go very quickly. If you prefer a calmer method of transportation, the London bus system is fabulous. However during rush hours, the bus system can take you four times as long to get to your destination as opposed to the London Underground.
If your in London and your searching for the train system, Londoners call it either the Underground or the tube. They do not call it the subways. I learned that quickly.
The London Underground Tube lines are not numbered. They are labeled with words like the Victoria Line, Jubilee Line, Circle Line and so one. While the system covers all of the city of London, there will be many times when you have to transfer trains. The public announcement system on the train is clear and will tell you at each station which lines transfer. Every train car also has clear detailed maps of the train stops and the lines that can be transferred to at each stop. It is a very well organized system.
There are many great apps that include London Underground Tube system maps. The City Mapper app is one of our favorites for all of London. There is also an official London Underground tube app.
Thanks for reading and we hope that we have helped set you up for you first London Underground Tube ride. If you are visiting London, riding the tube is something you should experience. Just try to avoid the obvious rush hours from 7 to 9 am and 5 to 7 pm.