5 things no one told me about London Underground

Double tap

While making a journey, you need to tap your Travelcard twice. First time when entering the station and second time while exiting. It is easy to remember as long as you enter the gate and leave the gate. But at the Underground, you can find two types of contactless readers: gate type and a standalone model. The problem is some stations do not have gates at all, and that is what caught me unarmed. A few times I took off a train in the middle of a trip because I forgot to tap a standalone reader while entering. It is easy to forget, so keep that in mind. Or don’t, but remember that the penalty fare is 80 pounds.

Pink readers

Standalone card readers exist in two colours — yellow and pink. First one is a standard contactless reader, most of the readers you will meet will be in yellow colour. Unlike the yellow readers, pink are rare. You can find them only at 15 Tube and Overground stations while a total number of Tube stations is reaching 270.

You need pink readers to save your money on a journey. When it comes to fares in London Underground, the fewer zones you cross to get to the destination, the less you pay. Let’s say you are travelling from Zone 2 to another part of the city in Zone 2. The shortest route will take you through Zone 1, which means you will need to pay for crossing the zone. Sometimes you have an option of changing a line or a transport type to get to your destination while travelling within one zone. On “switch” stations you will be able to find pink readers so that it will make three taps for a traveller instead of one (Entrance/Yellow — Change/Pink — Exit/Yellow).

Stations and lines to avoid

My personal list of London Underground “nopes” includes Northern Line, Central Line, Bakerloo Line and the Bank station. Unfortunately sometimes there is no way of travelling except than through them, but a passenger should be vigilant.

My first ever appointment in London happened at the Bank station which was a terrible mistake. The problem is the station has not two or even four but nine exits to the street. Good luck with finding your friend upstairs! Getting out of the station is tricky, unlike most stops Bank takes a lot of time to get out.

Circle line, as well as Northern line, is the worst option for moving on hot days. It is so warm that you barely can breathe. It can be a saver at winter, but these lines lack oxygen through the year.

Bakerloo has the dirtiest carriages among all lines. Moreover, trains also make some unpleasant noise while approaching the platforms, not to mention they are terribly slow (District and Circle say ‘Hi’ as well).

The Mordor of London Underground is Northern line. So there is Central line, there is District line, and there is Jubilee/Not the black line. All trains in Tube travel from point A to point B. Simple, right? Then there is Northern Line. It starts at point A and then splits into two lines while both of them are called Northern. That is more than enough to get confused. Do you want more? At some point, they are connected again to get to the point B. You’re welcome, travellers.

To make sure you will travel the right route, always check the station train goes through. Circle and Piccadilly lines have similar “circles” in Zone 4 and Zone 6 but they are not as tricky and much less popular among Londoners.

Extension tickets

London Tube map has 9 Zones. If you own a Travelcard for Zones 1–7, it means you will need to pay extra for this trip. There are two ways to do it. The first one is to top up your Oyster in advance so that the system will charge you for the difference. The second one is to buy an extension ticket at the station. In this case, you need to input data about your first station in Zone 8 and your destination station at Zone 9.

Wi-Fi on stations

Virgin Media provides Wi-Fi on most of Tube stations. It is not an open network so it requires logging into the system and the procedure might be different for every mobile operator. If you are a customer of EE, Vodafone, O2, Three or Virgin, most likely you will be able to access it. Be careful, the Wi-Fi works only at stations and does not function while the carriage is moving. However, you will have a high-speed connection with ~9.5 Mbps for download and ~55.7 Mbps for upload on Tube platforms.