London travel advice for students
For many new students, moving to a city like London is exciting but it can also be a daunting experience. New people, new places, new everything. Getting your head around the fantastic London transport system can help make your life easier as you settle in to university life.
There’s no point in skirting around the issue, London is big, and you’ll need to use the many transport options that the capital has to offer to get from A to B.
In this post, we give you ten of our best tips on getting to grips with London travel.
1. Apply for a 16–25 Railcard
If you are between 16–25 years-old, you are eligible to purchase a young person’s railcard, whether you are from the UK or overseas. Costing just £30 for the year (or £70 for three years), the railcard will give you up to 1/3 off your travel on rail services, including the tube.So, after just three or four trips, you will have made you money back.
Additionally, having this railcard means you can explore other parts of the UK and receive a discount on rail services outside of London.
Are you a mature student? You can apply for a one-year railcard too, but you will need to submit evidence of eligibility. Find out more information about the mature student application here.
To apply online for your railcard, or to read about it further, click here.
2. Get an Oyster card
Your Oyster card will soon become your favourite travel companion. An Oyster card (£5 for the card which you add credit to) allows you to travel on London transport with ease, topping the card up with credit online and in person, either at a station or designated Oyster top-up location. This means no hanging around at the transport barriers having to buy a new ticket every time you travel.
You can add your 16–25 railcard onto your Oyster card at a manned station to get a discount on all off-peak travel on the tube, DLR (which stands for Docklands Light Railway) and Overground. All of these are managed by TfL — Transport for London and you can find out more on their website.
If you have to use public transport every day, it is worth applying for an 18+ Oyster card. It costs £20 but it gives you 30% off the price of adult-rate Travelcards and Bus & Tram Pass season tickets, which works out better than having just the normal Oyster card. You can find out more information and apply for one here. The options all depends on each individual person. If you don’t use public transport that much and want to cycle or walk to most locations, then you may just want to buy individual fares.
3. Download CityMapper
Remembering a life without CityMapper is hard for most Londoners and adopted-Londoners alike. CityMapper is essentially a journey planning app which finds you the quickest routes to your destination. Simply type in the postcode or name of the place you’d like to travel to, and it will use your location to calculate your route. It will show you the price, travel options (bus, tube, etc.) how long it would take to walk and cycle and much more.
It’s available on the web, Android and iPhone.
4. Remember these transport golden rules
There are a few golden rules that will help you fit in seamlessly when travelling around London:
1. Always stand on the right-hand side of tube escalators. That means if people are in a hurry they can walk up the left-hand side.
2. When the tube arrives in the station, always allow people to get off the tube first before you get on. It’s just common courtesy.
3. You only need to ‘tap’ on to the bus — this means tapping your Oyster card on the reader — you don’t need to ‘tap’ when you get off the bus.
5. Get or hire a bike
To cut down on costs, you can use a bike to get around the city. You should be able to pick up a second-hand bike pretty cheap, Gumtree is a great place to start. The London Cycling Campaign has lots of advice on how to stay safe and where to get the best deals. Don’t forget to get a sturdy lock too!
If you don’t want to cough up for your own bike, why not use a Santander Cycle . Santander Cycles is London’s self-service, bike-sharing scheme for short journeys and you can hire the bikes for as little as £2 per journey. You can pick up and drop them off at any of the hundreds of docking points across the city.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions
Londoners have a bit of a bad reputation for being a tad on the grumpy side, but don’t let that put you off asking someone for directions. Most people will be happy to help you figure out where you’re going.
7. Avoid peak times
Travelling in peak-times is not only more expensive, it is also extremely busy. You’re probably going to be tucked in underneath someone’s armpit on the tube, so if you can avoid it, try not to travel between 06:30 to 09:30 and 16:00 to 19:00 Monday-Friday.
8. Be savvy when travelling at night
From Friday 19 August, selected tube lines will run for 24 hours a day on Fridays and Saturdays, due to large investments from Transport for London to keep up with the fast-paced, 24-hour city. The Central and Victoria lines will be the first to go 24 hours, followed by the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines in autumn. You can find out more about the Night Tube on the TfL website.
Additionally, selected London bus services run for 24 hours. Night buses will have a ’N’ next to their number at the bus stop.
The most important thing to do is to plan ahead. Make a note of your route home and know which services you’re going to use.
9. Download Uber
The introduction of Uber has made travelling in a taxi in London more accessible and affordable. The app uses your location settings to pick you up and deliver you easily from A to B.
If you’re on a budget, you’re not going to be getting taxis all the time, but the handy ‘Fare Split’ option means that if you share a Uber with your friends, all of those with an app can split the fare between them. Another feature is ‘Send Location’, which allows you to text a link to someone in your phonebook so that they can follow the location of your taxi, adding an extra layer of safety.
Handy tip: Watch out for ‘surge charges’ in busy times, you could end up being charged a hefty fare.
10. And don’t forget to go beyond the City
Another of the benefits of being in London is the links that we have to the rest of the UK, and even mainland Europe. There are 360+ National Rail train stations in London and the surrounding area, and from them you can easily go and explore other parts of the UK.