Our time in London has come to an end and we’ve already moved on to Paris, but there’s still a bit about London that didn’t make it to the blog because of the lack of internet access. So here’s the first bit about getting around London.
Upon arriving to LHR we were immediately informed that the Underground workers were on strike. There was a disappointed sigh from the plane before the captain went on to explain the other modes of transportation out of the airport, the Express and the Connect (standard above ground trains).
Not being familiar with the Underground it made no difference to me that it would be out of service, but now that the strike is over I fully understand the disappointment.
Underground, Tubes, Huh?
The Underground, if the name isn’t apparent, is the subway system throughout Central London, sometimes also referred to as the tubes.
There’s a station nearly every 5 blocks so they’re always easily accessible and they’re quick. You can estimate your travel time by adding 2-3 minutes for every stop to get to your destination and you never have to wait on a platform for more than 3 minutes. They’re a very efficient form of transportation.
But These Feet Were Made For Walking
At the beginning we didn’t understand why everyone praised the tubes. All the main attractions in Central London are situated fairly close together, are all within walking distance of each other, and only about 2 miles (max) from the area we’ve been staying.
So for the first 2 days we walked everywhere. This wasn’t a problem until the exhaustion set in. You see the time change during our flight left us sleepless for nearly 30 hours as a result of arriving in London bright and early at 5am (11pm Chicago time). So by the time the afternoon rolled around on that first day I personally could barely stand. I needed sleep.
So we headed back to the hostel and I took a nap. When I awoke Marla was just falling asleep for the night so I went ahead and got a little work done, wrote a blog post, and ended up going to sleep a little later than I had hoped. But then 5am quickly rolled around, Marla was wide awake after sleeping for 9 hours and I strangely felt like I was awake so we started our day.
“Breakfast” at the hostel (toast and jelly) and we were on our way, walking to St James Cathedral. After that we went to the Shakespeare Globe theater and since there were no tours because of a show, we stayed to see the play, Bedlam. I’m not a play guy but it was very cool to see a show there. Although I really enjoyed it, by the end of the 2 hour performance the exhaustion was setting in again and led to a repeat of the previous night.
So 2 days had passed and we got to see some cool stuff, but all the walking not only took extra time, but also rapidly assisted in making us exhausted very early in the day.
Mind the Gap and Take the Underground
Day 3 was much different because we finally took the underground and let me say, it’s beautiful. For £5.60 each ($7.12) you can get an off-peak time all day ticket to ride anywhere you want using public transportation (the Underground or buses).
It’s frequent and fast with lines crossing every which way throughout Central London. With the 2 minute per stop estimation you can get most places in 30 minutes or less.
As a result of getting a little more sleep and not walking everywhere we were able to have an even more filled day, making it to Buckingham Palace, back to the hostel, and through the excellent 4 hour long Fat Tire Bike Tour, which took off at 3:30pm (the time when the crash normally set in). The Underground made it all possible.
So if you’re a first timer in London my advice to you is to head over to a tube stop as soon as you can and start getting a feel for the city from The Underground. You can always walk the streets later, which I highly recommend as well, but if you have places to go and things to see The Underground can’t be beat.
What’s your preferred mode of transportation when you arrive in a new city? Let us know in the comments.