Getting around London on Public Transport. Days out from London and how to find a good pub

Days out from London and how to find a good pub

Originally written for the Olympics, I've decided to keep the web site active.

Many visitors to the London Olympics may want a break from the Games and do a little sightseeing. There are plenty of travel firms who will organise a tour, either within London or elsewhere. Those on a budget however may like to do as the locals do and use public transport. Here’s how, with the necessary links.


Getting around London:

London Transport site has the details.

Buy an Oyster card or Travelcard rather than paying for each individual journey and thereby avoid the ticket queues and considerably higher prices (it just isn't worth buying a single trip ticket in London). The Oyster Card works on London Tube, London overground trains and on any London bus. It’s a debit card and a swipe card. Just hover it over the machine at the gate at the station or at the entrance to a bus.  It will record any travelcards you purchase, reducing the fares accordingly. You can buy them online or at outlets throughout London, see the link above. Even if you find that an exit gate is open on your way out of the tube you must be sure to swipe the card on exit, otherwise you'll be in a digital nightmare, be virtually stuck in the tube system and pay acordingly. You can now use your contactless bank card in the same way but you have to register with London Transport first. watch out for card clash if you have an Oyster and a registered card.

2017 You can now use contactless cards on the underground and buses. You still need to touch out on the tube and river buses but not on the buses unless you are going to Wimbeldon station.

The link above also tells you about any Travelcards you may be eligible to buy to get the overall costs down. If you come in to London by train, there’s a 2 for 1 scheme encompassing many London attractions. This can only be bought at mainline stations (not the Tube stations) or online at

2017 You can now use contactless cards on the underground and buses. You still need to touch out on the tube and river buses but not on the buses unless you are going to Wimbeldon station.


Children under 11 travel free on red London buses and the Underground at all times. Child fares are available for those under 16 and it is possible to get discounted fares if you are under 18 or studying in London with an ID card.

NB.  from 2015 Buses no longer accept cash and ticket offices in the tube system are destined for closure. Travelcards, oyster cards or contactless are therefore de rigeur.


Toolkit gives an excellent summary of what's available.


This link can either help or confuse. I’m never sure which


 Street maps are plentiful on walls and posts. GoogleMaps or any GPS App are good ways to identify the nearest tube station or bus station. As well as Google Maps and the London transport link above there are many links which you can use for journey planning. eg  for public transport info.


From the airports

There are fast express trains from the main airports but these are expensive. You can take the tube from Heathrow ( the easiest initial change to other lines is at Barons Court) and standard trains from Gatwick and Stanstead: book in advance and consider a 2 for 1 pass. There are also long distance bus services to many cities from the airports.


The red London Buses

are great fun and allow sightseeing. The somewhat overwhelming number of routes can be mastered by using the journey planner on the TFL London Use the "travel options" link to limit the journey to buses or however you want to travel. There are useful maps at all bus stops about routes, other local bus stops and night buses. These are usually worth a few minutes study if you are not exactly sure about which bus you need.

It’s best to have a ticket or an Oystercard ready before you get on. Cash use on buses is being phased out. There are plenty of ticket machines about in central London and tickets can also be bought at rail stations.

The bus is the best way to see the Capital as you travel. There are many bus tour companies who know this and organise good hop on and hop off tours with audio guides. But you can be more adventurous and organise your own bus journey or tour. Here's a little download that helps you do this and see the sights   The number 11 bus tour of london


The Underground or Tube

is the fastest way to get about but can be crowded. There are maps available all over London and there is no real need to buy one

On both the tube and the buses there are announcements at the stops. Do remember to stand on the right on the escalators. Some tube stations on different lines can be very close to each other, so it’s best to have some idea of the surface geography. This may avoid you taking a 15-minute tube ride for what may be a 5-minute walk. Each line has a name and its own colour. Be aware whether you are travelling N,S, E or W for fast identification of the platform you require.

The Docklands light railway and the London Overground train system are run by separate companies but are well intergrated by 'Transport for London'. They use Oyster cards and network cards and journeys can be combined seamlessly with buses and the Tube.




are fine, safe and, for more than two people, may be a cost effective way to go. Travel snarl-ups are the downside. Black cabs can be hailed in the street. Booked cabs may be slightly less expensive, for an app try:  Hailocab



Good food is plentiful, contrary to our reputation. For the very best restaurants in the UK use the "Good Food Guide". Available at any bookseller but if you just want a quick peek try a local government library (free), most of which keep a copy but you may have to ask for it. Gourmets can use the Good Food Guide to go from place to place as many of the inclusions are hotels or pubs with rooms.


Touristy things to do

The Tower,    Walk along the Thames,  Take a look at the Shakespeare  Globe Theatre.   Cheap Theatre tickets for that evening from the booth in Leicester Square. Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace,   Walk through Hyde Park.  Walk along The Mall,   Visit Harrods (for its theatrical display, not just shopping). Visit Tate Modern

Rather more classy things to do

Vist the Courtald Gallery,  Take a free guided tour at the British Museum or National Gallery (or indeed almost any museum). Visit Tate Britain. Walk through Lincolns Inn, Buy your ticket for Glyndebourne's Summer Festival, Try my number 11 bus tour (see links)


Days out from London

There are plenty of companies who will organise a comfortable day trip but, for the more adventurous, there’s good public transport to places all over the UK.  Train tickets are much less expensive if bought in advance rather than at the station on the day and can then be collected at machines at the station. National Rail allows online purchases but, for some reason, local train companies may be marginally cheaper because there are no debit or credit card charges and you can buy a ticket to or from anywhere. One such site belongs to Southern Rail at  or you can phone 08451 272920 . Take a little time to familiarise yourself with how the site works and double check that you are buying the correct type of ticket. Avoid third party sites, which charge extra.

The fare system is a mess. Whilst working out timetables for complex journeys, it is worth trying both a local rail company and the National Rail website. I looked up the same complex journey in this way and got very different suggestions regarding trains and connections. The one from National Rail was an hour longer and one pound more expensive. Also there may be more fare options available on the train company web sites. I have found both return and first class fares, which were cheaper than the single second class fare quoted by National rail. It can be even cheaper to virtually break your journey: by which I mean a journey from London to Glasgow may be cheaper if you buy a ticket from London to Crewe and then Crewe to Glasgow. This site will work out the cheapest split fares click the 'trainsplit' tag. If you are delayed for more than 30 minutes you can now claim compensation. Do this at the website of the rail company tou are travelling with. Or you can pick up a form at the station ticket office. You must retain your ticket to do this, therefore don't put you ticket in the machine as you finish the journey, as it will swallow it. Instead show it to an inspector and ask for a gate to be opened for you.

If you are staying outside London, the cheapest return to London may be to buy an 'off peak Travelcard' which also gives you free public transport once you are there but the times at which you can travel are limited - usually avoiding rush hours eg 7-9 am and 4-7pm. Most mainlaine stations have automated ticket machines but, if you are not sure of the right ticket, it may be worth queing at the booths, as the staff are usually very helpful.

Here's a list of helpful sites for getting around


My personal suggestions for days out from London are

Brighton: 1 hour from Victoria or London Bridge stations


Winchester: I hour from Waterloo station


Cambridge:  45 min from Kings Cross station


York, this is  best done as an overnight stay, 2 hours from  Kings Cross station


My favourite off the beaten track is a day trip to Amberley (45 min from Victoria station), perhaps combined with Arundel later . Food at the Bridge Inn or the Sportman (in the village some distance away from the station). There's a great open air museum and walks along the river to Arundel with a train back. If you stay more than one day at Arundel, there's the wildfowl at the Arundel wetlands Centre and the Bignor Roman Villa.


For details of rural and urban walks there's Walking World including some walks in London.

For walks and pleasant countryside try the Cotwolds or the new South Downs National Park The Chilterns ( chilt1 and chilt2 )  are more built up but still good for a civilised couple of days and have the World's best concentration of good pubs, many with accomodation. Gourmets with deep pockets will swoon at the fayre on offer in the tiny village of Bray (see the good Food Guide).

If you ask most English people of their idea of heaven, it will probably sound a little like these places and that includes the pubs.


Oh yes pubs

I nearly forget them! Many do accommodation and good meals, this site will help. Alas, in 2012 after 30 years of independence, the Good Pub Guide, ( website or found at any bookshop) started to charge pubs for inclusion with comments when its online version started. Many fine pubs rightly refused to pay, so it is no longer clear which pub supplies the  best food or accomodation in an area. The refusniks are still in there but only their names are seen with no review text. An appalling ruination of a great institution and a cop-out by previously admired editors. Neverless, I still use it and it still comes recommended. The Good Beer Guide remains independent but is primarily driven by the quality of the beer.

Most people have a favourite central London pub. You'll just have to decide which is yours. Start in Fleet St.