Tips For First Timers On The London Underground


The London Underground is one of the largest underground rail networks in the world, and without it, the city would be nigh on impossible to navigate. What is almost 1500 square kilometres of urban development, 32 boroughs and many more districts are only as much a city as they are a connection of underground stations. It’s unsurprising then that guests of 5 star hotels in London will most probably find themselves using the London Underground system almost every day of their visit.

“If you’ve tried one, you’ve tried them all” is a mantra that definitely doesn’t apply to the London Underground system. Whilst there are many other underground rail networks in cities such as Tokyo and New York, each one runs at different speeds, costs and with different mindsets attached to its customers. This blog will outline everything a first time London Underground user might want to know about how to navigate the network, and how to make the most of your travels upon it.

A Brief Overview Of The London Underground

Originally founded in 1853, the London Underground network has grown to include 12 different lines, more than 270 stations and 400 kilometres in railway. As the first underground rail network of its kind, the London Underground has expanded and developed as the city it was born in did.

12 Lines For 12 Different Experiences

As mentioned, there are now 12 lines if you include the London Overground Service. The lines are the Victoria, Central, Northern, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Piccadilly, Jubilee, Waterloo & City, Bakerloo and the Overground. It’s worth noting that although the new Elizabeth Line does have parts of its network running underground and from the same stations as Underground rail lines, it is not actually designated part of the network.

Paying For Journeys

Depending on the length of your journey, an adult single fare will cost a customer around £2.90 at off-peak times. This is a third more expensive during peak times, which we’ll get onto in a little bit. Payment methods are usually contactless cards or Oyster cards.

Using An Oyster Card

The Oyster Card differs from a debit card in that it is used solely for the London Underground, topped up at stations for between £5 and £100. The pay as you go card costs £5 to buy, and can be found at most stations across the city. The card is identifiable by its blue colour and is the same size as a contactless debit or credit card.

Contactless Or Oyster?

Whilst it is easy to pay via contactless debit cards or even via bank account-linked mobile apps, there are some benefits to using an Oyster Card. Vitally, you can link up your Oyster to travel cards, meaning that the latter’s discounts on single journeys will be applied to your Oyster at off-peak times. On top of this, visitors can link up a day, week or month long travel card to their Oyster.

For longer term guests at the spa at Montcalm, the week long travel card may help you save money on your trip. However this will only be the case if you are using your travel card 3 times a day for 6 days of a week when you buy a week long travel card or longer. Day travelcards may actually come out as more expensive than single fare journeys, which have a daily cap of around £9 between zones 1 to 3. Travelcards can be up to £1 more expensive.


Travelling across London is easy on the underground, but you’ll still want to plan your journey in advance. Below are a few tips that could cut down your journeys and save you money.

London Underground’s 6 Zones

London’s underground network consists of 6 different zones. These run from zone 1 in the centre and ripple out in rings to zone 6 in Greater London. The further between zones you’re travelling, the more your journey will cost. For example, a journey from a zone 1 station to another zone 1 station could be up to a third cheaper than a journey between two zone 6 stations on different sides of the city.

Different Entrances At Different Stations

Major stations like London Bridge and Kings Cross have multiple entrances and exits that take you to different streets. Plan your journey accordingly, or risk getting very disoriented when leaving the station!

Stairs Or Escalator?

At stations such as Hampstead and Covent Garden, you can expect to find lift and stair access to the surface. Often, the staircases contain more than 300 steps, which may not seem like much when reading the number on the warning sign, but will definitely break you a sweat if you decide to traverse it. The choice is yours, but remember that staircases can be misleading and if you have a booking at, for instance, the Crescent Restaurant & Lounge, you’ll be adding a good ten minutes of walking onto your journey.

Time And The Tube

On weekdays, the London Underground runs its first and last trains at 5am and midnight. This means that most tube lines will have trains running after midnight, but will depart from their terminus station at midnight.

Rush Hour And The Underground

Rush hour – or peak times – in London is between 6.30am and 9.30am and between 4pm and 7pm. During these times, single journeys will cost a third more due to added pressure on tube services. Furthermore, railcards and discounts will not count at peak times, meaning that you will be paying more for a less comfortable journey. Avoid rush hour if you can, and expect journeys to take longer in the evenings.

The London Night Tube

Whether on your way back from an evening out at the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms, or heading home after a nightclub, Friday nights and Saturday nights will see 6 of the 12 tube lines run 24 hour services. The Victoria, Piccadilly, Northern, Central, Jubilee and Overground run trains at roughly 10 minute intervals on weekend nighttimes.