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Surviving the London Underground

Updated on August 13, 2014

First things first...

Get yourself a tube map! You can download these as apps or photos on your phone, print it out or pick up a paper copy at any tube station.

One you have one of these, you can begin to plan your journey. Know which station you're starting from, and where you want to end up. This also means know whether you're travelling north, south, east or west because some platforms are only labelled like so.

The Map

Created by Joe Watson and Aryven Arasen, this is a different version of the tube map showing walking distances between stations. Not full map.
Created by Joe Watson and Aryven Arasen, this is a different version of the tube map showing walking distances between stations. Not full map. | Source

Tube etiquette - very important

Make sure you stand on the right on an escalator. The right is for standing, the left is for people walking down or up. You will upset a lot of people and will probably get asked to move if you stand on the left!

People don't usually make much eye contact or talk to each other on the tube. If someone speaks to me, my first reaction is that they definitely want money from me. So, the rule is: don't talk to strangers!

Try not to eat smelly food on the tube. It is horrible when the carriage is already stuffy!

I've seen people ask others many times to turn the volume of their music down through their earphones. You may love your Metallica, but not everyone does...

Ladies, please, put your bags down when it's cramped and you're standing. I don't want to be repeatedly hit by your bag.

Gentlemen, too many times have I seen testosterone-fuelled businessmen in a swanky suit who are late for work and bellowing at everyone in the carriage to move down. Move up as much as possible, but when there's no space, there's no space!

This brings me onto another point. Many times have I seen people try to cannonball into others as the doors close if there is no space to step on. Yes, this does make everyone hate you, and it can be really dangerous when it gets too cramped.

Do give your seat up for the elderly, the pregnant or those less able to stand when you are perfectly capable. Lots of people do this, but lots of others pretend not to notice, or wait until someone else does first. Come on, people...

There's nothing worse than being stuck next to someone who smells...please guys, everyone needs to shower!

You think this is bad? Puuuurrrlease.
You think this is bad? Puuuurrrlease. | Source

What's your favourite tube line?

See results

Know your tube lines

The lines are very different to each other - some have smaller trains, some have air con, some have more seats, so if there are multiple ways of getting to your destination, here's the low down on the best lines.

Red: the Central Line

This is the reliable line. Come storm, snow and generally ghastly whether, this line is the most likely to be working. Nicknamed the 'bone-rattler' by my father, this line isn't the smoothest. It is fairly quick however, and if you are getting on very near either end of the line you have a nice chance of getting a seat in rush hour. However, this line is not air-conned, and can get awfully hot and stuffy even in winter. It is a very well used line, passing through Shephard's bush and hosting shoppers and city commuters alike.

Yellow: the Circle Line, Purple: the Metropolitan Line, Pink: the Hammersmith and City Line

These recently refurbished lines now boast the larger, carriageless trains. Air-conned, more seats, more standing space and a smoother ride are what these lines have to offer. The point that the metropolitan line is the fastest line has to be made, and is definitely my favourite choice of line.

Grey: the Jubilee Line

This line supports most London commuters during rush hour, and when it is delayed causes absolute mayhem. Unless you absolutely have to, don't go near this line in the central zones if there are reported delays. It is fairly fast, but has similar trains to the Central line. Watch out for the jolt between Baker Street and Bond Street! The great thing about this line is that it comes every couple of minutes - it is the most frequent service.

Blue: the Piccadilly Line

The old, juddering Piccadilly line is slow, with trains lacking space, air con and the height for a tall person to stand properly. During the evenings it stops at Rayners lane, forcing commuters for stops towards Uxbridge to change onto the Metropolitan Line. Very annoying on a cold evening! However, it provides very useful transport to and from Heathrow airport.

Brown: the Bakerloo Line

This line usually has a musty smell and boasts small, depressed-looking trains with odd seating. It is a fairly fast line, but definitely not my favourite.

Black: the Northern Line

Juddering, infrequent service, strange yellow bars instead of the black the Northern line should be boasting. The most complicated line as it has two 'branches' - make sure you're on the right branch for where you want to go. This could either be the 'Bank' branch or the 'Charing Cross' branch. Careful, made plenty of mistakes on here!

Light Blue: the Victoria Line

This is a very cool line. Plenty of seating, quick, information on which side the doors will open - what more could you ask for? My second favourite line.

Green: the District Line

A bit scary in rush hour. Fairly big trains, lots of seats. The best thing about this line is the presence of single seats - you don't have to sit next to anybody! Quite infrequent service - I have found myself waiting at Earls Court for fairly long periods of time.

Turqiouse: the Waterloo and City Line

Quite a nice line - one of the newer ones. Not too frequent, and can get very busy.

Hello, tube strike!

This was a bad day. A very bad day.
This was a bad day. A very bad day. | Source

Oh God, it's Summer...

So, the weather is fairly warm, and you need to use the tube. Bring a bottle of water with you, and if you're wearing layers make sure you can take them off. Ladies, I advise a hairband. Sometimes, at the end-of-work rush hour, the smells can be a little funky, so sometimes I bring a nice smelling scarf or pack of tissues to discreetly smell instead.

Keep your posessions close

I've lost two phones and a wallet on the tube, simply due to not checking my seat properly when I've gotten up. Remember all of your bags and make sure nothing has come out of your pockets.

Also, if you accidentally leave a bag lying around, it can cause all sorts of problems. tube users are encouraged to report unattended bags, and more often than not your bag will cause alot of grief.

Final travel tips

Ladies, bring a pair of flats with you, because if you can't get a seat and your train is delayed or you have a long journey, standing can be painful! Lots of women commute in trainers.

See if a bus might be quicker for your journey. You can use the Transport for London Journey Planner online to plan the quickest route for your journey.

Before you leave, check the Tube Travel Update. It will tell you of any delays and planned closures. Have a plan B for when the tube fails - delayed jubilee line, eek.

Make sure you don't double pay by touching your wallet to the reader and having both an oyster card and a contactless payment card.

If you're in London for more than a couple of days, get an oyster card - it works out cheaper than buying a ticket.

Be patient! During rush hours (these are in the morning, particularly between 7:30am and 9am, and in the evening, 5:30-7:30) there are a lot of people travelling and it may take some time to get on your train.

Avoid Victoria's just scary in rush hour.

Enjoy London!



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