Top tips for using public transport with a stroller in London
Getting around London with a pushchair
I have lived in London for six years now and for the last two I have been lucky enough to have my little boy, Ethan. This has meant that I have had a lot of experience navigating London's transport network with a stroller. If you are visiting London for the first time with a baby or you are a London resident and are pregnant you may be a little apprehensive about using London's transport system with a pushchair. I have put together this article to help people with buggies who are not familiar to London. Hopefully a bit of inside knowledge will help you plan your trips and get around London without too much hassle.
Good luck and enjoy your time in London with your child!
Pushchairs on the London underground
The tube is quite often the best and quickest way to get around London and it can be done with a pushchair. However, it 's true to say it isn't the easiest mode of transport with a stroller. Many of the lines are part of an old transport network and there are many stations with no lifts or escalators, but lots and lots of steps. This can definitely be managed if there are two of you and you are both fit as you can carry your buggy up and down the steps. I wouldn't recommend it if you're on your own, the buses may be easier. However it can be done. Londoners and the tourists that visit are generally nice people and sooner and later somebody will offer to help. If they don't ask and somebody will come to your rescue. You can also ask the station staff to help you out.
There are a few good tips about travelling with a pushchair on the tube. Firstly avoid rush hour and any other busy time. Rush hour tends to be between 7am and 9.30am and 4pm to 7pm. There's nothing worse than trying to get a pushchair on a full tube. Secondly, invest in an easily collapsable, lightweight stoller. As you will be carrying the pushchair up and down flights of steps, it is worthwhile making this investment. Thirdly, depending on how old or big your baby is you could consider another carrying option. A baby sling means you can forget about lugging a pushchair around the tube which would things considerably easier.
There are quite a few stations with lifts and no steps which are accessible to pushchairs. Look at the tube map at the London for transport website. Those marked with a wheelchair symbol are step free. Apparently there are 47 step free stations from street to platform. Many of the stations have escalators and although it isn't officially recommended you can put your pushchair on these, you will see lot of people doing this all the time.
Travelling on London buses with a pushchair
It is probably a lot easier to get by on London buses with a pushchair than the tube especially if you are on your own. Most London buses are low floor buses so you can easily get your pushchair on the front of the bus when it stops. You can push your buggy into the wheelchair space, there is normally no need to fold it. Occasionally if the bus is really crowded or there are already pushchairs on board the bus, you may be refused entry by the driver and have to wait for the next one but in Central London there are often several buses going in the same direction so you shouldn't have to wait too long. I would still try to avoid the buses during rush hour if possible, after 5pm tends to be the worst time.
The buses in Central London are really good, cheaper than the tube and very frequent. Although, please note that if you are travelling further out of the city they are less frequent as there are less buses going in the same direction. A lot of the bus stops have LCD displays telling you how long it is until the next bus will arrive and they are quite accuate. A few London buses also have an automated voice telling you the name of the next stop. This makes the bus easier to use if you don't know where you are going. Check out the London bus maps to help plan your journey.
The best, quickest and by far cheapest way to pay for journeys on the bus (and on the tube) in London is to buy an Oyster card. Oyster cards are smart cards. You put money on them before you travel and then you put them flat against the Oyster reader as you get on the bus. Oyster cards can also be used on the London underground. You can buy them at tube stations, London train stations, newsagents and online. Go to Oyster online for more information. Overseas visitors can also buy an Oyster card before they come to London. Go to Visitor oyster cards for more information. It is definitely worth getting an Oyster card during your visit to London as it will save you money on public transport.
Pefect narrow lightweight strollers for London
Macalren Techno stollers are perfect for navigating London buses and tubes. They are lightweight, narrow and easily collapsable.
The Docklands Light Railway (DLR)
The DLR is fantastic for pushchairs. There is lots of space for several pushchairs at once and there are lifts at every station. I would still avoid rush hours if possible but you can still get by quite happily during these times if you need to. If only all public transport was this good!
Unfortunately it only runs along East London, but if you visit Greenwich or Canary Wharf you may need to take the DLR. Check out the DLR maps to see where it goes.
Taxis with a stroller
London black cabs are very accommodating to pushchairs. There is quite a lot of space in the back so sometimes you don't even have to fold the pushchair. The drivers will normally happily wait for you to fold the stroller if you need to.
Consider buying and A to Z of London and walking where possible. Walking around London is a great way to soak up the city's atmosphere. You will come across sites you would have never encountered otherwise and it's a great way to experience London.The tube map of London can be deceptive and two stations you think are miles apart are sometimes less than a 10 minute walk so check where you are going on a map before stepping onto the tube. The London Underground website actually states that 109 journeys between Central London Tube stations are quicker by foot than tube and half of London car journeys are under two kilometres - just 25 minutes walk - easily within walking distance. Additionally walking is also cheaper.
You can plan your route by using the Walking journey planner on Transport for London's website. Either click on the link above or go to the advanced section of the journey planner and deselect all the travel modes.
A to Z of London
Useful websites to help you navigate around London
- Avoiding Stairs Tube Guide
- Journey planner
Plan your journey on London transport with the journey planner
- Accessibility guides for London transport
Guides to using the bus and tube with a pushchair on London for transport website
- London step free tube map
A tube map with detailed notes about which stations are step free and which are the worst stations for steps.
Other tips when using a pushchair in London
There are a few other pieces of advice I can give when using a pushchair in London.
1). Invest in a rain cover for your stroller and always have it with you. It may start off as a nice sunny day but that doesn't mean to say there won't be a few showers in the afternooon. We do have times in London where it doesn't seem to rain for a while but you can never predict when this is going to be. Summers can be dry and hot but they can also be days when it's damp and wet. It is true to say the weather isn't always that great in London so I would invest in a raincover and just hope that the weather is so good you don't need it.
2.) If you are coming to London in the autumn, winter or spring it can get chiily at times so it is worth getting a foot muff or bring some blankets to keep your child warm.
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