A first glance at a London Underground map is enough to give even the most intrepid explorer second thoughts. It is a spider’s web of colored, interwoven lines. However, if you take the time to check the map in detail, the system is extremely simple to use.
Finding your way through London using the Underground, or the Tube, as it’s also called, is not as difficult as it looks. Most London Underground stations have maps on the walls and helpful station attendants to answer questions. Tickets can be purchased from machines either for a single trip or for unlimited daily, weekly or monthly use.
The London Underground is split into zones. Central London, commonly known as the West End, is Zone 1. The further you travel out of the West End, the higher the zone number. The cost of your trip depends on how many zones you travel through on your journey. If you purchase an unlimited daily, weekly or monthly pass, London Transport buses are included.
The London Underground lines are designated by color. The Northern Line, which runs from High Barnet in the north to Morden in the south, is represented by a black line on the map. The Central line is red, and as its name suggests, it runs from east to west, taking in central London. There are a total of 12 different colored lines in the London Underground system.
When in London, an easy way to find a location is to ask someone which Underground station is nearest to your intended destination. The Underground stations in the center of London are quite close together. For instance, if you are in the heart of the cinema district, known as Leicester Square, it is only a 20-second Tube ride to Piccadilly Circus.
By using the London Underground map and plotting your journey, you should have no difficulty finding your destination. If you find yourself going in the wrong direction, simply get off at the next station and cross the platform to the other side. There are also maps inside each train to ensure that you can see where you are going and that you are on the right train. Each stop that you approach will be notified by a loudspeaker in the train.
If you are a vacationing visitor to London, you may do well to avoid the rush hour. The central London Underground is always extremely busy throughout the day. During rush hour, it becomes completely packed with people. The term sardines in a can is no exaggeration when it comes to rush hour on the London Underground. Rush hour in the morning is usually from 8 a.m. to around 9:30 a.m. In the evening, it usually lasts from around 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Also be aware that during the summer months, the London Underground becomes extremely hot. There is usually no air conditioning except for open windows at either end of the carriage. Unlike subway systems in many major cities, such as New York, the London Underground shuts down at night. The last tube train is usually around 11 p.m. or midnight, and the system does not reopen until around 6:30 a.m. This is when the London night buses come in handy, and they may be included as a part of your Underground pass.