If you feel a little overwhelmed upon arrival in London, you are not alone. This is a city with millions of people charging around at a million miles per hour (give or take), residents embellished by masses of visitors every single day. The airport network is the busiest in the world, and the myriad of train stations and underground stops can be confusing at the best of times. London’s transport deserves a guide all to itself, but we hope we’ve covered the important bits in this here nutshell.
London has six international airports, although referring to some of them as ‘London airports’ seems a little disingenuous. Luton (LTN) and Southend (SEN) are literal cities in their own right, after all. Heathrow (LHR) is the largest and busiest airport in the city by some margin, with almost twice as many annual passengers as second-placed Gatwick (LGW). Stansted (STN) comes in third, with London City (LCY) rounding out the capital airports. Getting to the airports isn’t too difficult, with express trains available for each of them. Always give yourself a little extra time to get through security, which can be a little heavy-handed at times.
Unlike the train and plane equivalents, London is quite simple when it comes to long-distance bus travel. Almost all mainland coaches leave from London Victoria Coach Station (not bus station, don’t get that mixed up), just a short walk from Victoria underground. There aren’t a huge amount of facilities in the station, but there is plenty in its vicinity.
Public transport in London used to intimidate the holy moly out of us, but we’ve since grown up and gotten over ourselves. Those iconic red double-decker buses traverse the city, but the chances are you’ll spend most of your moving time in the subterranean setting of the London Underground. Paper tickets can be purchased at all stations but the system is becoming increasingly paper-less, with Oyster cards now a staple of the city and contactless payments more and more common. An Oyster card costs £5 and doubles up as a great souvenir to take home. Download the official London Underground app for access to a map and station search engine.
You want to rent a car and drive in London? Are you mad? Have you lost your marbles? The streets of the English capital are busy and stressful, so only the most experienced of drivers should plan on getting behind the wheel in town. Getting out of the city is another thing altogether, and there are a number of car rental offices around the city with most of the big companies represented at London’s airports.
The black cab might be another iconic London staple, but the city is such a traffic nightmare that we suggest enjoying these from the outside. Even short rides can be depressingly expensive. The city’s public transport network is extensive enough to mean getting a taxi is easily avoided, unless you have money to burn of course. The taxi drivers themselves are largely fantastic fonts of London knowledge though.
There are around 370 train stations in and around London, so don’t expect us to go through them all in detail. Euston, Paddington, Charing Cross, Victoria, Waterloo, King’s Cross and St Pancras are the ones that will interest the travelling visitor, with the latter your stop for the Eurostar. Most train tickets will be for London (All Stations), so don’t worry too much about specifics.