Travel and Tourism
Getting Around London
The best way to find out all of the information you’ll need to travel around London is via
Transport For London’s own website. In particular, you might want to explore:
- the journey planner
- maps, timetables, and generally getting around – including specific information about travel from London’s airports and mainline railway stations
- tickets and fares – including ways to pay and how to buy an Oyster card in advance
- information about taxis
- information for cyclists – including London’s cycle hire scheme
There’s also some introductory and summary information on this page.
Travelling in London
Whatever you do before, after or during Loncon 3, you are likely to make at least a little use of local public transport. Most Londoners will tell you that this is the best way to do it.
London is one of the world’s largest and busiest capital cities and it is still growing. It is also an old city, and the layout of its roads and streets reflects its age. It was not designed for anything even approaching modern transport. After the Great Fire of London destroyed a large area of the centre in 1666, it was recognised that this presented a golden opportunity to modernise the street pattern; however, improvement plans were mostly unrealised – due to local politics and financial considerations – and the city was rebuilt on the former medieval pattern which we still enjoy today.
The rail network – national rail, the Underground (Tube), Overground, and the Docklands Light Railway( DLR) – is well integrated and reach most places. In addition, a plethora of buses criss-cross the city and can get you to almost anywhere. You can also travel on the river. Combining rail and buses means that almost all of London can be reached with relative ease.
Travel to and from ExCeL
ExCeL is served by two stations on the DLR system, an above-ground light rail system which is fully integrated into London’s transport network, with many connections to the London Underground and other rail services. It is also fully wheelchair accessible. The two stations are Prince Regent (at the east end of ExCeL and closest to Loncon 3) and Custom House.
The DLR stations at ExCeL have direct services to Stratford International in east London, and Tower Gateway at the Tower of London, with trains running until nearly 1 am (although earlier on Sunday night).
From ExCeL to the City of London (Bank or Tower Gateway stations) is around a 20 minute journey on the DLR. To the West End (Westminster or Green Park stations) is around 35 minutes, including one change to the Underground.
There is also a cable car across the Thames from ExCeL to the O2 Arena (formerly known as the Millennium Dome): a ride worth doing just for the sake of it, but also providing access to the restaurants and other facilities in and near the O2. And from there, Thomas Clippers run river boats/buses to the city centre (the Embankment etc.). Again, this is worth doing just for the sake of enjoying the river – it’s not a fast journey but it can be a very pleasant way to travel.
Some travel tickets (such as One-day Travel Cards and Oyster Cards) cover the various modes of public transport in one go without having to buy individual tickets for trains, Tube, bus and so on. London is divided into a number of concentric zones, with Zone 1 in the middle. Tickets can be bought for travel anywhere within certain zones, for days, weeks and longer periods.
If you plan to travel around London by public transport during your trip, the easiest and most cost-effective way to do so is with an Oyster card, a pay-as-you-go system that offers the cheapest way to pay for single journeys on most London transport options, as well as capping your spending on a daily basis.
Oyster cards are available at many Tube stations, including Heathrow Airport’s Tube stations, and newsagents displaying a Ticket Stop sign – where they can also be returned for a refund of the deposit and unused pay-as-you-go money after your last London Transport journey.
Important change: from 6 July, London buses no longer accept cash fares. Please see the Transport for London website for information on tickets and fares.
The London Underground/The Tube
The Tube is such a part of the background life of being a Londoner that it’s tricky to remember all the written and unwritten rules for its use. Here are a few things to remember, though.
- On the escalators, you will see signs telling you to stand on the right. They really mean it one of the few ways to get Londoners to speak to a stranger on the Tube is to stand on the left and block the escalator, although it’s more likely that people will just form a silently fuming queue behind you.
- A warning to “mind the gap” means that you might have to step over a chasm only marginally narrower than the Valles Mariner is in order to get on or off the train. If you think that you might have trouble, aim for the doors at the ends of carriages, where the gap will be smaller .
The London Underground Map is, rightly, a design classic. A schematic representation of the London transportation network, it’s a work of art even if it’s not always entirely accurate in the geographical sense. All the lines are named and represented by a different colour on the map. Interchanges are all clearly marked and will be well-signposted at stations. On the other hand, not all trains go to the end of the line, and some lines bifurcate, so you need to check where the trains are terminating, and listen for the announcements once you’re on board.
In most cases, the Tube uses a single tunnel system. That means that the line going in one direction will not necessarily be close to the line going in the other, so you might sometimes have a bit of a walk between them. If you use the Transport for London Journey Planner, you can get information on interchange times, including walking distances and the presence of stairs.
Although it is improving, the Tube network isn’t great for people with mobility problems. Most stations have at least some steps to negotiate unless they are marked with a small wheelchair symbol on the Tube map. Again, check the Journey Planner for information about the likely obstacles that you will face.
Docklands Light Railway
The DLR is a driver less light rail system, which means that you can have great fun pretending to dive the train as long as you’re quick enough to beat the small children to the front seat. It’s also fully wheelchair accessible, which is an improvement over the Tube. The most important thing to remember when travelling by DLR is that ExCeL has two DLR stations, Custom House and Prince Regent. Prince Regent is closest to the space that Loncon 3 will be using.
Also, although there are a number of DLR lines, if you need to change trains to get to ExCeL, you will probably need to do so at Canning Town and get on a train towards Beckton.
London has a significant bus network, with hundreds of routes around the city. It can be a little daunting, so we recommend that you check your route before you start a journey. Most central London bus stops have information about the bus routes that serve them, and many of them also have maps that show all of the routes in the local area. If you’re getting a bus from a busy area, all of the bus stops will be labelled with a different letter so that you can find the correct one more easily. You can no longer pay cash and buy a ticket from the driver of a bus. You need to either use an Oyster card or a contactless payment debit or credit card. In some parts of central London, you can use cash to buy a ticket from a roadside machine.
London has lots of taxi options, from the famous black cabs through to mini-cabs and Internet car services.
The Hackney Carriage or “black cab” is one of the icons of London, and a ride in one is probably essential for first-time visitors to the city. Just to be confusing, not all black cabs are black, or shaped like the traditional black cabs. You can identify them by the orange TAXI sign on the roof; if it’s illuminated, the cab is available for hire.
Black cab drivers go through extensive training, memorising major landmarks and hotels as well as different routes across London, before they can receive their licence. Therefore, unfortunately only a limited number of black cabs are on the roads, and so they come at a price. They are, however, the only kerbside service available, and they will get you where you want to go. At busy times, you might struggle to find a black cab for hire on the street. Smartphone apps such as Hailo can put you in touch with nearby drivers, who can then come to collect you: especially handy when it’s wet!
It gets boring driving around London all day, so black cab drivers often like to chat. They also tend to have opinions. Political opinions. You have been warned.
Private car services are available all over London, but they can’t pick you up on the street. Instead, either telephone a local service (most bars and restaurants will be able to give you a number) or find one of their offices, which will usually have an orange light outside to make it easier to spot. Mini-cabs are substantially cheaper than black cabs, and you can usually agree on your fare before the start of the journey. On the downside, you have no guarantee that the driver will be able to find your destination! Although there has been a crackdown on unlicensed mini-cabs, they do still exist. Make sure not to get in any cab stopping on the street to offer you a ride unless it is a black cab.
Services like Uber are available in London, but you’ll need to download their smartphone apps to use them. At night in the very central parts of London you’re also likely to see bicycle rickshaws for hire. They’re great fun but very expensive!