The London Underground network and UK train system are busy during ‘rush hour’ with commuters moving around the city. People furiously zig zag through the stations with one aim in mind – getting to their destination as quickly as possible and with minimal frustration. Anyone in their way is an annoyance whether you’re a tourist or not.
You can expect the trains and stations to be overcrowded in the morning and after work in the evening. Note to self: Avoid Underground and train stations during rush hour. Take a walk and enjoy London. And by doing so, you’ll start your own day void of frustration and make life easier for London commuters at the same time.
Video of Victoria Station During Morning Rush Hour
The London Underground is an engineering marvel. It is one of the best and most comprehensive transport networks in the world with around 24 million journeys made each day. Can you imagine? So, it’s important that everything runs smoothly to avoid delays.
You can help by following these top London travel tips to learn what to expect when you arrive and how to use the Tube like a Londoner.
1. When On An Escalator, Stand to the Right
Londoners love their rules, even if they are not written. London Underground asks that you stand on the right when using the escalators and leave the left free for others to walk down. If you’re travelling in a big group, or with lots of shopping bags, stand and stay right and let others pass you – it will speed up the process and be a more pleasant journey for everyone.
2. Unless You Want To People Watch, Avoid Travelling During Rush Hour
If you can, avoid using the London Underground during morning and evening rush hours. The tube network is very busy during ‘rush hour’ with commuters moving around the city. You can expect the trains and stations to be overcrowded between 07:30 and 09:30 in the morning and between 17:00 and 19:00 in the evening. You’ll enjoy London more by taking a walk instead.
3. Have Your Oyster Card or Ticket Ready at the Ticket Barrier
There is nothing more frustrating for rush hour commuters to be behind a ticket fumbler. Sometimes there can be a bit of a bottleneck at ticket barriers, especially before 9.30am and around 6 pm during the rush hours. Make sure you have your ticket ready at the barrier so you can move in and out of the station smoothly. Better yet, buy an Oyster Card so you can tap in and tap out at the ticket barrier. You can also buy an Oyster Card online.
4. No Fuss Needed. If You Get On The Wrong Train or Miss Your Stop, Enjoy the Ride and Simply Go Back
If you’ve caught the wrong tube or missed your stop – don’t get nervous. Either return where you started or look at your map to re-route your journey. I’m an experienced Underground traveller and I often make the most of my goof. Most of the time I go up the escalator, out the door and walk the rest of my journey.
5. Please Move Down The Platform
As you enter the station platform you will often find more room if you walk down to the ends of the platform. So true. If a platform is busy, I always make it rule to walk to the end of the platform. The train carriages are usually the emptiest as well, perfect if you’re looking for a place to sit. Plus, it passes the time you need to wait before the next train arrives.
6. Please Don’t Rush A Train. Let Passengers Off the Train First
I’ll be on a train and when the doors open for me to leave, people rush on before letting passengers off. I experience this over and over again. It helps to let people off the tube before you board it; allowing more room for you to get on and passengers to alight the train. Everyone is in a rush. Please be patient. The train won’t leave without you.
7. Check Line Closures and Listen to the Announcements Inside a Station
If possible, check ahead and plan your journey to make sure there are no delays or closures on the lines you need to travel – especially at the weekends when maintenance work is common. It’s no fun to show up at an Underground station only to learn the line you want to take is closed. It happens. Also pay attention to potential Tube Strikes. It’s the weekend, Enjoy glorious London and take a walk. While you’re in a station, announcements are made on a constant basis. Sometimes the voices are garbled. Ask a member of staff if you’re unsure if the line you want to use is running as scheduled.
8. Carry a Bottle of Water and Pack a Snack
The London Underground is over 150 years old. I could say enough said, but keep in mind air-conditioning is not the norm underground. During summertime, the temperature can be unbearable in the stations and on the Tube. Be prepared and carry water with you wherever you go in London.
9. Mind Your Belongings, Your Step and the Gap
Watch your bag and your belongings. There are nefarious types in every large city and London is no exception. A good rule is to keep your purse, bag or backpack to the front of you when you’re in a crowded space. With that said, watch your step. London Underground stations are one step up/down after another. Whatever you do, don’t stop at the bottom of an escalator. There are people behind you. And, as you’ll hear over and over again – Mind The Gap. No matter how famous the announcement is, there really are gaps between the trains and the platforms.
10. If You’re Unsure, Ask a Member of Staff for Help
London Underground stations are always busy but there are staff available if you’re a bit confused. Even the well healed commuter gets discombobulated when there are thousands of others waiting to go through the ticket barriers. TFL staff can guide you to your next destination, the nearest exit, tell you whether to turn left or right once you reach the bottom of the escalators and they may even tell you a joke. Staff are located in several places before the ticket barrier as well as on the station platform. Every station provides free Tube maps and information leaflets.