Since traffic congestion in London is appalling, public transit offers an affordable alternative to discover The Big Smoke.
London is a vibrant city that never sleeps. In Central London, you’ll find heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic at just about any time of day. With a local population of just shy of 9 million, this is a bustling city. Adding to the chaos are visitors. According to Conde Nast Traveller, London is the most visited city in the world with almost 19 million travellers annually (some list it as the #2 most visited city behind Hong Kong).
In an effort to reduce traffic and pollution, London introduced the Congestion Charge. Essentially, it’s a fee for motorists wanting to drive anywhere within London’s Inner Ring Road (which basically circles Central London and the West End Theatre District) between 7am and 6pm weekdays. The standard fee is £11.50 per day. The city is covered with CCTV cameras so if you choose not to pay, you will be caught. Fines can be as high as £195. Should you choose to rent a car regardless, click on the Travel Loafers Auto Europe link. The Congestion Charge can be paid online.
Seeing as it’s almost impossible to travel efficiently in a vehicle in London – especially if you aren’t familiar with the city – your best bet is the famous London Tube. Travelling the Underground, Overground and the double decker buses is certainly part of your London experience as much as fish and chips and Buckingham Palace. And it’s inexpensive. All you need is an Oyster Card.
The tube and trains will take you everywhere. At first glance, navigating the system seems daunting. But as long as you know your general direction (north, south, east or west) tube directions are easy to follow and it will get you to where you want to go whether it’s Piccadilly Circus or the Tower Bridge.
Occasionally there are technical problems and service is suspended. But overall, there are trains or buses every few minutes. The city has the system down to a science and it is efficient. I don’t think we’ve waited any more than 5 minutes for the next train or bus, even late at night. Occasionally you might even be entertained by buskers in the tube cars.
With an Oyster Card, London is yours for the taking. Top up your card and go. Tap in as you board, and tap out at your destination. Every station has machines where you can top up your card, so you’ll never be stranded.
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Dianne & Mike