The ultimate guide to London’s public transport


Updated on Jul 04 • 7 minute read

Living in UK’s capital, you definitely won’t need a car. London’s public transport system is the 11th best in the world because it seamlessly covers the whole Greater London area.

Spanning across 9 fare zones, London’s public transport system, maintained by Transport for London (TfL), consists of the metro, trains, DLR, trams, busses, cable cars and boats. But with numerous routes available, how can you navigate the system with ease?

To help you successfully reach your destination, we’ve come up with the ultimate guide covering everything from the means to the price of public transport.

©Map courtesy of Sameboat, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Metro in London

The London metro, better known as the Tube or Underground, is the 2nd most extensive means of transport in the city. The Tube’s 11 lines and over 270 stations are mostly concentrated between Zone 1 and 6 as these are the most densely populated areas.

This impressive infrastructure system helps over 5 million passengers reach their destinations daily. So, no matter in which neighbourhood in London you live, you’ll probably have a nearby Tube station.

Metro operating hours:

  • Monday to Saturday: 5 am – 12 am
  • Sunday: 6 am to 11:30 pm – 12 am

If you need to get home at a later hour, you can use the Night Tube. It runs through Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria lines between 12 am and 4:30 am on Friday and Saturday.

The price of a single ticket between Zone 1 and Zone 6 is £6.70. But if you pay-as-you-go, fares will be cheaper and depend on the destination. For example, if you want to travel with the Tube from King’s Cross (Zone 1) to Camden Town (Zone 2), a single trip costs £2.80. But from King’s Cross (Zone 1) to Wembley Park (Zone 4), your trip will cost £4.40.

You can use the fare finder to find out how much it will cost you to travel between 2 stations.

Trains in London

Considering that the UK has the 17th largest railway network in the world, it’s no surprise that its capital would have excellent connections. The National Rail is perfect for suburban or cross-country trips, whereas the Overground and the Elizabeth Line are the most convenient options when __traveling within London.

National Rail network

If you need to travel outside the capital, your best choice is to use the National Rail trains. The company operates trains locally and nationally, which can take you to any part of the UK. Ticket prices vary depending on where you want to go and the time.

For example, travelling with the 8 am train from London Euston to Birmingham New Street costs £58. If you choose to do the same trip 2 hours later, your ticket will be £29. National Rail has a guide to tickets where you can find more information about their pricing.

Students up to the age of 30 are eligible for a 34% discount on off–peak travel by getting a Railcard. You can use the discount for the Tube, Overground, Elizabeth Line and most National Rail trains in London.

London Overground

The London Overground connects Central London to Greater London’s suburban areas. Today, the Overground serves 112 stations across 6 routes:

  • Gospel Oak to Barking Riverside
  • Highbury & Islington to West Croydon/Clapham Junction/Crystal Palace/New Cross
  • Liverpool Street to Enfield Town/Cheshunt/Chingford
  • Richmon/Clapham Junction to Stratford
  • Romford to Upminster
  • Watford Junction to Euston

Overground operating hours:

  • Monday to Saturday: 5 am – 12 am
  • Sunday: 6 am to 11:30 pm – 12 am

Remember that these are the standard working hours for most trains, but less popular lines might start later.

Similarly to the Tube, the Overground also has a Night Overground on Fridays and Saturdays. But it serves only the Highbury & Islington to New Cross Gate line.

Elizabeth Line

The newest addition to London’s railway, the Elizabeth Line, is a high-frequency line which connects London and its suburbs. The trains on this line are faster, significantly reducing travel time to reach Central London.

The railway connects Reading and Heathrow to Abbey Wood and Shenfield through Paddington, Farringdon, and Liverpool Street. Its trains use the Underground and Overground rails to get their passengers to their desired locations.

Elizabeth Line operating hours:

  • Monday to Saturday: 5 am – 12 am
  • Sunday: 6 am to 11:30 pm – 12 am

Docklands Light Railways (DLR)

The DLR is a driverless metro system that connects London's 2 major financial districts: Canary Wharf and the City of London. The DLR has 45 stations and 6 branches connecting Bank and Tower Gateway to Stratford, Beckon, Greenwich, Lewisham, London City Airport and Woolwich Arsenal.

DLR operating hours:

  • Monday to Saturday: 5:50 am – 12:30 am
  • Sunday: 7 am – 11:30 pm

Trams in London

London’s tram system (Tramlink) began operation in 2000 and currently has 39 stops across its network. Tramlink is mostly concentrated in Southern London, connecting Wimbledon, Croydon and Beckenham.

The network is structured in 3 main routes:

  • New Addington to West Croydon
  • Wimbledon to Beckenham Junction
  • Wimbledon to Elmers End

Tram operating hours:

  • Monday to Friday: 5:30 am – 12 am
  • Saturday: 6:30 am – 12 am
  • Sunday: 7 am – 12 am.

Throughout the week, trams mostly run every 10 mins (except in early mornings and late evenings when they have reduced hours).

Bus in London

Covering over 19,000 bus stops, the double-decker buses are the most iconic and extensive mode of public transport in London.

Bus operating hours:

  • Monday to Sunday: 5 am – 12 am

Most of the lines also run after midnight. To see the departure times for the bus, you can either check the online map of night buses or look for the "N" prefix before the bus number, indicating that the line operates after 12 am.

Cost of public transport in London

Public transport will make up for a significant part of your monthly cost of living in London. It’s quite expensive, but you’ll be able to reach any point of the city you want.

Generally, buying single tickets is the most expensive way to pay for public transport. This is why we’ve compiled a list of all subscriptions and cards expats should use to make their travels cheaper.

If you still need to buy a single ticket, you can buy it from an underground metro station via cash or card.

Contactless payment

An easy way to save time is to use contactless payment to pay for public transport. Simply check in and out of public transport using the same card or mobile device.

Most holders of AMEX, MasterCard, Maestro, Visa and V Pay can take advantage of this perk. But some foreign cards from. America, Canada and The Netherlands aren’t accepted). If you’re using a device, you can use Apple Pay, Barclaycard Contactless Mobile, bPay, Fitbit Pay, Garmin Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

Note that you cannot use subscriptions with this method. So contactless payment is best for those who are not planning on adding any additional products.

Oyster card

The Oyster card is a public transport card that can be used on all means of public transport in London. It allows for cheaper and more convenient travel than buying tickets every time you use public transport.

With this card, you pay as you go and you can add your cap, Travelcard, and Bus & Tram Pass to your Oyster card.

Oyster cards have an initial cost of £7, and you can top it up with £10, £20 or £40. It also has the option of auto top-up, so your Oyster card never runs out of money.

Apprentices and students enrolled in schools partnering with TfL are eligible for an 18+ Student Oyster photocard, allowing them to get a 30% discount on Travelcards and Bus & Tram season tickets.

Pay-as-you-go cap

Are you worried you’ll end up spending too much? Well, the solution is a pay-as-you-go cap. Using a cap limits how much you pay for your (off-peak) journeys when you travel within 2 or more zones of your choice.

Let’s say your office is at King’s Cross (Zone 1), but you live in Camden Town (Zone 2). In this case, you can purchase a daily cap of £8.10 or a weekly cap (Monday–Sunday) of £40.70.

The pay-as-you-go cap is perfect for those who know they’ll travel multiple times during the day or week. You can add your pay-as-you-go cap on your Oyster or contactless card.


With the Travelcard you can travel without limit by bus, the Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, Elizabeth Line and National Rail in London.

Transport for London (TfL) offers 4 types of Travelcards (daily, weekly, monthly and annually) with varying prices based on the distance from Zone 1. For expats, the best option would be either a Monthly Travelcard (costs between £156 and £407) or an Annual Travelcard (costs between £1628 and £4244).

You can purchase your Travelcards online and load them onto your Oyster card.

While the cost of Travelcards may seem high, they offer significant savings by eliminating the need to pay for individual journeys and providing unlimited travel on most modes of public transport.

Bus and Tram fares and passes

Travelling with buses and trams give you the option of a Hopper fare. With it, you get 1 hour of unlimited journeys for £1.75 on buses and trams, with a daily cap of £5.25. If you need to switch to another type of public transport (e.g. the Tube), you’ll pay a normal fare for it.

You can purchase a 7-day bus pass for £24.70 or a monthly bus pass for £94.90. Or if you plan to travel frequently, get a Bus & Tram Discount photocard which gives you a 50% discount on your journey and daily cap. So your trip will be £0.85.

London public transport apps

There’re 3 apps every person living in London needs to have in order to navigate the labyrinth of public transport.

  1. TfL Go app: the official app allows you to plan your journeys and get live updates on buses, metro, trams and trains.
  2. Citymapper: provides live information on journeys and multiple trip options. Citymapper is easier to navigate than TfL Go, and offers offline maps, ticket prices, and taxi fares.
  3. TfL Oyster: the app you need if you have an Oyster card. With this app, you can top up your card, check your trip history and buy Travelcards or Bus & Tram Passes.

There you have it, the ultimate guide to London’s public transport. Now that you’ve been briefed on the ins and outs of travelling in London, you can travel without worry!

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