London is justly renowned for its public transport, with two of its primary means of getting around – the London Underground and London Buses – having become icons of the city in themselves, often featured in books and films based in the city. London is also a world leader in the development of public transport systems. The Underground is a masterpiece of Victorian engineering and was the first of its kind anywhere in the world; the first line began operation way back in 1863, over 150 years ago. Riding on the Tube is a tourist attraction in itself for many visitors, but its real value lies in its practicality, and it’s the quickest way to get around London. It has its drawbacks, though. Plans for the Tube to run 24 hours a day at the weekend have hit significant stumbling blocks with workers’ unions, so for the foreseeable future the Underground will continue to stop running at the same time every night – the last train is usually between midnight and 00:30am. Even if you don’t make the last train, the Marble Arch by Montcalm’s central location makes it easy to get back to: the perfect hotel for exploring central London.
After the last Tube, you’ll have to make do with buses and taxis – not that that is necessarily a bad thing. The night bus can be a colourful experience, but London’s bus routes are so extensive – 673 routes encompassing 19,000 stops – that this can be an even easier way of travelling than the Tube. Wherever you’re going in the city, if there’s not a Tube stop nearby, then you can bet there’ll be a bus stop. Riding by bus is also cheaper, and can be incredibly cost-efficient if you go longer distances, because the fare is the same regardless of how far you travel. Bus fares cost £1.50, regardless of whether you pay by Oyster card, Visitor Oyster card, or contactless payment card – a very reasonable price considering you could easily cross the entire city in one bus ride. London Buses are also iconic and, like the Tube, are deemed a symbol of London worth experiencing by tourists aside from their practical use as a means of transport. They’re a great way to see the city, too, with the height of the top deck (the vast majority are double decker) allowing you to gaze out on the famous sights which you’re bound to pass when you travel for any distance in central London. The iconic original Routemaster bus design – which allows for a ‘hop-on, hop-off’ system with its open rear platform – has recently been reprised and updated with the New Routemaster, which started running in 2012.
For those who want to make their trip to London a more active experience, cycling is a brilliant way to get to know the city, and, thanks to heavy traffic and the abundance of cycle routes, can be one of the quickest. Since their introduction in 2010, ‘Boris Bikes’ have proved incredibly popular with Londoners and tourists alike, and are a fun and convenient way to get around the city. The system’s easy to use: simply find one of the 742 docking stations with your bank card and follow the on-screen instructions. Bike access for 24 hours costs £2, after which journeys of 30 minutes or less are free. Longer journeys cost an extra £2 for each 30 minute period.