How to Get Around London … like a local
From Heathrow or Gatwick to central London:
Here’s the best options to travel from Heathrow or Gatwick airports into central London. As both airports are outside of the city be sure you’re familiar with which airport your flight lands at and what to expect.
How to Get Around London by Train or Tube
Get an Oyster card (like a travel debit card) by walking into any station and looking for a bank of what look like ATM’s. This is where you buy tickets and Oyster cards using your debit or credit card. Buy the card in any amount and then continually “top it up” or add $$ as needed. Start with £20. Use the same machines to check your balance. Just swipe your card against the magnetic disc. The Oyster card is valid on the tube and on London buses.
- Or you can use a contactless credit card to tap and go at the turnstile.
Go through a turnstile, then swipe the card against the card reader disc to open the gate. Swipe again as you leave the station to close out your journey otherwise you’ll be charged for a full day.
Get a little printed map of the Tube when you first get to London (you should find them in the stations, just ask)
I also recommend carrying a small street map which shows the Tube stations as well as streets so you can plan your route.
Trainline. Get the app. This is the easiest way to buy any overground train (not Tube fares) to anywhere in the UK and some European routes. You search and buy your ticket on the app, purchase it with a CC (which can be stored) and then pick up your physical ticket at any station.
There will be bank of ticket machines clearly marked for ticket pickup. Have the same CC you used to purchase handy to swipe (it won’t be charged again it’s just an identifier) as well as the reservation number on your ticket.
- I prefer to download store my digital train tickets in Apple Wallet – no need to pick up a printed ticket, just swipe at turnstiles
- You can also buy National Express coach bus tickets with the Trainline app.
In the UK, tickets are released 12 weeks in advance, so don’t be surprised if you can’t book a ticket further ahead.
- Buy train tickets into London.
Before you book a hotel or Airbnb, check how close the nearest tube station will be. Yes, you can get around on buses or taxis, but the closer a mainline station is the better. You’ll be walking a lot and after a heavy day of sight seeing, you’ll be glad you don’t have to go through hoops to get “home”. I was very happy the hotel we chose was just a 10 minute walk from the Pimlico station on the Victoria line and only 10 minutes drive from the Victoria main station.
Find that perfect place to stay in London and all the best attractions.