Anyone who has talked to me knows it. It takes about five minutes, on average, for me to bring up public transportation in a conversation. From the ease of not having to deal with traffic to the unique experience of sitting with a bunch of strangers going somewhere, I could talk about public transportation for hours—and that was before even coming to London.
Once I got here, you can imagine how excited I was to discover the varied ways to get around the city without a car. From the Underground to the Overground, from boats to buses, it’s always an interesting ride in London. So, hop on as I take you around!
Our first stop is obviously the London Underground, or “the tube,” as it is best known. The red-and-blue circular logo is easily recognizable as an iconic part of the city, and with stations all over, I can get from Buckingham Palace to Camden Town in the blink of an eye. I’m fortunate enough to live right between two busy stations, so it’s really easy to get to where I need to go.
After the short walk to the station comes the descent into the center of the earth, or so it seems. The escalators are the longest I’ve ever seen. Just remember to stand on the right side to let busy Londoners pass, or you might get some looks!
Once I’m on the platform, I always double-check that I’m on the side that’s going in the right direction. A few times, I’ve taken the train going the opposite direction, which led to some scrambling. After getting on the right train, I get off at the station nearest my destination. One long escalator ride later, and I emerge in a completely different place! As an Austin native, I’m not used to subway trains, so the tube never ceases to amaze me.
Our next stop is another iconic London sight: the red, double-decker buses. As a five-year veteran of Cap Metro’s lines, I was quite used to taking the bus previously, but the buses in London are a wild ride, literally. Combine tall buses with narrow streets and sharp turns, and you get a typical central London route. If you don’t mind the swaying, the top deck allows for some of the best views from the street level. I always try finding a seat on the top to enjoy my surroundings.
Less frequented but always enjoyed are the boats on the Thames River. It’s the best way to get a view of the city, all for the same price as a tube ride. From Big Ben to the Tower of London, I’ve seen so many sights from the comfortable seats of the boats. It may not be the fastest way to get around, but it certainly has been the most scenic. If you close your eyes, you can picture yourself in a bygone time, traversing down the Thames. The boats zip around at a pleasant pace, so it’s also a fun ride.
Any public transportation can seem rather daunting at first, but one thing that I have learned from living in London is to just go for it. Sometimes I take the wrong bus, sometimes I get on the wrong train, but that’s all part of learning how to get around.
It’s really freeing to be able to go to any corner of the city without a car. Taking public transportation has allowed me to see and experience the day-to-day life of the city. I’ll definitely miss the tube when I go back to Austin.
Thanks for coming along on my tour of London’s public transport!
This post was contributed by Luisa Matzner, a Global Ambassador for Spring 2022. Luisa is a second-year design major studying abroad in London, England. Read Luisa’s first post here.