How to be London Transport Ninja: The London Kiwi Guide

One of the hardest things about London, especially when toting around groaning shopping bags, is getting around on public transport, an essential skill.


My priceless Christmas gift to you is some of my best, best advice;

  • Give yourself loads of time. Plan your trip if going somewhere unfamiliar, and add 15 minutes dwell time.

  • Check the front of the train for the direction where it’s going.

  • Don’t panic. If you end up on the wrong train (I occasionally still do after all the time I’ve lived here) get off at the next stop, change platforms and go back to where you started.

  • Use your common sense. Don’t block the doors, and get out of the way of people trying to get on or off.

  • Try having your Oyster ready before you get on the bus or at the gates on the tube.

The right hand side of the Circle/District Line platform, with Eastbound trains…


Some of the funniest moments I’ve seen in London have occured on the tube. Several years ago A man tried to sell me a kitten from his cardboard box full of kittens. Oh, how I wanted one, but I was working in an office where they had a rather elderly, rather blind collie and as I was worried she might think the kitten was a chew toy…


I’ve seen a tribe of smurfs, nuns, snakes (a boa constrictor), and don’t even mention the Waitangi Day Circle Line tube crawl.

We’ve also had the chattiest drivers: Christmas Carols over the tannoy, drivers telling where their ex-wives live and when stuck in a tunnel “I hope you don’t mind waiting, though it’s not like you have a choice though!” (If you are interested in more Tube shennanigans, go to Annie Mole’s Travelling Underground, it’s fabulous!).


This is the same platfrom but from the lefthand side.

Yes, I know the train has pulled in, but trust me, it was deserted once you move through the scrum at the entrance.  

1. Get an Oyster Card;
Forget fiddling with all the tiny paper tickets, pretty well 80% of London is travellable by Tube, trains or busses that are covered by Oyster. You’ll also generally find fares are cheaper with Oyster – especially when travelling often or for work. If you hand it back at the end of the journey, you’ll be refunded the £5 you used to buy it (correct at the time of writing).

2. Don’t be fooled by the tube map;

  • Stations can much be closer than you realise .
  • Know the stations that are closer to walk to rather than interchange – so for instance Bayswater to Queensway is approximately 3 blocks away OR 10 minutes on the tube plus waiting time.
  • Don’t be tempted to get of at Covent Garden station to visit Covent Garden! Nearly all the stations within two stops from it are only a ten minute walk away.

3. Get ‘Appy, innit guv;

There are some amazing apps (and let’s be honest, we’re all glued to our phones so why not use them for some good?). I’m a rebel, and have an Android Smartphone, but I’m 90% sure that they are also on the big sister iPhones who get everything first.

TFL Journey Planner (for the The Underground, Bus and Cable Car)

Becoming a London Transport Ninja

Bus Countdown

London Transport Ninja

National Rail

London Transport Ninja

5. Get tactical;
Generally the end of the tube trains are the quietest because many of the entrances to the platform at at the centre. (See the first two photos for an perfect example of this. The straircase at Nottinghill takes you to the centre of the platform. Walk a little further along, and you’ll have enough room to tango.
Watch the platform for the hard core commuters. They are the slightly wild eyed looking ones who don’t make eye contact, quickly make their way along the platforms and standing in seemingly weird spots. Follow them (but don’t be creepy).

6. Mind the Gap, and your pockets;

The trains can be a lot higher or lower than the platforms – just be careful. There can also be pickpockets on the tube – I’ve never been targetted luckily – the places I worry the most are in the lifts.


Whilst reading these you are nodding your head, and thinking “‘dur’ of course,” you are probably well on your way to becoming a Londoner. If you are, I want to know your score on my silly test….



7. Don’t forget that you can use the cable car to cross the Thames.


8. Appreciate the geeky tube decorations on the platforms.

9. Have patience.
Stuff will go wrong, people will get antsy and impatient, but remember – it’s Christmas dude. Smile.


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