When most people think of London, they typically think of the Underground, London’s extensive subway. With trains arriving every 3 minutes, the tube, as locals call it, is efficient and one of the quickest ways to travel. Not only is it fast, it’s also one of the cleanest public transport options I’ve ever used. I’m not picky when it comes to public transportation, but cleanliness is a huge plus.
When I travel to London, I buy a return ticket from Reading Station for the train along with a single day Travelcard. It only costs £16 total (roughly $21) for the train and unlimited travel on all of London’s public transport options. This means I can take the tube, the iconic red double-decker buses, the trams, the Overground, and even trains in between stations. The train ticket is £13 and the Travelcard is only an additional £3, which is a huge bargain! Just a single trip on the tube costs £3.10. You can purchase a Travelcard at any train station in London, or in train stations in nearby cities.
The tube is also very, very user-friendly and there are stations every few blocks. I recommend knowing which stop you need, but after that it’s very easy to find the correct train. Once you enter the station, there are many color-coded signs pointing to each different line that goes through. Once you locate the correct line, the trains will go in two directions, either north and south or east and west. Don’t fret though, there will be two maps placed in conspicuous locations, usually near the entrance to the corresponding platform. In addition to giving the direction of travel, they will also say which stop they are heading towards. These maps will also tell you which stop you can use to change lines. It is a bit confusing at first, but I got the hang of it after just riding a couple of times.
When getting on the tube, people don’t usually queue to get on the train. However, it is rude to crowd the door. Instead, you should stand back and allow passengers to step onto the platform before you enter the doors. There are also designated handicap areas. If you take a seat in this area, you should give the seat to anyone who is pregnant, handicap, or elderly. During peak times, around 5:00pm to about 6:30pm, some lines can get very crowded. You can choose to squeeze onto a full train, but you won’t have much personal space!
While I only use the tube when I go into London, I take the bus in Reading quite often. There are several bus stops in town and nearby campus. If you’re a student, you get a discounted fare with your student ID. I usually buy the Student Day Pass for £2.50, which gives you unlimited travel on all Reading Buses. The day pass is more cost effective than a single trip for £1.50. You can pay with cash on the bus or buy a mobile ticket if you download the Reading Buses app. If you have cash, the driver can’t give out change, so you’ll need the exact fare. I prefer the mobile ticket because once you’ve downloaded it to your phone, you don’t need WiFi to use it and it saves my card information so I don’t have to put it in every time I want a ticket. Most of the buses are double-decker as well, but the ones in Reading are color-coded in addition to the numbering system. I typically take either the 21 Claret bus or the 10 Leopard into town.
I really hope these tips are helpful if you ever find yourself in Reading or London! I can’t overstate how easy to use the public transportation is in the UK. Cheers!