The London Starter Kit: Getting Around the City

Posted 22.11.18 by Alex Watson

The prospect of travelling on the London Underground might seem off-putting for Londoner newbies but the truth is, with a bit of planning, travelling in London can be much more straightforward (and, dare we say, enjoyable?) than you might expect.

And, so you can learn from our mistakes and naivety, here are seven tips on getting around the city:

  1. The Oyster Card

This is your little blue ticket to travelling by bus, tube AND boat.

You can always tap your contactless debit card or use Apple pay (or buy one of those pink paper tickets that are so easy to lose), but my recommendation is to get an Oyster card from TFL as it’ll keep track of discounts you might accrue from multiple journeys and you can put your travel card on it – saving you a bit of cash in the long run. You can also register your Oyster card in case you lose it.

  1. Planning

Like most things, you can reduce your travel hassle with a little planning. My favourite app to use is Citymapper, which can help you plan the fastest routes via a variety of travel means wherever you are in the city.

Tube stations are, thankfully, equipped with Wifi, so you can check the app if delays mean you need to re-plan your journey on the fly. Citymapper also lets you save your favourite locations, shows you what route to take if you only want to travel by bus or tube (or which routes avoid the rain!) and which exit and tube carriage to head for to make your journey as swift as possible. For those medieval knights among us, it even shows you how long it would take to get there by Catapult (as demonstrated by London Mayor Sadiq Khan).

Accessible transport – travelling by public transport can be more of a struggle for those with long or short term conditions. TFL can provide you with a badge and card to help you let other travellers know that you need a seat. They also have helpful information on their website on accessible travel routes, travel mentors and door-to-door options.

  1. Tube tricks

There are some things an app can’t teach you. For example, what times to commute to avoid turning into a sardine with half a dozen elbows in your face. Just know that you’ll be able to pick these up as you go and soon you’ll instinctively know which Way Out sign to follow when there are two unhelpfully pointing in opposite directions.

One thing to keep an eye on is what the terminating station of the tube is and where it’s going through. We’ve all accidentally hoped on the wrong arm of the Northern line (the semicolon of the Underground) or aimed to go to Ealing Broadway and ended up in West Ruislip.

Not many of us are born with a Hobbit-like nostalgia for tunnels. For those who might feel a little anxious about travelling via Tube, TFL have this handy guide showing you routes to avoid areas with large stretches underground.

  1. Stretch your legs

The Tube map is a very poor representation of what’s happening above ground and it’s always worth checking whether it would be faster to walk.

There are some glorious sights if you choose to stroll or cycle rather than squeeze onto public transport. The walk between our Strand and Pimlico offices takes you along the river and past Tate Britain, Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

Picking up a bike at one of the many docking stations can be a fun and comfortable way to get around or zoom through London’s many parks. And for £90 for yearly access to them (just 25p per day), it’s a bit of a bargain.



  1. Stand on the right, walk on the left, Mind The Gap

There are a few unwritten rules about the Tube, which you might not get to grips with until you’re there, like:

  • The cardinal rule of escalators: stand on the right, walk on the left
  • Meandering in the middle of the platform can be pretty annoying. No one likes being underground and most people want to get to their destination as fast as possible.
  • Don’t worry if you miss the tube or can’t squeeze on. They come every 3-4 minutes so there’s no need to panic and there’s definitely no need to force yourself on to an already packed tube.

  1. Ways we can help

If you come to work at Penguin Random House, there might be some ways we can help make your journeys a bit smoother. (Other than finding you find the perfect Tube read or audiobook for your travels).

Through our flexible benefits you can hire a bike through the Cycle to Work scheme or get personal travel insurance if you’re travelling further afield. You can also get a season ticket loan to help you save money. We also have a flexible working offer that might be helpful if there are certain hours that you work best at, are easier to travel during or if you have caring responsibilities.

We also host an annual charity walk through 7 miles of London – it’s a great way to see more of the city and find new pubs to have a tipple in.

If you have any other tips – tweet us at @PRHCareersUK and we’ll share your know-how.