A few London myths

If you see advice about coming to London, you will find a lot of misinformation. Here are a few myths about travel exploded:

  • it is always better to get an Oyster card – no, it may well be, but you don’t have to. You will have to pay a deposit. You should be able to get that back, but who bothers. It depends where you are going, and how long you are staying for. A short eg two day holiday with lots of short journeys may be best done using a one day travel card, or a contactless credit card (prices are capped).
  • never ever drive in central London – well, you do have congestion charges, one way streets, terrible parking and traffic jams but there could be circumstances where you have to drive. Personally, we would avoid it. If you are in London, perhaps for business, and need to travel out of the capital, then we can see that a car may be just the thing. But central parking is expensive.
  • don’t use minicabs – there are some very nasty incidents and some minicabs smell like public toilets, but there are some very reputable companies that are very reliable, eg Addison Lee. The advantage is that there is a fixed charge, quoted upfront for a journey.
  • the underground is underground – most of it isn’t. Outside the centre it is usually above ground, and a great way to see the suburbs. Nor is the underground the best way to travel. Do your research – some stations are so close together (eg Leicester Square and Covent Garden) that it is quicker to walk. The map is not a map, but a diagram.
  • taxis are black, buses are red – not always, if they carry advertising, for example.
  • buses stop at every stop – no, look carefully at the bus stop. The routes it serves should be written right up there. If your bus is not mentioned, look elsewhere (there is often a map to help and there are plenty of apps available to help you travel).
  • buses always stop – there are compulsory stops and request stops on routes. Buses should always stop at compulsory stops on their journey, but they don’t. If you are at a stop, wave your had to attract the driver’s attention. On the bus, ring the bell once and make sure the information sign says BUS STOPPING. Then you may be lucky.
  • you don’t have to carry dogs up escalators. If you do have dog, carry it to prevent its paws being caught in the mechanism, but if you don’t have a do with you, ignore it. assume it applies to all pets.

Just a couple of serious points. As I write this, the future of Uber in London is uncertain. You will find, especially in the outer London, minicab services run from huts or small offices. Some are good, others not so. We have had enough experiences in urine smelling cars to last us a lifetime, but if someone gives you a recommendation, minicabs can be good value, especially for longer journeys.

Also, despite what you may have heard, there is at least one bus route that runs the old Routemaster bus. These have the entrance/exit on the back and there is no door. Do not even think about getting on such a bus while it is moving, even slowly, or at traffic lights or whatever. It really is dangerous!

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