If you are a visitor to London, one of the very best ways to get around, if you are not in a hurry, is by bus. But apparently, London buses are a bit confusing, so here are a few bits of basic advice:
- not all red London buses are red. Many carry advertising and can be different colours
- all buses have a route code, usually an number (eg 91) sometimes with a letter (eg W7). Do not confuse the regular buses with coaches (eg to airports) or tour buses
- many bus routes operate 24 hours a day, every day except Christmas Day. Not all routes operate 24 hours. Night buses are labelled with an N (eg N91). It is possible that a night bus does not go on the exact same route as the regular service – often they can have different or extended routes. Some night buses run only at weekends.
- not all buses stop at all stops. Look at the bus sign – it should indicate exactly what buses stop where. Most shelters have maps listing destinations, suitable buses and a map showing where they can be caught.
- bus maps are available for free at tube information desks. Do not pay for a map
- bus stops are of two types
compulsory, meaning, the bus stops there regardless
request, meaning you have to indicate to the driver you want it to stop. You do this by flagging the driver with your arm (not last minute though) if you are at the stop, or by pressing the bell once if you are on the bus. Our experience is that compulsory stops are often not honoured, so we advise you to treat every stop as request. The indicator inside the bus will show if it is stopping.
- expect traffic delays
- cash is not accepted. Pay by Oyster (or etc) when you get on, not off
- there are no transfers
- expect buses to be packed at rush hour
- many bus shelters have an indicator showing next bus times. These are usually accurate, but not always. There are many very good free travel apps that work in London and will help. We use CityMapper but there are many others.
- do not attempt to enter or leave a bus except at a proper bus stop, and do not annoy drivers by banging on the door after the bus has left the stop