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Travel & Transport
Transport in London
Read more about the possibilities to travel in London and also travelling outside London.
An essential reference for travellers in London is the Transport for London website. The TFL Oyster card is London's travel smartcard. It can store your season ticket or Pre Pay (pay-as-you-go travel), or a combination of both. You simply touch it on the card readers at Tube and DLR stations, on buses and at tram stops.
Oyster cards are reusable. When your season ticket expires, simply buy another one on the same Oyster card. When your Pre Pay runs out, just top it up.
Since July 2014 you cannot use cash to pay for your bus fare anymore. For more information on how to pay for bus fare click here.
You can get an Oyster card at an underground station or at certain shops when you arrive. However, you can also order your Oyster card before you come and have it sent to you in your home country (note, this is not possible for all countries). This means you can walk straight off your plane or train and straight onto the transport network in London. Click here for more information on getting an Oyster card sent to your home country.
If you are studying with us full time for more than 14 weeks you will be eligible for a student Oyster card, which will give you further discounts (usually around 30%). You can only apply for a student Oyster card after you have arrived at the school.
Click here for more general information on Oyster cards.
The Underground/The Tube
The Underground is divided into six zones. Zone 1 being central London and increasing the further out you travel from the centre. Most of the homestay we arrange is in Zone 2. Last trains run at around midnight, except for some tube lines which operate a 24-hour service every Friday and Saturday. For more information please check the Transport for London's Tube pages.
Remember to put your arm out to stop the bus! The last buses and tubes leave central London at around midnight but there is also a network of night buses. All night buses have a letter 'N' before the number on the front of the bus. Daily travelcards can be used until 04.00 the following day on these night buses. On some routes you have to buy your ticket before boarding the bus, so check if there is a machine at the bus stop. When travelling on a London bus, you must ring the bell once to indicate that you want to get off at the next bus stop. More information on Transport for London's Bus pages.
Please note London buses will no longer accept cash as payment for fares from July 2014. Passengers will need to use their Oyster card, contactless debit card or a pre-paid paper ticket to pay for travel.
There are two sorts of taxis in London: black cabs and minicabs. Black cabs stop if their light is on and you wave at them. Black cabs have controlled prices which are shown on the meter inside. There is a maximum of 4 people and 10 kilometres distance but as long as your journey is below 10 kilometres the driver is obliged to take you wherever you want. More than one person and very large luggage are charged extra - also journeys at night. Black cab drivers are experts in London geography and are usually very reliable.
A good place to get a taxi is a railway station or a large hotel. Alternatively you can book a black cab in advance (24hrs notice is usually required) on the following numbers: Dial-a-Cab (020 7426 3420 or Dail-a-Cab Website), Radio Taxis (020 7272 0272 or Radio Taxis Website), London Black Cab Service (07957 696673 and between the hours 22.00 and 03.00: 7904 805508 or London Black Cab Website).
You may wish to tip the driver about 10-12 per cent of the fare although this is not essential.
Minicabs are private and are usually called by telephone. They are generally cheaper than black cabs, especially at night and weekends. However the drivers are not licenced in the same way as black cabs and may not know London so well.
To avoid any possible problems we recommend that you use a reliable local minicab company. Ones near the schools include Sunshine Cars (020 8740 1200), Kings Cars (020 8563 9100) or Abbey Cars (020 8748 7474). You can also ask your homestay family for advice about one in your area. If you are leaving a bar or club late at night we recommend that you either take a black cab or call a minicab from a taxi company that you know is safe and reliable.
We recommend that you ask the price when you book and confirm it with the driver.
The UK rail network covers all towns and cities and some smaller destinations. Different London stations serve different parts of the country - depending on where you want to go, you may leave from Paddington, Euston, St Pancras, King's Cross, Liverpool Street, Marylebone, London Bridge, Charing Cross, Victoria or Waterloo.
London is a great city but it is not typical of British life. There are many wonderful places to go to in different parts of the country, and no visit to Britain is complete without getting out of London a little.
You may want the convenience of an organised guided trip, and we have trips to a number of destinations every weekend. These include both day trips and longer weekend visits to further destinations such as Edinburgh. For more ideas on what to do in your free time, click here.
Alternatively, you may want to be more independent. You can take a coach or train, or, if you are 23 and have a full driving licence you could hire a car. We will happily suggest some interesting places for you to go. If you hire a car in the UK you will need to be aware of the following:
- We drive on the left hand side of the road.
- It is illegal to drink and drive. You must not drive with a blood alcohol level of more than 80 mg per 100 ml (this is usually one small glass of wine or a standard beer).
- Seat belts must be worn at all times, in the front and the back.
- Speeding regulations must be respected. In the UK we measure driving distances in miles rather than kilometres. Speed is therefore measured in miles per hour (mph).
- Pedestrians have right of way on a 'zebra crossing'. These are marked with black and white stripes in the road, often with orange flashing lights either side.
- Car hire companies will only accept driving license which uses Roman letters and numbers. If you hold a non-Roman script license you will need to apply for an international driving license.
Remember also that air travel within Europe is very cheap these days. London is exceptionally well located for some wonderful bargains. You can combine your course here with a weekend in many famous and beautiful cities.
Note that if you are from outside the EU you may need a visa to travel within other parts of Europe - please see us for advice about this.