Welcome to the city that has a “tube” and monstrous looking buses. The first thing I realized after taking my first trip by tube was how expensive the London public transportation can be—specifically in relation to New York, since that’s where I’m from. I will break this up into ways to save money on London public transportation and car services. I will go through by train, bus and car.
The price of London trains change depending on how far you’re traveling. In most cases, it will be around $3. London is split into zones so depending on how many zones you cross, that will increase the fare. There are 2 train stations close to Queen Mary. One is Stepney Green, and the other is Mile End. At Mile End you can catch the Central Line and the District or Hammersmith line. At Stepney Green you can catch the District or Hammersmith. Sunday through Thursday the tube closes at midnight. On Fridays and Saturdays, the Central line, and a few other lines remain open 24 hours. An app that can help you get around is Citymapper. Make sure to download it as soon as you touch down in London. The app can help you navigate other cities’ public transportation networks as well. For example, when I traveled to Barcelona, Madrid and Paris the app helped me get around. Lastly, there is an opportunity for students studying the full year abroad to obtain a discounted “18+” oyster card. An oyster card is the card you fill up and tap into the tube/bus with. You must be studying in London for a minimum of 14 weeks according to London transportation. However, make the most of the bus system, since many buses have flat fares that do not exceed $2.
London buses are a staple piece in the London landscape. They have a unique shape, being 2 floors. You’ll see these huge red buses all over. Buses are very convenient for two reasons: they are generally cheaper than the tube, and most are running 24 hours even during the weekdays. If you end up going out somewhere after midnight, you will have to rely on the Night Bus in order to get home. As you use Citymapper, make sure to check out the bus routes as well. This can save you some money. Riding the night bus in London is also pretty popular. It is rare for a night bus not to have a good amount of people, so they have been pretty safe environments.
Apps are great way to utilize car calling services. One app I learned about after getting into London is called ViaVan. If you find a friend to recommend the app to you, you’ll both get discounted rides. The reason is it a bit cheaper than Uber is because you usually have to walk a block away from your current location to meet the car. After having the app for a bit, you will receive random discounts. Checking my phone now, the app is offering 20% off my next three shared rides. These could be good alternatives to taking multiple night buses when the tube is shut off and you’re on the far side of London from your destination. Most car apps share the discount feature after recommending a friend. If you need a ride home, make sure to do some research and ask friends so you can get the best deal.
London is expensive as it is. An everyday expense is transportation. Any money you can save on this expense is valuable. If the commute isn’t that long, go ahead and use a bus. If you are in London for a year, apply for an 18+ oyster card through the official London Transportation website. Keep on the lookout for different car service apps to follow the cheapest rides. London is a huge place. Don’t let London public transportation be an obstacle to exploring!
Jahmir Duran is an African-American Studies major at Wesleyan University and studied abroad with IFSA at Queen Mary, University of London in England for the academic year 2018-2019. He is an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.