London: An Outsiders Guide To The Tube


The tube. Londoners and London regulars love it, even Rihanna loves it, but the mere mention of the tube to someone from outside the city can send them into a state of sheer panic. I mean look at it! It’s a tangled web of hundreds of stations and lines – “how do I know if I need to get the Victoria Line to Cockfosters or the Bakerloo line Southbound to Elephant & Castle??” (by the way, I’ve got no idea if those lines and places are correct… I just plucked them out of thin air).


Once you get your head around it, the tube is boss and beats waiting 15 minutes for a train home from Liverpool Central. Yes Londoners, people from the rest of the country maybe only have 4 stations in the city centre and have to wait 15 minutes (hell sometimes 30 minutes) for a train. Doesn’t bear thinking about it does it?

I travel to London a few times a year and I’m a dab hand at the tube now. Here’s some wisdom I can pass on to you…

An Outsiders guide to the tube

  • Plan your journey before you go. If looking at the web of lines and stations makes you feel a bit itchy then just download an app. You can type in where you’re starting from and where you’re going and it’ll give you the quickest route. Then all you have to remember is what stations you’re changing at and whether you’re heading North, South, East or West and you’re sound.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. Some journeys mightn’t seem that long but end up taking 40 minutes or so because London is fucking massive. The last thing you want to do is end up at your meeting/tourist attraction/date/new job all sweaty and stressed.
  • Get an Oyster. Even if you’re only in London for a few day it is SO SO much cheaper to get an Oyster card and you can use it again next time you go too. Plus it’s quicker than queueing up at every station to buy a ticket – just put a tenner on it every so often and that’ll last you a couple of days.
  • Stay calm. The tube can sense your fear. Sometimes stations get really busy, especially the main ones like Euston and it can make you feel a bit anxious when there’s hundreds of people trying to get through the barriers and you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing. That’s why you should plan your journey and get an Oyster card – you’ll know where you’re going and you can just tap your card on the barrier and off you go.
  • Sly tip – the queues to top up your Oyster at Euston station are normally massive but there’s a little newsagents round the corner where you can do it with no queue.
  • Stay to the right! I know in Liverpool people just stand where they want on escalators and fuck anyone trying to get past but this is not the same in London. People are legging it up and down them all the time so if you plan on standing still on the escalators deffo keep to the right or you’ll get battered by someones briefcase.
  • If you’re going down the steps and you hear your train pull in, don’t panic and don’t rush. The film Sliding Doors may have given you unrealistic expectations of how missing a train can change your life – the tube trains run every 2 or 3 minutes so even if Gwyneth Paltrow had got the next train she still deffo would have caught her fella cheating anyway.
  • The tube is roasting. Even in winter. Don’t layer up too much – you’ll be stripping off as soon as you get down there.
  • If you’re travelling at peak time through Zone 1 then it’s pretty likely you’re gonna be squashed up against a stranger at some point. Deal with it.
  • If you’re booking a hotel in London try and make sure it’s in Zone 1 of the tube – or at least Zone 2. I booked a hotel in Zone 4 once and it was a ballache getting into the centre everyday. It’s the difference between a 5 minute journey to where you want to go or a 45 minute journey. Look for ‘City of Westminster’ when booking a hotel rather than ‘London’
  • There are some funny tube names so if you’re still bewildered by the tube you can switch your dirty mind on and have a giggle at the likes of Cockfosters…