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March 24, 2010

London : A guide to using the underground trains

You’ll often hear Londoners complain about their “Underground,” and there’s a good reason for this: they’re spoiled! The London Underground is an excellent public transportation system, and tourists can easily use it to get to wherever they need to go more quickly and cheaply than taking a taxi, and much more quickly than taking a bus. Plus, thanks to the extensive use of CCTV (closed circuit television monitoring that allows police to monitor public areas), the Underground is relatively safe compared to similarly sized systems, like New York City. Here are my tips for getting around on the London Underground.

1. Get a city street map with the Underground stops clearly marked, as well as a specific map of the Underground lines and routes. Many city guidebooks have such information, and Lonely Planet’s London City Guidebook has a convenient tear-out map you can carry around in your pocket, including a street map, an Underground map, and a map of major bus routes. Using a map will help you find the nearest station, as well as a nearby alternate if the station you want is closed for repairs.

2. Get an Oyster card. Oyster is a swipe card system that Underground and bus users can preload with money and use to quickly swipe themselves through turnstiles. At its heart, Oyster is a traffic-management tool geared towards getting people onto buses and Underground trains as quickly as possible, so Oyster card holders pay much less than someone who purchases a single ticket. Plus, the Oyster card tracks your usage over a 24 hour period, and if you travel enough that a day pass would have been cheaper, your charges are capped at the price of the day pass. If you’re going to be in London more than a day or two, you can also preload a 7-day TravelCard directly onto the Oyster card. Oyster Cards can be purchased at most of the larger stations, with a deposit of 3 pounds. For more information, and to find out where you can get your Oyster Card, go to oyster.tfl.gov.uk.

3. Be aware of any station or line closures. If you have access to the Internet, you can check out www.tfl.gov.uk/modalpages/2625 .aspx for updated closures and service problems. Otherwise, just look for signs as you enter your Underground station and listen to any announcements that are made. The system is very efficient, and you’ll hear about unexpected delays like a defective train on the line as well as scheduled closures. If there is some kind of disruption to your route, you can adjust your

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