A lot of our residents are making their way to London for the first time. Whether you’re arriving by car, plane or train it’s going to be tricky navigating to your residence with a suitcase or two. To make thing’s a lot smoother, make sure you download a navigation app like Citymapper or Google Maps before you arrive. Here are King’s College London’s tips for getting around:
Arriving in the UK – Getting from the airport
Confusingly, London has several major airports. Each has several routes for getting into central London, some of which are quicker and more expensive than others.
From Heathrow: you can get the Piccadilly Line all the way into central London. This is by far the cheapest option, but can be difficult if you have lots of luggage. Alternatively, the Heathrow Express is really quick (just fifteen minutes!) but more expensive. It goes directly to Paddington Station. A taxi can cost around £85, but if you are travelling with other people and can share the cost this can be a good options if you have lots of luggage. National Express coaches go to London Victoria and are a cheap option.
From Gatwick: there are plenty of trains and buses that go to central London. You can get the Gatwick Express direct to Victoria. However, it is far cheaper – and almost as quick – to take a normal train (Southern or First Capital Connect) to Victoria, London Bridge or St Pancras, which run regularly. Tip: there is usually an option to buy a ticket that allows you to travel on all routes except the Gatwick Express. National Express coaches leave fairly regularly and are one of the cheapest options.
From Stansted: London Stansted Airport is quite a long way from London itself. You can take the Stansted Express to London Liverpool Street, which takes around 45 minutes. Alternatively, several coach services go to central London, but travelling times are much longer. Don’t get a taxi from Stansted as it will be really expensive!
From London City Airport: London City Airport is actually within London so is on the TFL network (see below). You can get the Docklands Light Railway into central London and connect with various underground services to reach your final destination.
Getting around London
Getting around London can be confusing. The Transport for London (TfL) network is huge and is comprised of the London Underground (colloquially known as the “Tube”), buses, trains, river transport, trams and even a cable car! Most Londoners get what is known as an Oyster Card as this is cheaper than buying single tickets for every journey. You can use this by topping it up with money and paying for journeys individually or if you’re travelling around London regularly (i.e. you’re using public transport most days) then you can buy a weekly, monthly or annual travel card and upload it to your Oyster card. Many students are entitled to a special 18+ Student Oyster card that allows them to get a discount on these weekly, monthly or annual cards (see below). Oyster Cards work on most forms of London transport, though fares are higher for riverboat services and the Emirates cable car. They should also work on local train services within the London area.
We found this light-hearted, useful guide to using the London Underground, which you might find helpful.
Many people cycle in London and you can now hire what the locals call “Boris Bikes” (because the scheme was started by London Mayor Boris Johnson) for a small fee. You need to be careful if you cycle in London that you take safety precautions, and ensure that your bicycle is secure. You can find more information and useful tips on the TfL website and through the Metropolitan Police.
View more about Oyster Cards, 18+ Cards and cabs on the main King’s College Website.