Getting Around London
London is a mind-bogglingly huge city and getting around can be a chore. The first thing you should do is buy an A-Z Street Atlas. There's a pocket-sized version that covers central London, but if you intend on living here, you're better off getting the medium-sized version which will cover more than just zone 1 and will be handy when you've looking for houses. If you've got a fancy phone you can download the map here. Downloading the map or buying the London A-Z book should be the first thing you do because getting around London's streets is tricky, even for people who have lived there their whole lives.
The best web site for help getting around London is Transport For London. There's a really handy journey planner that will tell you how to get from place to place, how long it takes, and how much it costs. You can also look at tube and bus maps. If you are looking for a place to live, always ask for the postal cost and then enter it into Streetmap.co.uk so you can pinpoint the exact location and save yourself a lot of time.
When you first arrive, you'll probably end up taking the Underground (also known as 'the tube') into the city from Heathrow. If you fly into Gatwick or Stanstead, there are buses and trains that'll take you to the city centre, but from there it's likely you'll need to jump onto the Underground to get where you need to go.
...there are few things worse than being on the tube during rush hour, nose to armpit with your fellow commuters on a hot summers day...
Most people have a love/hate relationship with the tube. When it's working, I think it's amazing! It covers much of London and is very easy to use. But when it's not working, it can be a nightmare. I think there are few things worse than being on the tube during rush hour, nose to armpit with your fellow commuters on a hot summers day, and stuck in the tunnel because of a signal failure. But whether it's working or not, chances are you'll be seeing a lot of it, so get used to it!
The Tube only runs until about 12:30am so if you want to stay out later, you'll have to learn how to ride the bus! Some buses run all night and, though the service is drastically reduced, you'll probably still abe to get where you need to go with a little effort. I avoided using the buses as long as possible but eventually had to figure them out when my usual Tube line was out of use for two months in 2003. They're actually really handy once you figure them out and will save you from having to shell out for black cabs to come home from the city after the tube stops.
Black cabs in London are quite expensive, so if you do need to take a cab your best bet is to keep the number of a mini-cab company stored in your phone. They're cheaper, private companies that use regular cars. They're not allowed to wait in the streets for business, so if you're approached by a private car trying to give you a ride home, they're not legit and have been known to be dangerous. Official mini cabs are only allowed to take business through phonecalls or at their stands and they are reliable and far cheaper than a black cab.
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