Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Many Ways to Get Around London

In Canada, I can pretty much bike to most places in a city that I need to get to. I bike to stores, to schools, to friends, to sports. You name it, I use my bike to get me there. So when I first moved to London, I bought a bike right away. A few of my teachers in London did the exact same thing and bragged on facebook about biking through Hyde Park or Regents Park. Fun times!

So let's look at all the ways you'll get around town while teaching in London.

As soon as you move to London you're going to walk more than you've ever walked before. Up stairs, escalators, through the underground stations, above ground, through parks, along the Thames River. Your feet will grow tired and soar and you'll be rubbing your feet in no time. Women mostly wear high heels and you'll likely want to fit right in.

If you're a shoe-lover, then check out Neal Street in Covent Garden. It's a whole pedestrian friendly street (no cars allowed) with more shoe stores than you'll know what to do with. Be sure to eat at Food For Thought while you are there as you should be able to get a great vegetarian meal for less than 10 pounds.

I've only ever had one teacher in the last 4 years who actually had a moped and used it to get everywhere in London. He's an Aussie with a very adventurous spirit! He always said that he loved his little bike, and it only cost him 500 pounds (used and not a cool Vespa like the ones above). He said he saved heaps of money because he used little gas (called "petrol" in the UK) and he loved zipping between the cars stuck in traffic.
More realistically, you'll be taking the tube to get around London. That's the underground or subway if you're not familiar with "the tube" yet. To see the routes and prices, check out The tube is amazing and will get you everywhere you need to go, for the most part. You can see if there are delays on your route online, or if you need an alternative route completely. If you're used to the Toronto or Montreal subways, then you'll love the tube in London!

Here's something cool to check out as well:
This person walked the entire tube map above ground. Yes, that's right - all 378 miles.

When you first arrive in London, buses will seem a bit daunting. They run every 2-3 minutes in Central London, and there are many night buses as well. They're cheap and easy to use and way better than any we have in Canada. You just need to learn how to read a bus map (which are posted in front of the bus stops) and become more confident in getting around town on the bus. London has designated bus lanes, so they are pretty fast. When you get stuck in traffic and are no where near a tube stop, they can be a real pain though.

Don't forget to flag down the bus or else it will keep going without you! You need to put your hand out like you would to get a taxi.
Ah the famous London black cabs. I love them! The best advice I have for taking a cab in London is to make sure it's a licensed taxi, and not just some random guy outside a night club in his car saying "taxi". You should know that anyway, but sadly these guys take adventure of naive travellers and locals every night. Don't get in their cars. Please.

And finally, my personal favourite - by bicycle. I've only tried to bike to school a few times in London and it was pretty tough to be honest. In the end, I decided I needed a cool GPS thing on the front of my bike so I didn't have to keep stopping to check my maps. Once you know your area well, there's no reason not to bike around town. For me, the difficulty was in getting to different schools on time. Frankly, it was just easier to take the tube or bus. If any of you come across any bike GPS systems, please let me know! I'll be the first to buy one for my next London adventure.

Check out these great bike routes that the Time Out has featured today.

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Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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