Getting around an unfamiliar country can be confusing. The links below should help you familiarise yourself with public transport in London and the UK and how to use it.
Arriving in the UK - Getting from the airport
Getting around London
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 option 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.
Tips for travelling in 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 travelcard 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.
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 Transport for London website and through the Metropolitan Police.
18+ Student Oyster Card
- Buses are cheaper than using the Undergound. If you're only taking a short journey, consider taking the bus. A weekly, monthly or annual bus pass is cheaper than a travelcard, but is only valid on buses.
- The Underground does not run all night. If you're travelling in the early hours of the morning, you may need to take a night bus. You can check various bus timetables here.
- Always ensure you know an alternative route home/to College. Sometimes, especially at weekends, Underground lines are closed for maintenance, or there are problems which cause delays.
- You should stand on the right of the escalator so that people can walk on the left!
- Make sure you register your Oyster card. If it gets stolen you should then be able to claim any money back.
- Get a good transport app on your smartphone. We suggest Citymapper, available online and as an app for planning and guiding you through your journey, and the free Tube Map app which will tell you which lines are closed or experiencing delays.
- You can also buy an "A-Z" map for just a few pounds from bookshops and some tube station vendors.
- When travelling to the outskirts of London, check whether your Oyster card will work at your destination - if you accidentally arrive without a valid ticket and the station is not on the Transport for London network you could be fined!
If you're a full-time student on a course of 14 weeks or more, then you should be eligible for a Student Oystercard. This will entitle you to 30% off weekly, monthly or annual travelcards (but not single journeys). NB if you are not travelling on public transport regularly it may still be cheaper to buy a normal Oyster card and pay for single journey. All fares can be found on the Transport for London website. You can find details of how to apply for Student Oyster card from King's Student Funding Office.
Travelling around the UK
The famous London black cabs are quite expensive but are a safe way to get around if you end up stranded, lost or are out late at night. Under UK law all other minicabs (private taxis) must be licensed in order to operate legally. You should never get into a minicab if you are not sure whether or not it is licensed. You can find more information and book a licensed taxi here.
Travelling outside the UK
There is so much to see and so much to do in the UK, so make the most of it while you are here. Our Life in the UK page gives you some ideas of organised trips you can do, including HOST visits, International Students House Travel Club and trips with Haggis Adventures.
London is the perfect starting point for a trip, with many big mainline stations and trains going to all parts of the country. If you think you're going to be travelling a lot it might be worth getting an 18-25 railcard. This will entitle you to a third off rail tickets (though not during peak travel times) and costs £30. If you're over 25 but able to show you are a full time student, you can still get a railcard. Tickets in the UK can be expensive, but are often far cheaper if you book in advance. Thetrainline is a useful website for booking tickets and viewing train times.
Long-distance buses are a cheap way to explore the UK. Both National Express and Megabus offer services from London to destinations throughout the UK.
With the Eurostar and several airports on your doorstep, London is the perfect starting point to explore Europe. There are lots of apps and websites offering good deals, and endless options on places to visit! If you're keen on train travel, The Man in Seat 61 is a wonderful website. Students recommended the Tripadvisor City Guides as a useful app for finding your way around a new city (including London!) as these can be pre-downloaded then viewed offline. XE is also useful for currency conversion.
If you are travelling abroad you must make sure you have all the correct documentation, have obtained the right visa (if applicable) and are aware of your personal safety. Our travel pages are a useful reference point if you are travelling abroad.
Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information herein, King's College London can accept no responsibility for errors or omissions.
King's College London is not responsible for the content or reliability of the linked websites and does not necessarily endorse the views expressed within