Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The London Tube (Originally Posted 4/13/08)

videoHonestly, when I looked at a map of the tube back at home, I have to admit, I was a little concerned about how I was going to get around London. It looked so complicated...tons of little colored lines intersecting and squiggling all over the place, and even though I have a great sense of direction, I have to say it intimidated me. We had no problem with Rome’s metro as there were only two lines, one running north-south, and the other running east-west. This was an entirely different animal.

I can, without a doubt, tell you that it really is much easier than it looks. Yes, there are over 11 lines to worry about and yes it looks confusing on the map, but overall, I have to say it’s been fairly easy.

I am staying down the block from a huge terminal called Victoria Station. This particular station is a railway, bus, and tube station. Most stations are for tube only but there are a few that encompass everything.

I make it a point to study my own tube map before I leave Victoria station. Once I’m there, I find the right track for the connection or destination I want to go on. All stations have maps everywhere and once you get to the platforms, they always have huge posters with all the stops listed for each direction. Find your destination on those posters and go to the platform on that same side to catch your tube.

The nice thing about the tube is that it’s very forgiving. If you end up going the wrong way, it’s very easy to get off on the next stop and catch the tube going in the opposite direction.

Yesterday, one of the main routes was down for repair and it was a very organized chaos. There were alot of people like me trying to find a substitute route and the nice thing was that there were plenty of transit personnel out to direct us to the right train and tell us which route to take to get where we wanted to be. Even with the closures, it was easy to get to where I wanted to go.

The tubes are clean, free of graffiti, and non-smoking. People are generally polite and not pushy at all. I’m using an Oyster card (a pay as you go travel card) to pay for my local travel rather than buying an individual ticket each time I want to use the tube. It’s easier and faster, in my opinion. When you get to the entrance, you insert your ticket or press your Oyster and the stalls allow you to enter. You do the same when you are ready to exit your station. Another reason it’s easier to use the Oyster card is that sometimes you buy your tube ticket to go to one particular place and maybe at the last minute decide to go somewhere else. Since you are charged according to the zone you travel in, if you go outside the zone you originally purchased a ticket for, you might not be able to exit the station without finding someone to help you pay extra for traveling outside the zone for which your original ticket was purchased. With the Oyster, you’re free to go to any zone you wish and the amount is deducted from your pre-paid card.

All in all, the tube has been an overall pleasant experience. The only negatives I can think to say about them are so many stairs!!! Ugh...no wonder there are no fat Brits walking around! They burn calories just going to and from work every day!!!

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