As soon as you arrive in London, you should buy a ‘London A-Z’ book to help you find your way around the city. The A-Z contains maps of all the streets in London and lists the street names in alphabetical order (A-Z).
Oyster Cards and student discounts
To travel on public transport you should purchase an ‘Oyster Card’ for £5 from any Underground station and add money (or ‘credit’) to the Card in order to travel. You can either pay for single journeys (called ‘pay as you go’) or purchase a Travelcard for one week, one month or one year. Travelcards work out cheaper than ‘pay as you go’.
Full-time students in London can travel on public transport for a reduced price using the ‘Student Oyster Photocard’, which gives a 30% discount on Travelcards and Bus & Tram passes (see ‘Buses and trains’ below). You should apply for a Student Oyster Photocard as soon as you enrol on your course.
London Underground (also called the ‘Tube’)
The Underground is the quickest way to get around London. The Underground is London’s metro system and it links to all the main London train stations. It is divided into six ‘zones’. Zone 1 is in the centre of London and zone 6 is the furthest zone from the city centre.
Buses and trains
It is cheaper to travel by bus than by Tube in London. To travel by bus, you can use your Oyster Card (see above) or purchase a ‘Bus & Tram pass’ for travel on buses and trams only. Single bus journeys cost £1.35 with Oyster ‘pay as you go’ or £2.30 if you pay for your ticket using cash – tickets purchased in cash must be bought before you get on the bus.
Buses in London run throughout the night. The late-night bus services are called ‘night buses’ and they are less frequent than day-time services. Night Buses have an ‘N’ before the bus number. You can order a free bus map for your local area from the TFL website.
You can also travel on trains within London using your Oyster card or Student Oyster Photocard. If you wish to travel outside of London you will need to purchase a ticket – see ‘Travel outside London’ at the bottom of this page.
Cycling is the fastest way to travel short journeys in London and is free once you have purchased a bike. You can order a free cycle map for your area from the 24-hour travel information service (0843 222 1234), or pick one up from a Travel Information Centre or certain bike shops.
London has many cycling groups that you can join – visit London Cycle Network and London Cycle Campaign for more information. There are also cycling events throughout the year, including National Bike Week and the London to Brighton Night Ride.
Walking is a great way to familiarise yourself with London and it is often quicker to walk between Tube stations than to take the Tube. If you walk late at night, take a friend with you to be safe. Time Out publishes some helpful guide books about walking in London and outside the city: ‘Time Out Book of London Walks’ and ‘Time Out Book of Country Walks’.
There are many boat trips along the river Thames, including the ‘Tate to Tate’ that goes from Tate Modern to Tate Britain. You can collect a ‘London River Services’ booklet from any Underground station or Transport Information Centre or order one from the 24-hour travel information service (0843 222 1234). Some boat companies offer student discounts and many offer discounts for Travelcard holders.
There are two main types of taxi services in London: Black cabs and minicabs (ordinary cars that work as taxis). Black cabs are more expensive than minicabs, but black cab drivers know London extremely well. If you are travelling late at night, try to share a taxi with friends and divide the cost. Many minicabs are unlicensed, so you should not hail one from the street or get into one parked on the street (they often park outside pubs and clubs).
If you wish to drive a car in London, you will need to pay a fee of £10 (called the ‘Congestion charge’), each time you enter central London. Visit Transport for London for more information. UKCISA also provides a guide for international students driving in the UK, which you might find useful.
Travel outside London
- ISH has a Travel Club, which organises low-cost trips around the UK and Europe for international students in the UK, it’s brilliant and you should definitely take part!
If you would like to explore the UK independently, coaches are an inexpensive way to travel. You can buy a Young Persons Coachcard for £10, which gives up to 30% off travel on National Express coaches. National Express also offers low-cost tickets (called ‘Funfares’) for some journeys purchased in advance.
If you prefer to travel by train, the 16-25/student Railcard gives students in the UK a third off train travel anywhere in the country. The Railcard costs £28 for one year or £68 for three years. You can apply online for the Railcard or purchase it from one of the main national rail stations in London (not the Underground stations). Tickets are very expensive if you buy them on the same day you travel, so buy your ticket as far in advance as possible. For information, visit National Rail or call National Rail Enquiries on 08457 48 49 50.
- Travelling outside the UK
If you wish to travel outside the UK, you should first check the immigration rules for travelling abroad. The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) gives students reduced-price travel in Europe. The ISIC card costs £9 and can be purchased from any STA travel office when you show your NUS card.You can purchase low-cost flights to destinations across Europe through Ryanair and Easyjet.