Best Way to Get Around London on Vacation

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There are so many ways to get around London during your family trip. Navigate your options with these helpful tips.

The moving train is blurry in the London Underground station.

When you visit a city as large as London, you need to go prepared with your best options for getting around town to see all the sights.

After spending a week in London with my husband and kids, we tested out pretty much every option available so we could share our best tips with you.

Essential App for Your Phone

Before you go one step further, take a moment to download the Citymapper app to your phone.

This totally free app is absolutely essential for getting around in London.

You can type in your destination and the app will give you several options for getting there along with the estimated cost and expected time for each one.

I used the Citymapper app to help my family travel through all of London in a wide variety of ways over the course of our week and we had so much fun.

Options for Getting Around London

A row of bikes for rent in London.

As with most big cities, there is more than one way to get around town. Unlike other cities we’ve visited, London seems to have a nearly endless variety of options!

The most useful methods of transportation for tourists includes:

  1. The Tube: Also known as the London Underground. This subterranean public train system covers most of the city.
  2. Classic Black Cab: The traditional London black cabs are still in operation today. They are driven by trained taxi drivers that know the city better than the back of their hand.
  3. Uber Cars: Just like in the US, you can use your Uber app to call a ride from almost anywhere in London, including the airport.
  4. Uber Boat: Yep, you read that right. There is a public transportation ferry boat run by Uber on the Thames.
  5. Double Decker Bus: There is the classic red London bus that runs a public transportation route or there are the tourist hop-on-hop-off buses.
  6. Docklands Light Rail: The DLR is an over-the-ground train that covers some areas mostly near Canary Wharf.
  7. Bike Rental: There are bike rentals available all across the city.
  8. Pedestrian Tunnel: There is actually a tunnel underneath the Thames you can walk!
  9. Walking: The most practical and budget friendly option of them all!

Best Option: Underground

A red and blue circular sign that says "Underground."

That first visit to the London Underground is going to take a bit of bravery but I pinky promise that by the end of your visit you’ll be a pro.

The London Underground is truly something you need to experience during your visit. With a little preparation in advance, you’ll be ready to hop on a train your very first day.

The Underground is one of your very best options for getting around in London because it is fast, mostly reliable, safe, clean, budget-friendly, and fun.

Don’t panic at the sight of the tube maps, if you’ve got the Citymapper app on your phone, you’ll be able to navigate the system like a true Londoner. Be sure to check out the full list of my essential travel apps I keep on my iPhone.

There is so much to know about the Underground, I wrote a separate article about it with tips and tricks for newbies.

I answer all your questions like:

  • Should you get an Oyster card?
  • How do you pay for your fare?
  • How do you read the tube map?
  • And so many more . . .

Read my Beginner’s Guide to the London Underground here.

Uber vs. Taxi

With our 20,000+ walking steps per day, there were times we just could not face a walk to the nearest tube station.

When you’re utterly exhausted, totally overwhelmed, or the weather is just miserable, it can be nice to splurge on a direct ride from point A to point B.

We found the Uber app to be most useful for these scenarios because we could call for the car right from our phones.

We never did ride a black cab because I discovered their fares are more expensive than Uber and I wasn’t totally certain our entire family would fit in one car.

Be absolutely sure you have the Uber app set up on your phone before you go even if you plan to use the tube exclusively. Sometimes it is just nice to take that break.

NOTE: Street traffic in London can be absolutely HORRIBLE. Do not assume that a taxi or uber would deliver you to your destination faster than the tube. Plan to use this option to give your feet a break, not to save time.

London Red Bus

A red bus is driving past the Lord Nelson statue in London.

After our visit to Harrods, the Citymapper app warned us that the necessary tube line was experiencing significant delays.

The suggested re-route was to hop on a local red bus to reach our destination and it was shockingly wonderful. The bus was nearly empty except for a few friendly police officers that offered up a lunch recommendation for us!

The local red buses are part of the public transportation system but they only run certain routes.

The classic double-decker red bus you’re probably imagining is the tourist driven Hop On, Hop Off Bus routes that need separate tickets to enjoy.

Uber Boat

An Uber Boat on the Thames river in London.

Thanks to my friend Maggy who lives in London, my family enjoyed an afternoon riding the Uber Boat down the Thames to Greenwich.

We boarded the boat at the pier right under the London Eye ferris wheel. It is part of the public transportation and runs every 30 minutes.

We rode the boat from the London Eye all the way down to Greenwich and then walked under the river via tunnel and took the DLR train back to the tube to get back to London.

The whole adventure took us most of an afternoon but was an extremely memorable part of our trip.

Docklands Light Rail

The light rail train arrives at the station in London.

If you’re interested in visiting Canary Wharf or Greenwich during your visit to London, you’ll want to check out the Docklands Light Rail.

This over the ground train goes right through Canary Wharf and is a great way to sightsee through the area.

Pedestrian Tunnel

A mom and her daughters are walking under the Thames river in an underground tunnel for pedestrians.

During our visit to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian, we found the underground pedestrian tunnel that allows you to walk underneath the Thames river.

The underground tunnel starts at this domed building on either side of the river.

There’s a pair of matching domed gates on either side. You can walk down a staircase or take the elevator down to the bottom floor and then walk right under the river to the other side.

My engineer husband loved this.


Be absolutely sure you’re packing the best walking shoes possible because this is going to be your #1 most used method of transportation.

Our family walked 20,000 – 30,000 steps every single day even though we used all the transportation methods listed above!

More London Travel Tips

Looking for more tips for your first trip to London? Don’t miss my best advice from our vacation here:

The photo collage shows a picture of the underground sign next to an Uber boat on the Thames river.

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