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Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

Mission Viejo...
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Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

Hi there!

I am looking for some reassurances. :)

I will be traveling to London with my 2 year old and 16 year old son by myself in March '2015 on our way to Rome. Since we have a layover in London, I thought it would be great spending three days in London before taking an EasyJet to Rome. I do not have the same fears for our Rome trip, probably because it's a much smaller city and everything is pretty much walking distance. The main attractions I would like for us to see is the London eye, Natural Gallery and the Tower of London. I have 2 guide books for London: Rick Steves & Eyewitness Travel. Great info--so detailed, but all I can continue to see is that we have to take the tube to get anywhere. Can someone help me to understand the route I need to take and suggest how to cluster my sightseeing for the best experience? I would appreciate any kind help. Thank you!

Dallas, Texas
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1. Re: Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

You don't have to take the tube. You may take busses if you wish.

Where are you staying? Do you have a specific itinerary for each day? Without that it's hard to give specific advice on which stations to use, which lines to use, etc.

California
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2. Re: Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

I much prefer the tube over the metro in Rome.....

UK
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3. Re: Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

Every day many thousands of tourists whose first language is not English, and indeed whose writing and reading is not even based on our alphabet, manage to get around fine. As do schoolchildren aged much younger than your 16 year old on their commute to school.

The tube is one of those things that's much MUCH easier to do than explain. Take your time, follow the signs, stay off at rush hour. Everything is colour coded, screens in the trains say what the next stop is.

Chill, you'll be fine.

San Diego...
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4. Re: Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

The Tube is the same as T in Boston, the subway in NYC or the Metro in DC if you've had the opportunity to use those. If not, I promise it is easy and your 16 year old son will probably figure it out in under a minute. Actually, taking the Tube will prepare you for the Metro in Rome (if you decide to use it - my 12 year old son and I used it every day and loved it). He was a pro in no time and part of the excitement of our trip was taking mass transit (yes, Rome is very walkable, but there were plenty of times we wanted to go across town and resting feet while getting there was appreciated).

In London, the Tube maps are easy to use (in English!), and following the signage to the correct platform is not difficult. In most places you know which platform to go to based on the name of the last station on the line in the direction you want to go. I can't remember if the Tube was that way, but I think it was. The first time you take it might be a bit nerve-wracking, but you will be a pro in no time.

That said, with a 2 year old taking the bus might be easier (if you are using a stroller). I've never taken the bus in London, so I cannot comment on its ease of use.

San Diego...
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5. Re: Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

I tried to edit my response but took too long. In any event, I wanted to add that you can walk from Trafalgar Square (National Gallery) to the London Eye very easily. I was in London for about 8 hours with my daughter back in March, and while we took the Tube, we also walked from Green Park Station to Buckingham Palace, then through St. James Park to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament, up the street past the Horse Guards to Trafalgar Square then over the bridge next to Charing Cross Station to the London Eye, then after a ride we walked back across Westminster Bridge and it was a delightful, very doable walk.

We didn't make it to the Tower of London, but when I am back next March with my youngest daughter, I plan to combine a morning at the Tower of London with a visit to St. Paul's Cathedral and a walk to the top. If you are not interested in St. Paul's you could do Shakespeare's Globe Theater tour, the Tate Modern or go to Borough Market (if the timing works) after the Tower of London. It really depends on what your priorities are in the 3 days you are there...

London, United...
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6. Re: Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

The tube map is ever so easy to follow and understand. If you have an iphone just download the app - i think it's free. the other good app is "tube exits" which guides you where to get on any tube in order to get off opposite the exit (there is NO logic to this)

Tube trains have their destination on the front and the stations say whether its north or southbound.

So buy your oyster cards and hop on (also, a reasonable proportion of tube travellers speak English - so you could always ask!)

London, United...
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7. Re: Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

In addition Trafalgar Square and the tower are on the district line which is just sub=surface - a few steps down at Embankment and Tower Hill - no esculators and very easy. The deep tube are Northen, Central, Piccadilly etc and involve esculators etc and can be a bit daunting.

The bus service is very good and worth combing with the District/Circle lines.

8. Re: Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

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Toronto, Canada
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9. Re: Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

The Tube is fantastic. Don't be shy about riding it for the first time. In no time you'll be finding it essential for travelling around London. Even the route map is a work of art (Look up Harry Beck). I've done many trips to London with newcomers and find the key is to take it slowly, one step at a time.

Download a copy of the Tube map and study it. Find the stop nearest your starting point and the stop nearest your destination and plot a route. Each line is a different colour. If your location and destination are on the same line, it's easy. If they're on different lines, you'll need to figure out where to transfer from one line to the other (the transfer stations are all marked on the map). You might need to transfer more than once.

For any given trip, there might be several possible transfer points. In the beginning, just choose a route that looks good on paper. As you gain confidence and experience, you'll get to know the main transfer stations and know which ones are easy and which ones involve longer walks, stairs, escalators, etc. People here on TA would be happy to suggest the best route but you'll be fine, regardless.

Inside the stations, the signage is excellent. As you approach the platform, diagrams clearly show you which side to stand on to catch the train in the appropriate direction. It's all very logical and straightforward.

You'll want Oyster cards for you and your 16-year-old son; the 2 year old travels free. You can pick up your Oyster card when you arrive. Visit the TFL website to see how to order a special photo Zip card for your son with reduced fares. You need to order on-line and collect it when you arrive in London. I won't repeat all the Oyster details here; refer to the website. Essentially, you deposit money into your Oyster account and use the card to spend it on TFL buses, the Tube, DLR, Overground, and some railways. You can even use it to pay your fare on the Thames Clippers.

On the Tube, use the card to tap in when you enter the underground station and to tap out when you leave. Your fare between the two points is automatically calculated and deducted from your balance, which you'll see on the turnstile screen when you exit.

It's a brilliant system. Don't be afraid; explore!

London, UK
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10. Re: Have some fears about taking the tube in London.

Like Gigi's answer, the touristy places you mention are within walking distance so you need not take the tube. Walking (no kids) from Tower bridge to Trafalgar Square will take you 45 minutes as I used to walk into work. If you take strollers, go on a Saturday and stop at everything, it can easily take the whole day.