Monday, June 27, 2011

The Underground is Awesome

Not the most exciting topic, but I am so impressed with the ease of getting around London. Several years ago in New York, I had friends that had a good grasp of the Subway and I only had to figure it out for myself twice. The first time I tried I got lost and just caught a taxi instead. The second time I walked ages first so I wouldn’t have to transfer. In London, it’s a whole different story.

I initially looked at all of the things we wanted to do in London based on their proximity to each other. I would look at an attraction and work out what it was closest to, and therefore what attractions we should do on the same day as each other. I thought we would have to walk everywhere, but after a lot of complaining on Courtney’s part when we had to walk home from Kilmainham in Dublin, we decided to attempt public transport.

Londoners, you don’t know how lucky you are. Proven by a Briton in our hostel who thought the Public Transport was rubbish. At home if you want to catch public transport to your destination, first of all the chances are that you will be catching a bus. If you live near a train station, great. Chances are you don’t, because there aren’t nearly as many, and there is no underground, there are no trams. When you catch the bus, 90% of the time (unless you live in the inner-inner city) you need to schedule your day around the bus. Be at the stop early just incase the bus is, and be prepared to wait half an hour just incase it’s late. If you want to transfer, you might be lucky to a two services that are synced together, but often you will have to repeat the whole waiting process again.

In London, the easiest way to get around is the Underground. You swipe your Oyster Card (prepaid travel card, super easy to buy from a machine or a person) and head to your platform. Everything is sign posted so the whole process is ridiculously easy. A train will appear usually within 3 minutes. If you want to transfer, again, 3 minutes. If you want to take the bus, which is sometimes more direct (and sometimes not), I found it a little less convenient because you have to hunt out the bus stop in the area you’re in. You can use your Oyster Card here too though, and once you’re on the bus it’s a great way to get to know the city in context instead of train station to train station.

I was extremely apprehensive about using Public Transport in London but it was so easy. We were never ever limited by location, if we got bored on one side of town, we would go to the other. Easy, quick, and reasonably cheap (32GBP for a week unlimited on trains, buses and underground services). The underground is awesome and convenient. And there’s nothing quite like riding a red double decker bus past Big Ben.

Which country do you think has the best or worst public transport?

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