So, if you couldn’t tell from the title, this post will be all on my experience using London’s public transportation…
While not having a car at college may sound like an inconvenience to friends in America, it is definitely more of a blessing than a curse that I’m not responsible for a car while I’m here. Yes, cars can be convenient at times here, ESPECIALLY when I need to go food shopping, but the bus and tube systems really aren’t too bad. I was nervous about figuring out the routes and stops for busses and trains before coming here, but going with friends and figuring it out in a group is much easier than I thought. But as for driving, the first thing everyone knows about England is that they drive on the opposite side of the road than we do in the US. I still remember that first moment of pure confusion when I realized my bus was in the left lane instead of the right: I had just gotten off the airplane, which had a de-boarding process of passengers taking steps down to the open outdoor ground at Heathrow, and immediately got onto a shuttle bus that took us around to the correct arrival terminal. After a minute of taking in the fact that I had just finally stepped foot on London ground, I realized I was looking out the window at little street of cars going “the wrong way.” I was so caught off guard, and I couldn’t help but smile. I also remember the first time realizing the driver’s seat of the car is on the opposite side than I’m used to. I was outside on Roehampton’s campus on the main street, watching cars going the opposite way. I focused on one car’s passengers, and noticed a guy reclining with his eyes closed in the front left seat of the car (the driver’s side that I’m used to) and gasped quickly, thinking the driver was asleep at the wheel. It was then that I realized that obviously the cars are built where the driver’s seat is the front right. Duh. Nevertheless, it freaked me out for a second there!
A huge majority of the cars here are really small and there are a ton of old fashioned ones. It is extremely rare to see a truck or bigger van/SUV. The taxi cabs here are really cute and all generally have the same look, but are decorated a little differently with advertisements for brands and shows to see. I’ve taken a cab twice since I’ve been here, but only when it was really necessary because they are pretty expensive compared to just figuring out the tubes and busses and paying for those.
Another thing about driving here: DRIVERS ARE CRAZY. They are always in a hurry and really DO NOT stop for pedestrians unless they absolutely have to at walkways. If you jaywalk across the street at the wrong time, don’t expect a driver to slow down. They will beep aggressively and you will have to jump backwards onto the sidewalk (Brits call it the “pavement” here), feeling like an idiot trying and scared half to death from trying to cross the street while cars are zooming by. I learned very quickly to be extremely cautious when crossing the street. A lot walkway spots on the street have writing on the ground saying which way to look for cars, which helps a lot!
Gas prices (here gasonline is called “petrol”) are also insanely expensive (like, even more that what we’re used to in the US), and parking is nearly impossible near the city. Public transportation is where it’s at!
When I first got here and we had the Photo Frenzy day at the beginning of the term, the tube seriously scared me. It consists of a bunch of different colored “lines” (example: District Line, Piccadilly Line, Circle Line), and you have to figure out what stop is paired with what line. There are certain tube stops where you can switch lines and then get to your destination, so it involves a bit of thinking and a lot of paying attention when the train stops and announces the name of the stop! Or course, all of these unfamiliar stops and maps made me nervous. However, I can proudly say that I’m really learning the routes and once you know the bearings around London, it’s really not too hard to figure out. I actually enjoy riding the tube more than anything else here! It’s fast, easy, and reliable! If you want to have a look at the map, the closest tube stops to Roehampton are Hammersmith and Putney Bridge! Hint: they are both on the District line.
I take the bus the most out of any type of transportation. Roehampton is surrounded by a few other great small towns that have places to shop, eat, and walk around. Figuring out bus routes is probably one of the more complicated things I have to do here, but now I am extremely familiar with them and know what number bus will take me where (and what direction… that can get confusing). For example, if I want to go into Hammersmith and shop at Primark there, I take the 72! Some busses near Roehampton (like the 265) are more local and are only one story. But there are tons of different busses (with a higher rider population) that are DOUBLE DECKERS. I was so excited to ride my first English red double decker bus… the first chance I had, I sprinted up the stairs and sat in the first row. It’s pretty cool being on the second floor and looking out onto the road, but now being up there isn’t anything too special. It’s a place we have to go if the bottom part is filled and that’s about it! Haha.
As a frequent traveler on the public transportation here, I invested in an Oyster Card. This is basically a card that you have to tap whenever you get on a bus or go on the tube. There is a small yellow sensor pad that you touch the card to and it deducts money from the Oyster card. Each bus ride is 1.30 pounds… so you can imagine that I am constantly topping up my Oyster (topping up = adding more money)!
That’s my spiel on London’s public transportation. I hope I didn’t bore anyone to death. I like to write all this stuff down, not only for some blog followers to read, but for my own personal reasons so I can one day look back and remember everything London has to offer… even the details on how I got around!
Bye for now!