Whether you’re planning a trip to London or want to start taking the tube like a local, here’s some handy tube etiquette to know before you ride. Enjoy!
If you’re moving to or planning a trip to London, chances are you’ll be taking the tube at some point.
The London Underground is a world unto itself, with its own rules and etiquette. And if you’re not familiar with the tube, it can be a bit daunting.
While the tube is generally an efficient and easy way to get around, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Blending in with the locals is key when travelling, and nothing’s worse than being that person on the tube.
In this tube etiquette guide, I’ll be sharing all you need to know to make sure your trip is smooth sailing (or should I say, riding?). Let’s get into it!
5 London Tube Etiquette Tips (from a local)
1. Stand on the Right and Walk on the Left on the Escalators
Being mindful of your surroundings is key when you’re taking public transit, especially on the tube.
As a rule of thumb, Londoners stand on the right and walk on the left on the escalators.
This helps avoid any accidental bumps or collisions as well as allows those who are in a rush to pass quickly.
I’ll be honest; nothing is worse than a tourist with a suitcase or their head in the clouds standing on the left side of the escalator while people are trying to pass.
Depending on the type of local you’re encountering, you could get anything from a polite “excuse me, you’re on the wrong side, miss” to someone who’s just an ounce short on patience that day…and let’s hope it’s not the latter.
Luckily a quick shift to the right-hand side will keep you happily on track.
2. Mind the Priority Seat
When you’re travelling on the London Underground, always make sure to mind the Priority Seat.
This is a designated seat on every tube carriage for people such as pregnant women, elderly people, and disabled travellers.
Whether you’re sitting in a priority seat yourself or just happen to see someone get on who looks like they may need to sit down, it’s always important to give up your seat for those who need it more while you’re on the tube.
If you don’t know what a priority seat is, don’t worry! They are usually marked with a sticker or sign that says ‘priority seating’ so they’re easy to spot.
3. Don’t Eat on the Tube
Taking food on the tube might seem like a great idea when you’re in a rush, but it’s an unspoken rule on the Underground that food is a no-go.
Eating and drinking is messier than it looks and can lead to dirty cars and stations if anything is left behind.
Not to mention an accidental crumb or spill left on your fellow passenger is sure to leave you a good shunning!
If you absolutely must, try to stick to foods that are easy and fast to consume.
And no matter what, avoid smelly foods at all costs.
P.S – Drinking on the tube (except for alcohol) is fine, and it’s actually suggested by the TfL to bring a water bottle onboard in the summertime!
4. Don’t Seat Hog With Your Bag
Seat hogging is a problem that many Londoners experience on the tube and is definitely something you’ll want to avoid if you’re the culprit.
This is when people are unable to sit down on the tube due to someone taking up two or more seats with their belongings and refusing to move them.
Of course, we all have those days when we’re travelling with loads — but it just creates an uncomfortable situation, especially during busy times when there are fewer seats available.
To prevent this from happening, it’s important for everyone to be considerate of other Londoners and only take up one seat at a time. Speaking of…
5. Be Considerate of Other Passengers
In addition to the above, there’s a few overall ‘tube etiquette’ tips that will get you a long way in London, and it all comes down to being considerate of other passengers. This includes:
- Letting passengers off first before you get on
- Not obstructing the door when people are trying to get on
- Keeping your music volume to a minimum whilst riding
- And conversations (especially if you fall in the ‘loud American’ category…)
And of course…Mind the Gap!
Final Tips for Taking the Tube in London
• Move to the end of the platform
If you ever get on the tube platform and it’s particularly busy, always move down to the end and get on the last carriages; they’ll almost always be less busy!
• Have your Oyster or Contactless card ready to go
To save time (and frantically rushing to tap-in at rush hour), always have your Oyster or Contactless card ready to tap-in when you get to the station. If you have any issues with your card, the TfL staff will be able to help.
• Walk fast!
When it comes to taking the tube, putting some pep in your step will go a long way. Always try to walk fast or at least with a good pace, especially if you want to blend in with the locals!
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