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10 truths about the London Underground and how to survive the tube

10 truths about the London Underground and how to survive the tube

Now that I’ve moved out of London I see it in a whole new light. I’m still in London once or twice a week so it’s enough to not feel like a stranger but not enough to get bugged down with city life. It’s as though a magical pair of rose tinted glasses are stuck to my head the second I pull into Euston Station and they don’t budge until I leave.

One of my favourite things now is taking the tube. I used to hate the tube. I’d do anything to avoid those sweaty little carriages filled with snoring, coughing, sneezing people but now I actually like it.

I like the excitement of slipping down the escalators to the underground world. I like people watching or sitting down for 10 minutes to read a book. I love being able to whizz across London at high speed and emerge somewhere completely different.

Here are 10 things I’ve noticed about the London Underground and some survival tips for first timers.

1. Everyone likes to think they’re on a shampoo advert

As the train pushes its way through the tunnels is sends a warm gust of air before it. Sometimes this is gross and dirty but sometimes it’s a nice wash of air that pushes your hair back and cools you down. If you look at all the long-haired ladies on the platform at this moment you’ll see their hair is blowing back luxuriously and you can guarantee they’re pretending they’re on a shampoo advert. Herbal Essences meets the underground.

2. Everyone likes to think they’re a superhero

You know that moment when the doors are just about to shut and you have 0.05 seconds to leap through the doors? Yep, that’s the moment everyone likes to think they’re a superhero. You leap through the doors just as they’re closing and can’t help but smile smugly to yourself. Well done, you just saved yourself 2 minutes of waiting time.

3. Everyone gets nervous if their seat is damp.

Never touch the dampness and sniff your hand. Do you really want to know what it is? Just stand up slowly and walk away.

London Underground

4. Everyone hates people who get on the tube with suitcases

Or backpacks. Or pushchairs. Or anything remotely large.

We all have to do it from time to time but it doesn’t stop us hating those suitcase pullers.

5. Everyone will hate you if you stand on the left

I’m talking about escalators here. You know that sign on every escalator that says ‘Stand on the Right’? Guess what it means. Yea, it means stand on the fricking right! Stand on the left if you’re prepared to walk (and come on, if you’re under 70 and have two legs you should really walk)

6. Everyone hates tourists who can’t use Oyster Cards

This is a really mean one and I’m sorry to all tourists who are struggling to use Oyster Cards, I’m sure I struggled the very first time. But when you’re surrounded by a fresh stream of tourists on a daily basis who can’t figure out how to tap in and tap out, it gets pretty frustrating.

FYI – Hold your Oyster card onto the yellow disk and the doors will open. Yes, it’s really that simple.

London Tube

7. Tall people will never understand

You will never understand how awful rush hour on the underground really is for a short person. It may be hotter up there but it stinks down here. Especially when your armpit is in my face.

8. You need something to read or play

You have to have a newspaper, book, phone or tablet. It’s the rule. Otherwise we’d all be sat there looking at each other and then we might need to talk and that would be awkward.

9. You’re surprisingly safe

As long as you’re sensible and keep your wits about you on the tube, you’re pretty safe, particularly during busy times. There are just too many people for anyone to get away, making it very difficult for pickpockets and thieves. Of course, you should always have a secure bag and don’t keep valuables in your pockets just to be safe.

10. Everyone moans about it but, come on, it’s pretty flipping awesome.

The London Underground has to be one of the best city transport systems in the world.

Photo Credits

Photo 1: wallyg. Photo 2: Back, and to the left Photo 3: Nic Taylor Photography 

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Wednesday 13th of December 2017

[…] How to survive the London Underground […]


Wednesday 19th of April 2017

I'd add a tip on the Oyster card placing for tourists (being a tourist myself :)) - you don't need to wait for the previous person to be behind the gate and for the gate to close! If you put your card down right after them, it will still work, it still goes green (that is if your card is valid and topped) and you can still go through, the gate doesn't even need to shut in between two persons. If everyone knew this, it would make the whole process twice as quicker. I am a tourist but been in London a lot of times and this always makes me angry.

Also people standing in the middle of the friggin door, not moving a bit even though you are obviously trying to get through with something like a little scooter, a suitcase (not myself but I've seen it), and then giving you looks for touching them or hitting them accidentaly with something. Jeez, if you don't want to be touched or hit, stand on the damn side like a person with brain!

For me the worst thing, though, is the air - or the lack of it mostly - sometimes I get a sudden headache, I feel sick or dizzy just because there is no air and the train is going very fast. Also the temperature changes, especially in cold weather it is a recipe for ilness because you are out in a thick coat or layers of clothes, when you get down, you have to take it all down or you'll sweat like a pig, then you get cold breeze around you and you get chills, then you get through the corridors, sweat more, then you go out and you have to get dresses again. Maybe Londoners are used to this and don't even sweat but for me this has always been a challenge that I hate, a lot of dressing, undressing and trying to not get too hot.


Sunday 17th of August 2014

Haha, as a tourist, I never bought an Oyster card, I just bought daily tickets ... no need to complicate things.

And yes, the Underground is one of the best transportation systems in the world!


Wednesday 13th of August 2014

now that I live in Southern California (where public transportation is nothing to brag about!) I dearly miss the tube from my days of living in London. I only hated it on rainy days - oh the smell! :-)

Candice @ The Let's Go Ladies

Thursday 7th of August 2014

"Everyone likes to think they’re a superhero." YES! The exact same thing happens on the subways in Toronto. There are three chimes and then the doors close. You better believe everyone suddenly sprouts wings and flies through the doors before the third chime.