London's iconic red buses are recognized the world over, even if the traditional Routemaster buses, with an open rear platform and on-board conductor to collect fares, have been phased out. These still run on Heritage Route 9 and 15 daily between about 9:30AM and 6:30PM, every 15 minutes.
Buses are generally quicker than taking the Tube for short (less than a couple of stops on the Tube) trips, and out of central London you're likely to be closer to a bus stop than a tube station. Many of the most popular buses tend to be of the articulated double-length variety, known as bendy buses. Routes served by these buses always carry a yellow route sign as detailed below. Care should be taken as it is possible for those unfamiliar with them to get on then have no way of paying. This could be related to the relative ease of hopping on and off without paying (doors open along the length of the bus and there is no on-board conductor). This is, however, illegal and can be very risky - large teams of inspectors frequently descend on these buses accompanied by police, and it's possible to be arrested and prosecuted.
Over 5 million bus trips are made each weekday; with over 700 different bus routes you are never far from a bus. Each bus stop has a sign listing routes that stop there. Bus routes are identified by numbers and sometimes letters, for example the 73 runs between Victoria and Seven Sisters. Yellow signs indicate you must purchase your ticket before you board. You must either have a Pay-as-you-go Oyster card, travelcard season ticket, bus saver ticket, bus pass, or have bought a one way ticket from a machine at the bus stop. These machines don't provide change (all the more reason to use one of the other options). Under 14s travel free without identification, 14-16s travel free on production of a Child Oyster photocard.
Buses display their route number in large digits at the front, side and rear.
By early 2009 Tfl would've rolled out the iBus on every bus and garage in London. This new system will provide bus times and destination information on a audio-visual display. All bus stops have their location and the direction of travel on them, although by the time you've seen this it can be too late. Bus drivers are usually too busy to be able to tell you. Your best bet is to ask fellow passengers or trace your route on a map. However, some buses including the 414 which runs from Maida Vale, the Chippenham to Putney Bridge have screens which display the next scheduled stop including a pre-recorded announcement.
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