Navigating the London Tube

Navigating the London Tube

Coming to London soon? Are you already here & still haven’t got the tube down?

Well, after being here for 3 weeks, it’s safe to say we now completely understand this crazy mix up of lines and words.  :)

We know how hard it is to navigate through any subway system, so we’ve decided to break down the London tube! At the end, we’ll have a fun way to see if you understand it, then you or whoever you send this to won’t ever have to fret about it again! Sound good? Good!

Let’s start!


As you can see in the image (click to enlarge it) there is a an array of different colored lines which all take you to different areas throughout the zones of London. There are 9 zones that are shaded lightly around the city. 1 is the very central and 9 is the furthest away.

Still with us?

All the lines have a different name which you can see on the image in the bottom right. Ie: black = northern, yellow = circle, etc. The one line that was confusing to us is the orange line that you see throughout the whole map. This line is the overground. Meaning that where ever it’s taking you to won’t be a subway it will be an above ground rail. We personally don’t use the overground often because it’s outside the city center and more of an issue to connect when coming from the center. By issue, we mean that you have to get on and off more often than if you were only taking the underground to a specific location.

Okay now on to the good stuff...


Getting somewhere:

When there’s a tube stop you need to get to, it’s best to look it up before you get to the station. Once you’re in the station, it can be a bit hectic looking at all the maps and if you want to go east, west, north, or south. You can either look it up by downloading the tube map application (available on both iphone & android), go to, grab a map from the hotel or hostel you’re staying at, or look at this post.  ;-)

Once you find your destination on the tube map, you’ll want to look at where you are leaving from as well. Most likely, it will be from somewhere in the center, not as far out to where the line actually ends, Ie: Edgware, Wimbledon, etc. In this case, you’ll want to see where your tube line ends and which stop that is. That way you know which direction to go. Each time you get in the station, it will say via [tube stop]. So you’ll need to know which stop is on your line to be sure you’re not going the other way.

We’ve confused you huh? Haha

Here’s an example:

If we’re at a restaurant off the tube stop Belsize Park (Northern line) and we want to go to Waterloo, we can see that the Northern line splits into 2 ways then connects again later. Since this is the case we have to see which one has via [tube stop]. On the northern line from Belsize park, there are 2 via’s. One would be via Charing Cross and one would be via Bank. In our case we would take via Charing Cross because that’s the line that takes us to Waterloo.

Here’s another example that’s a bit easier. Let’s say we’re off of Oxford Circus and want to go to Shepherd’s Bush (central line). When we arrive at the station in Oxford Circus, we’d have 2 ways we can go, east or west. In our case, we’d choose the one with the end destination of Ealing Broadway (west).

Make a little more sense? We hope so!

If you’re still a bit confused, we’re going to ask 2 little questions (1 easy & 1 hard) and you can answer it below in the comment section. We’ll let you know if you’re right and if you’re not, we’ll help out!

You’ll be an expert in no time! Whether you’re about to visit, you’ll be ready, or if you’re already here, you’ll get it down just by practice!


Here it goes:

Scenario #1: You just finished meeting a friend off the tube stop Sloane Square. You now need to get to your hotel which is off the Baker Street tube stop. How would you get there? Comment the line(s) you would take and the direction.

Scenario #2: You had a job interview off the tube stop Wandsworth Road. You now are going to get a lunch with a friend whose off of the Kilburn tube stop. How would you get there? Note: there are multiple lines and directions.

That’s it! Login and answer in the comments below and we’ll let you know if you’re right or if you took the fastest way!

Happy tubing!  :)



Extra tips:

A couple things to mention… If you can, try avoiding the tube during rush hour. YES, there’s rush hour on a tube! It’s pretty nuts. Lots of people and slower train rides. These hours would be anywhere from 7 am – 6 pm give or take a little.

Also, if you plan to be in London a week or more, we would highly recommend getting a weekly or monthly pass. Paying by the day or by the train ride is a big waste if you’ll be in the city longer. If you are only going to be here a couple of days, then at least get a day pass instead of paying each way. You can find all the prices here.


Travel tip shared by Erika & Sam