Of the big cities, London is our favorite. So far, most of our travelling within the city we have done on the tube. It is the fastest way to get from A to B, and a small tube map was always our best helper. Lately, however, we have taken to the streets rather than the tunnels.
The only bus we usually took was the 94, taking us from Shepherd’s Bush to city center, passing along Hyde Park and plowing its way through the congested Oxford Street, chasing taxis and hordes of shoppers and tourists, mainly shopping tourists.
But now it is much more than the 94. Now we are bus travelers. Now we have more time to spend because our London trips as pensioners are longer. And now the roaming costs for data are about to be eliminated. At least this is true for the Norwegian phone providers. Because it is a European rule it does of course not apply for Switzerland.
And why are the roaming costs important? Because instead of the London tube map our best helper nowadays is “tfl.gov.uk”, the website of Transport of London. It takes you from door to door. You can choose the fastest connection, the trip with the fewest changes. You can choose to travel by train, tube, bus, ship etc. Our favorite is: Only buses, especially if you can ride on a classic double decker on the upper level. Then the ride becomes as important as the place you are heading for. You see the parks and the pubs, the old Victorian buildings and fancy big windowed new flats, the High Streets with their international brand shops and some narrow lanes with the odd yarn shop you would never have found otherwise.
The buses were introduced to London in the early 19th Century, but it needed a tool like the TFL website to make it useful for us tourists. Because the London bus routes are not easy to understand. A few figures might tell you why: In March 2017 there are 675 bus routes, around 9300 vehicles (I could not find the number of drivers) and over 19’000 stops. 95 per cent of these are accessible for wheelchairs, and for each stop you can get realtime bus arrival information on your mobile. But the most astonishing figure is this: 90 per cent of the Londoners live within 400 meters of a bus stop. On our last stay in an AirBnB in London we had a stop outside the door, with direct routes to Victoria, to the ground of the favorite football club, to the house of one of our friends across town.
Our tip for your next stay in London: Take a little bit more time and change to a phone provider that has already dropped roaming charges for data (or buy a local British sim card) and save this URL: tfl.gov.uk.