How to travel by a bus
Travelling around London using the iconic red double decker bus offers a great sightseeing experience at a really cheap price. It is the most cost effective way of travelling around London. Using the London Underground is maybe more straightforward and much faster, however, you miss out on the sightseeing experience as you travel under the ground.
HOW OFTEN DO LONDON BUSES RUN
Buses in London are generally very frequent however, during the peak hours you may experience long traffic jams mostly in areas of central London. Buses run every few minutes all day every day.
Special night bus services run after midnight. These buses are indicated with the letter ‘N’ next to the number, for example N29 is a night bus. Night buses do not take the exact same route as they would during the day so check the route before boarding. The cost of the journey is the same as during the day and oyster cards are valid.
People in London traditionally form a queue whilst waiting at the bus stop. When the bus is arriving someone generally puts their hand out to indicate for the bus to stop. Otherwise the bus may just drive pass without stopping. For this reason there are two types of bus stops in London:
(1.) ‘BUS STOP’ which is a permanent stop indicated by a red logo on a white background and the bus stops without anyone having to indicate or press the stop sign.
(2.) ‘REQUEST STOP’ indicated by a white logo on a red background and the bus will not stop unless someone indicates for it to stop or presses the STOP button (if inside the bus). It is common to indicate for the bus to stop no matter what type of bus stop it is just to make sure you won’t miss your bus.
When travelling on the traditional double decker (other types of buses are being introduced and these follow different rules) everyone gets on the bus through the first door. You will touch your oyster card on the card reader situated next to the driver’s window (cash or tickets are no longer accepted on London buses you must use an oyster card or contactless card). Once you touch your card on the reader you will hear a single beep sound and you can briefly see how much money has been deducted and how much is still remaining on your card. This information flashes very quickly so you must keep your eyes on the reader if you want to see this. If there is a problem with your card, it could be because it is invalid or you haven’t got enough credit. You will still be able to make that journey but a paper ticket will come out to tell you that you have been charged an emergency fare and cannot use your oyster unless you top up first. You will still be able to make that journey but must top up before your next one.
The lower deck of the bus is generally for elderly or people with luggage, pushchairs, wheelchairs, disabled, small children or anyone who may find it difficult to walk upstairs. It is not permitted to be standing on the upper deck of the bus.
HOW TO GET OFF THE BUS
You will generally have to press the ‘STOP’ button prior to your stop. If you do not press the button and there is no one waiting for the bus at the bus stop, the bus will likely drive past your stop. If you press the button you will hear a bell sound and the ‘STOPPING’ sign will light up usually at the front of the bus when on the upper deck or near the driver when on the lower deck. The bell only has to be pressed once so if someone else presses ‘stop’ you will not have to do it again. If you are not sure about where to get off you can ask the driver. They are usually helpful and will let you know when your stop is coming up.
Not all buses in London are the famous iconic double deckers. All doors can be used to get on the small bus and not just the first door as it is customary on the double decker. You will have to touch your oyster card on the oyster card reader as soon as you get on the bus. Number of card readers are always available on small buses.
Another type of bus that has recently been re-introduced in London is the hop on double decker which means the back of the bus is without doors available for you to hop on. Be safe and never try to get on the bus unless it has stopped moving!
Ticket officers in plain clothes often ride on these buses checking people’s oysters. They carry a card reader where you tap your oyster card and the reader indicates whether you have touched your oyster for the journey or not.
Travelling without touching your oyster card on the reader or without one at all is likely to result in high penalties!
1. ‘Bus’ is an abbreviation of ‘omnibus’, the Latin for ‘for all’
2. The word ‘omnibus’ was first recorded in English in 1829. ‘Bus’ first appeared in 1832.
3. Before 1907, buses were painted in different colours to signify their route.
4. The city’s first omnibus service was recorded in 1829. The omnibus carried 22 people and was pulled by three horses.
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