The London Underground is one of the most convenient ways to get around in, well, London. The name sounds like some shady underground club, doesn't it? Or at least a friend alluded to it after hearing me say, about a dozen times, that I was going underground. This discussion is not going to reach those levels of excitement!
The London Underground, also known as the tube, is a rapid transit system serving London and some neighbouring counties. Other cities around the world have something similar, like Shanghai's Metro or New York City's Subway.
Serving 270 stations and covering about 402 kilometres, the underground is convenient and helps avoid that pesky thing called traffic. And despite its name, the underground does not run entirely through underground tunnels. More than 50% of the miles covered by the system is above ground. However, that's a discussion for another day.
Stumbling on the tube for the very first time can be daunting, especially during rush hour. Between the pushing and shoving, it can feel a little like the hunger games but don't worry, we are an apologetic bunch. Worst of all, it may feel like there are unwritten rules which everyone understands except you, so we drew up a little guide to help you through your very first time.
1. Don't stand on the left-hand side of the escalators
As people enter and leave the station, standing on the left side of the escalators will get you a few grunts and annoyed looks. Everyone knows that standers stand on the right and the left side is reserved for those who want to walk up the escalators. Don't be the reason someone misses their connection! Of course, a minute is not going to make a difference but let us live in our commuter's bubble and believe whatever we want!
2. Don't jump the queue
We are British after all... what else are we known for, if not for forming and respecting a good queue? Yes, even at the height of early morning rush hour, while everyone is rushing to get to work, you'll find us forming a queue as we wait for the next train and jumping the queue is, well, discourteous.
3. Do travel outside of rush hour if you can.
Many of the busy stations have their rush hour hours listed (7.30 AM - 9.30 AM & 16:00 PM — 18:30 PM), so if you can avoid travelling at those times then do so.
4. Don't rush to get on board.
Let passengers disembark first before getting on the train.
5. Do take off your backpack
Tuck your backpack between your legs as you stand on the train. Carrying a backpack on your back takes much needed room. Make no mistake, that side-eye that you think is intended for the person behind you is really for you!
6. Do stand up if required
Be prepared to give up your seat for someone with a baby on board badge, the elderly, or someone unable to stand. It's the polite thing to do! You might not even have to, as it often seems like a race of who can offer their seat first.
7. Don't try to make conversation
Most Londoners wear headphones/earphones for a reason. A gentle nod or polite smile is the most you're going to get out of anyone. Silence is golden, so honour that unspoken rule about peace and quiet. Having said that, we are more than happy to help someone in need. Conversating for the sake of making conversation is not on the agenda.
8. Do not eat hot food
We say hot food and that's only due to the associated aroma which will travel down the carriage. Be considerate and leave garlic, blue cheese and jackfruit tossed foods at home!
9. Don't lean on the doors of the train
Have you ever been on the train and then it suddenly jerks forward, throwing everyone forward with it? Suddenly, the speed of the train decreases and it comes to a halt. If you have been on the tube at least five times at rush hour, you know the feeling. "Don't put your weight on the doors," the driver warns. "If the train thinks the doors are open or opening, it will come to a halt." Yep, we have all been a victim of it, in one way or the other— or caught in a train held by a red signal due to the train ahead having issues.
10. Do get off the train to let others off
Sometimes getting off a crowded train can feel like you need to be a gymnast to jump over everyone. If there's no way out, make way by getting off the train. You'll still be able to make it back on the train, we really are that courteous. If anything, another train will be there in the next 1-5 minutes depending on the line.
11. Do take a seat if one is available
Standing can overcrowd a train, so if there's a seat near you, take it and make room for others to get on. Standing when there's a seat available makes for unnecessary congestion.
12. Do have your ticket/oyster ready
There's nothing worse than someone getting to the turnstile and realising that they need to get their ticket/oyster out of their bag. As you know by now, we will queue behind you. Having your ticket ready helps everyone move around much faster!
As we said before, don't be the reason someone misses their connection!
Now you're ready to take your first trip!
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A week of fun and games, introducing the @AmbassadorsUK profile to the rest of the world! Feel free to jump in and get involved, this is definitely a case of the more the merrier!