Bus travel in London

Bus fares

London bus

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Bus fare zones

Unlike the trains, London’s buses don’t use zones. That means it’s exactly the same price whether you travel ten yards or ten miles.

Cash fares were abolished ages ago, so if you want to board a bus then need to get hold of an Oyster card, contactless card or travelcardbefore you get on (the driver doesn’t sell them).

How often do the buses run?

As a very rough guide most of the buses in central London run every 5-12 minutes between 5 AM and 11 PM, and 10-20 mins from 11 PM to midnight. The most popular routes will then have a night bus every 30-60 mins through to the next morning (pre-fixed by the letter ‘N’). Most of these night buses radiate out from Trafalgar Square – so if you want to find a bus after midnight then that’s a good place to start.

Bus timetables

You can look up bus timetables on the TFL website: tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey. You can print off paper timetables at tfl.gov.uk/travel-information. You can also get them from the Travel Information Centres at Euston station, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, Piccadilly Circus, Victoria and Heathrow airport.

Timetables on bus stops

London bus timetable

Timetables can also be found on the bus stops. This one is outside the Royal Courts of Justice. If you look closely then you’ll see that the first No.11 bus on a Monday is at 5.38 AM and they run every 15 minutes until 6.08 AM, and then every 7-12 minutes until 00.24 AM. The last one is at 00.39 AM.

Underneath those times is a banner that reads: ‘Night bus N11 please see separate panel’. If you looked at that panel then you would see that the No.11 actually continues running all the way through the night from 00.53 AM until 5.22 AM.

You can also see where each bus is headed from that point onwards:

Journey times on bus stop

Notice the grey line which says ‘You are here > The Royal Courts of Justice’. The different bus routes then continue down the page in different colours. If you want to go to Liverpool Street then you’ve got a choice of three buses: 11, 23 or 26, which take 23 mins. If you want to go to Moorgate then you’ve only got a choice of one: 76, which takes 20 mins.

How to stop the bus

London bus stop

There are two types of bus stop in London. The ones with a red circle on a white background (shown in the photo), are called compulsory stops, and the driver is supposed to stop every single time without being hailed. But the ones with a white circle on a red background are called request stops, and the driver will only stop if you make it clear to him that you need it. All you have to do is stick your arm out horizontally into the street to grab his attention.

Night buses are a bit different because they only stop if you request them, regardless of which kind of stop you’re standing at.

How to get off the bus

If you want the bus to stop then all you have to do is press a bell. They are usually situated on the side of the seat poles. If you can’t hear a sound then it has probably already been pressed by somebody else and become mute. Just look for an LCD ‘Bus stopping’ sign by the door. If it doesn’t say ‘Bus stopping’ then press the bell again.

Most passengers will get off at the middle or the back doors, but sometimes you will see people getting off at the front. There is nothing wrong with this, but some drivers can get a bit moody about it (especially if the bus is empty and there’s no one else trying to get on).

Wheelchairs and prams

Bus travel is free for wheelchair users (but not their helpers), and all modern buses are equipped with ramps underneath the middle door. The way it works is this: the driver will usually open the door to let some passengers off and then he’ll close it again. He needs to do this in order to work the ramp. Just wait patiently by the middle doors and you will see the ramp descend onto the pavement. He will then open the door again so you can get on. The wheelchair spaces are always directly behind the door.

If you have a big pram that won’t fit down the central aisle then you’re supposed to start at the front door, pay your fare, and then ask the driver to open the middle door so you can park it in the wheelchair space. If the space is already taken then the driver might ask you to wait for the next bus.

Interesting bus routes

Two bus routes that might appeal to tourists are the No.11 sightseeing bus and No.15 heritage route.

The No.11 is just a normal everyday bus that happens to go past lots of London landmarks on its route. Read Craig’s review to see what it’s like. The No.15 is an old-style double-decker bus, which might bring back a few memories of the old Routemasters. Craig has written a review of that one as well.

He’s also strung together five different routes into a marathon bus journey of four hours, which will take you all over London and show you all the sights. He’s also done a marathon journey by road, rail, sea and air if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous.

Ask a question

> Got any questions?

  • Admin – “That's right, yes.”
  •  Guest – “Hi - I’m coming to London for a 3-night stay with just a small backpack and a bass guitar in a rigid rectangular case. Will I have any problems with this on the buses or tube trains ? I’m not expecting to travel during peak/rush hours.”
  • Admin – “No, you should be fine. You might have to stand up because they get packed, but that’s about it.”
 

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