You can get anywhere in London or even England using its expansive transportation system!
Using the tube can be difficult even if you are accustomed to American subways. There are a dozen lines, each with its own name and color. Each train has a direction (north, south, east or west) and a destination station. The direction that the train goes is indicated by the final stop of the line.
It is important to note that some platforms will have trains traveling to different destinations. For example, the Northern and the District lines (not the only ones) have multiple end points so pay attention to the end destination. In those instances, you will need to check the overhead signs which will indicate where the next train is going. Within the train, there are also signs above the seats showing the next stops – if the next stop you get to is not the one you were expecting, get off quickly and ensure you get on the correct train.
There are six zones to the Underground positioned in concentric rings around Zone 1 which includes all of central London. Be sure you have a valid ticket, travelcard, or Oyster Card for all zones you will be traveling in on your journey or you could be fined on the spot. For example, if you have a travelcard which covers Zones 1 and 2 but want to go to Heathrow airport which is in Zone 6, you will need to purchase an extension for the travel between Zones 3 and 6.
London is famous for its red, double-decker buses that still operate throughout the city. These days there are a lot more single level buses, including the long “bendy buses.”
There are two different types of bus stops:
Compulsory – buses will automatically stop unless full. This has a red London transport sign with a white background.
Request – buses will only stop at these stations if you put your arm out and signal to the driver. This has a white London transport sign with a red background.
Late at night, special night buses run on many routes. Night buses will have an N before the normal bus number. Some follow the daytime routes, others have their own routes. Most night buses pass through Trafalgar Square and serve theaters, cinemas and entertainment areas after the tube closes.
You will see what appear to be antique cars all over London. These are called “Black Cabs”. Black Cabs (other colors too) are the most expensive form of transport that you can get around the clock.
Safety Recommendation: Always let your friends know when you have arrived safely.
Walking is a great way to get around London! Please remember, the UK is one of the few countries where cars drive on the left side of the road. Be sure to look both ways before you use the cross walk (zebra crossing). Also, don’t forget the walk button and little illuminated man are there to protect you, so use them.
The UK has an extensive rail system providing transport across the country. This is a good option for students wishing to explore Britain on weekends and breaks. For many journeys, reduced price tickets (with restrictions on times and day of travel) are available at great savings to normal fares.
Travel Recommendation: Off peak hours tend to be less expensive.
We recommend instead of applying for a National Railcard that you set the discount on your Oyster card after registering it.
Buses are a grand way to travel around the UK, though they are typically the cheapest form of travel they may take longer.
Travel Recommendation: Compare prices and travel times to your destinations.
London has six different airports! Some smaller, some bigger, some closer, and some further away than others.
Heathrow: You can travel to and from Heathrow by train, tube, taxi, bus, or coach.
- Train: The Heathrow Express is the fastest way to travel to Central London and leaves approximately every 15 minutes.
- The Tube: The Piccadilly Line runs between Heathrow and Central London. Although The Tube is one of the cheaper options it can take considerably longer than the Heathrow Express. There are three Tube stations in Heathrow: Terminals 1-3, Terminal 4, and Terminal 5.
- Coach: National Express connects Heathrow to Victoria Coach Station. Travel time can be anywhere between 40-90 minutes. It all depends on the route so make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the airport. Easybus is another service that runs from the Heathrow Airport Central Bus Station to Shepherd’s Bush and then continues on to Waterloo Station.
- Bus: The N9 takes about 75 minutes from Trafalgar Square and runs about every 20 minutes. The standard bus fare applies.
- Taxi: This is the most expensive way to travel. It can be anywhere between £45 to £70 to travel into Central London and normally takes about an hour.
Gatwick: Train, coach, and taxi all take you to and from Gatwick Airport.
- Train: Gatwick Express is the quickest way to Central London with trains running about every 15 minutes from Gatwick’s South Terminal to London Victoria Station.
- Coach: The National Express goes between Gatwick and Victoria Coach Station. Coaches run about every 30 minutes and journey time depends on the route and traffic.
- Taxi: A taxi is one of the more expensive options and we suggest asking the cab driver how much it will cost beforehand.
Heathrow and Gatwick are the two largest airports however, you may also travel in and out of Luton, London City Airport, Southend, and Stansted. All are accessible by public transportation.
London is a bustling city packed with things to do and see, but most students will want to explore the rest of the UK and Europe to broaden their experience. You can travel from the UK by plane, train, or ferry. This is easy and enjoyable to do successfully, and there are many services that can help you.
Here are some recommended travel companies:
Being abroad is an exciting time, and once you’ve caught the travel bug, it’s often difficult to ignore. Being in a new place often conjures up a sense of curiosity that entices you to keep exploring. Traveling beyond your host city is a great way to continue to develop intercultural awareness and challenge yourself to take on new experiences. We encourage you to travel internationally, but also suggest that you set aside some time to travel within your host country as well. This will add depth to your experience abroad and enable you to see a different perspective of your host country. While you may be eager to travel as much as you can during your semester abroad, keep in mind that you will have to carefully plan your trips to align with your schedule and budget.
London is a large bustling city full of rich history in every little nook and cranny. Yet, at the same time it is paving the way for the future as well in fashion, art, music, food, business, technology, science, architecture and so much more. Check out our CAPA London Blog and Instagram below to see what CAPA Londoners have to say.
In addition, read about the language divide between the US and the UK here:
Latest Posts from London
- 10 Sweet-Tooth Cures You Can Find in LondonAlice is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Computer Science and Marketing major at Northeastern University, she is studying abroad in London this semester. In this week's post, Alice lists 10 desserts that reflect the global tastes of London with a guarantee read more
- My Global City: The Greenwich Boat Tour of LondonAlice is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Computer Science and Marketing major at Northeastern University, she is studying abroad in London this semester. In this week's post, Alice takes us along on the Greenwich Boat Tour—a My Global City event—and gives read more
- What My Post-War British Pop Culture Taught MeAlice is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Computer Science and Marketing major at Northeastern University, she is studying abroad in London this semester. In this week's post, Alice tells us about her summer course on Post-War British Pop Culture and the read more
Latest Posts on Instagram
“Multiculturalism is the co-existence of diverse cultures, where culture includes racial, religious, or cultural groups and is manifested in customary behaviours, cultural assumptions and values, patterns of thinking, and communicative styles.”
Source: The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions November 2013
A Brief History
The first town of London was established around AD50 as an international trading post for the Roman Empire. Groups from what is now Greece, France, Germany and Italy made up much of the international population. Although nearly 2000 years have passed, London has not ceased to be a beacon for refugees, immigrants, students, and workers.
The latest 2011 London Census demonstrated London’s ever evolving nature. People vary by ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, socioeconomic statues, education, dwelling, and much more.
A few more statistics:
- Top Spoken Languages (other than English): Polish, Bengal, Gujarati, French, Urdu, and Portuguese
- Over 300 languages are spoken on London. Challenge: Count the number of languages you hear walking down the street one day. See if you reach 300.
- The average household size is 2.47 persons.
- The 2011 Census was the first to collect data pertaining to civil partnerships since they become legally recognized in 2005.
- Top Countries of Birth (other than UK): India, Poland, Ireland, Nigeria, and Pakistan
- 72 million London residents were holding non-UK passports in 2011.
- 67 percent of men and 56 percent of women 16 years and older were employed.
Reflect: Who do you think your neighbor will be? What kinds of stores, markets, and churches will surround you? What languages will you hear walking down the street?
Religion in London
In the 2011 census, 52.9 percent of people self-recognized as Christian, while 22.7 percent identified as ‘no religion’, 13.5 percent as Islam, and 5.5 percent as Hindu.
In addition, two of the largest mosques in the world are located in London! The East London Mosque with 7,500 worshippers and the Baitul Futuh with 10,000 worshippers. CAPA blogger Carly Wickham, from Emerson College, talks about her experience with Diversity in London.
In this week’s video, Carly gains a new perspective of diversity in London with a visit to a Muslim primary school with her “Islam in Britain” class.
People from Around the World in London
Home has a different meaning for each individual and over the years many people have immigrated to and started calling London home. See what it means to them.
Reflect: What do you like about your home culture? What are you most fascinated by with your new host culture London?
After Brexit, the below video was released by the Mayor’s office in London. See the message they are sending.
Reflect: Why is London open, and what does being open mean? Why do you think the Mayor created this video?
Oh the Food!
Food is an adventurous way to experience culture. Through immigration different recipes are passed around the globe with personal touches added in each location. With that said, imagine all the different types of food you can eat in an ever changing city like London!
“Especially on the weekends, the market is crowded and a bit messy, but it’s heartwarming to see everyone enjoying themselves, tucked into corners and eating out of Styrofoam boxes”
“The best part about Dutch pancakes are their snackability and their shareability—my friends and I ordered a serving of 15 pancakes and traded bite by bite until the plate was clean.”
If you want to read more about the foodie experience in London check out this CAPA Blogger’s advice on good eats: Plate by Plate: Eating My Way Through London-Part 2 (Camden Market)
Reflect: What is “British” food? Did you know that in the late 90s, chicken tikka masala was unofficially considered the “national dish”? What is the “national dish” of your home country?
Festivals & Celebrations
With so many unique people residing in London it is not hard to find a festival or celebration to attend that interests you. Burn’s Night, Chinese New Year, Holi Day, William Shakespeare’s birthday, Beltane, Summer solstice, Eid al-Fitr, Notting Hill Carnival, and Diwali are just a few that take place.
Fashion can be a form of self, cultural and religious expression. This is readily demonstrated within the community of London, in which individual attire may range from trainers and jeans, kurta and salwar, abaya, Italian suit, dashiki, or a simple cotton dress. While you may find daily wear slightly more formal than you could experience on a college campus, the way in which you choose to wear your identity is a personal choice.
Ready to learn more?!
At CAPA we appreciate the diverse backgrounds and interests of our students! We have compiled a list of resources to help you feel more at home in your new city. Included you’ll find information regarding major news sources and things to do in London. You’ll also find resources for students going abroad as an LGBTQ student, students with a disability, students who have dietary restrictions, and students who are wondering how their racial and ethnic identity may be impacted in their new city.
This is only a brief introduction to your city and all it has to offer so please reach out to your program manager with any specific questions or concerns. At CAPA we pride ourselves on our ability to meet individual student needs and go above and beyond to ensure we offer the best student experience abroad possible!
Major news sources
Location specific “Things to Do”
Religious Services and Resources
LGBTQ Community Resources
Community Resources on Race and Ethnicity
Food resources: Dietary restrictions
- Religious Sites in London
- The UK Church Directory
- Religious Services at The Tower of London
- Westminster Abbey Services
- Mosques in City and County of London
- London Central Mosque Trust Ltd. & The Islamic Cultural Centre
- Synagogues in London
- Jewish Heritage UK
- Temples in London
- London’s Muslim Lives
- What is it like to be a Muslim in Britain today?
- Sacred Footsteps – 5 Muslim Travel Bloggers
- NAFSA: Rainbow Special Interest Group
- Sexual Orientation Abroad
- Pride London
- UK Black Pride
- London Friend
- Stonewall, Acceptance without Exception
- Nomadic Matt
- Bani Amor
- Racial & Ethnic Minority Students Abroad
- 100 Black Men of London
- Black American Influence in London: An Overlooked History
- Travel Noire – Experiences of a Black Traveler
- What It’s Like to be Black in: London
- Walks, Talks & Films on the African History of London
- The East, East Asian cultural events in the UK
- BBC Asian Network
- Latinos in London
- Latino Life in the UK
- @TravelLatina on Instagram
- Students with Disabilities Studying Abroad
- 12 Study Abroad Resources for Students with Disabilities
- Mobility International USA
- Abroad With Disabilities (AWD) Facebook Group
- 6 Tips for Managing Dietary Restrictions While Abroad
- How to Study Abroad with Dietary Restrictions
- 6 Things Every Celiac Should Know (and Consider) About Study Abroad
- Gluten Free in London
- 21 Unmissable Vegan Places in London
- London’s best restaurants for vegetarian food
- London’s Best Restaurants for Gluten-Free Dining
- Eating out with Diabetes
- A Sugar-Free Guide to London
- Nut Allergy Friendly Restaurant Listings