London Underground, or Tube, system is not as complicated as it may seem at the first glance. In fact, it is convenient and one of the best ways for transportation in London. There are several key things to know.
London Underground Zones
London Tube has 9 zones. The price of your journey depends on how far you travel. Please see London Underground map with zones to get an idea what the zones are.
Most attractions and sightseeing is within Zones 1 and 2. London Heathrow airport is Zone 6, if you are not taking Heathrow Express and getting to/from airport by Underground.
Take a note what your zones are because the further the travel zone, the more expensive the ticket is. No need to purchase Zone-6 ticket if you will only be staying in Central London.
Single and return paper tickets - single is a one-way ticket for one ride within the zone of your choice. A return ticket allows 2 trips (one each way). For example, zone 1-2 single ticket will cost £4.80 (one way), and way less with Oyster card (please see below).
Travelcards - this type of ticket allows travel not only on Tube, DLR and London Overground, but also buses and National Rail (does not include Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect and Gatwick Express). Same zones system apply. Travelcards can be purchased for 1 day (peak and off-peak), 7 days, 1 month and 1 year.
Daily ticket - take as many trips as you need during one day, within the zones of your choice. These are also for peak and off-peak times. The trips cost will be capped: for example, Zone 1-2 Daily ticket for an Adult is £6.40. Accepted on Tube, DLR and London Overground.
You can purchase tickets from machines at Underground stations or at a window where an Underground employee will assist you with purchasing the right tickets. If you are not sure what ticket to choose, just tell the person at the window where you need to go to, how many trips you need and if you plan to travel during peak or off-peak hours.
Oyster cards - pay as you go
Oyster cards are the right thing to have if you plan to travel a lot by Tube during your visit to London. Oyster is also called "Pay as you go" card: you need to deposit funds to your Oyster card and ticket prices will be extracted as you make a trip.
To give you an idea, a Zone 1-2 Single Ride ticket for an Adult is £2.90 peak and £2.30 off-peak, versus £4.80 if you pay cash for a Single-ride ticket. Oyster Card is accepted on Tube, DLR, London Overground, and most National Rail services in London.
For current fares, please visit TFL (Transport for London) website.
Read more about Oyster card: where to buy, how to deposit funds etc.
London Underground peak times are Monday through Friday from 06:30 to 09:29 and 16:00 to 18:59. Weekends, public holidays are considered off-peak.