The great London bus

Article reviewed: 2013/01/20 | Next review due: 2014/08/08

The London bus network is the largest and most extensive in the world, nearly 6800 busses are operating in the city during any one day, on nearly 700 different bus lines.

There is no overall map of the bus as it would be impossible to follow. The network itself looks like a spider’s web and you would have to zoom down to area/neighbourhood level in order to make it convenient to use.

The TFL website (TFL) also has a very good bus search/finder, helping you with buses that pass through a requested location.

Take the bus in London might at first seem a little like a test, but don’t panic, just use the route maps on the bus stop, make sure you’re on the correct side of the road (you don’t want to get on the bus going in the wrong direction!) and ensure you check the bus number before you get on it!


To pay, you will need to touch in with your Oyster card, or just show your travelcard to the driver. If you don’t have an Oyster or a travelcard, then you will need a ticket, but it costs £2.20 compared to an Oystercard fare of £1.30! Sometimes you can buy a ticket from the bus driver when boarding the bus, but for the larger buses or busier routes you will have to buy your ticket from the machine on the street where the bus stop is. Also, the bus is free for under-11s.

Taking the bus in London is much cheaper than taking the tube; For a week of unlimited travel it will cost £ 17.80 for just bus and tram, whereas for the underground as well (just zone 1-2) it would be £27.60.

Additionally, if you’ve just arrived in London, it may be a better idea to travel on the bus for a while so that you can orient yourself around the city. There’s nothing like discovering London from the top of a double-decker bus!

Bus stops

To stop any bus, just wave one down, but make sure you are at a bus stop where that route actually stops. To do this, check the numbers on the top of the bus stop and check that your route number is listed. In the more central/busier bus stops, you may also find a live electronic billboard advising when the next buses are due and how long to wait.

Once on the bus, electronic signs and a talking voice tells you the name of next stop. If not, you can always ask fellow travellers, or ask the driver to tell you when to get off.

Night buses

There is also a large network of buses that continues to operate throughout the night, 24/7. Night buses are marked with a capital N before the number of your bus. It can be a good alternative to the taxi. With most buses now having CCTV cameras, it makes it a safe means of transport even if traveling alone at night.

Tooltip information:

  • CCTV: Closed-circuit television
  • TFL: Transport for London

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