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There’s no shortage of ways to get around this great city. You can descend into the underground and grab the subway (known as the Tube to Londoners), hop on a bright red bus to see the sights, or hail one of the ubiquitous London Black Cabs. It's hard to find one of the old time "Routemaster" double decker buses since they have been retired except for two "Heritage Lines", but modern double deckers are everywhere and afford a fantastic view from the top deck. One of the best ways to see everything in London, however, is free – just get out there and explore on foot. Throw on a comfortable pair of shoes, pack your camera and a bottle of water in a bag and you’re off to create your own unique tour of London.
London may seem intimidating at first glance, but you’ll find that most of the main attractions are within walking distance. Start off at the London Eye, walk towards Big Ben, through Whitehall and end up in Trafalgar Square for an afternoon at the National Gallery to peruse all the famous paintings and sculptures on display. Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square are just a short jaunt away from there, and soon you may even find yourself wandering around Covent Garden, picking up knickknacks you never knew you needed from the street vendors.
Single fares should be avoided - these are priced (deliberately) expensively to deter their use. Using an Oyster card (or contactless bank card) is always cheaper. If staying longer than five (continuous) days then a weekly travelcard may be cheaper. Oyster is a delivery mechanism that can hold "Pay as you go" value but you can also have a weekly travelcard loaded onto the Oyster Card. This will allow you unlimited travel on the buses and London Underground within the specified zones that you purchase the travel card for. You should be able to see all of central London sights on a zone 1 travel card. However, if you are not staying directly in cental London, check to see what zones you will require. Buses are a good method for getting around and could be considered favorable to the underground because they allow you to see London as you travel. All London buses now have written and spoken announcements with the bus destination and the name of the next stop, and all buses (except heritage Routemasters) are accessible for disabled people including those in wheelchairs. Natives find the bus system frustratingly slow at times. The main benefit, however, to the bus over the Tube is that travelers won’t miss out on all the fantastic sights this city has to offer by simply being above ground. A good route for sightseeing is the 26 departing Waterloo (direction Hackney Wick). This takes in Waterloo Bridge with fantastic views of Westminster and the City, and then passes down Fleet Street past the Royal Courts of Justice, then past St. Paul's Cathedral and through the City to Liverpool Street. Get off at Liverpool Street and wander through Spitalfields and Bengali Brick Lane, which both have Sunday markets. Or try the number 11 bus: details.
The tube is probably the fastest way to get around. Its also a good idea to pick up a map of the entire Underground system so that you will be able to work out the different Tube lines. Maps are available free of charge from all train station ticket offices. If you have an iPod Touch or iPhone, there is a very useful app you can install with a map and route planner for the tube. It will tell you which line to take and which stations to change at. All you need do is enter which station you are starting out at and where you want to go.
A great way of finding the best way around London if you have internet access is the Transport for London web site. The site offers PDF maps to download to a device, and also a journey planner that calculates the best route, including the tube, bus and foot. Although not widely known, the TFL had published a geographically accurate tube map that shows tube stations and connections on the actual map. Also, TourbyTransit - London has transit information geared specifically for tourists with easy directions for getting to most of the popular attractions, parks, museums and theatres in London.
More tips (originally written for the olympics).
If you absolutely need to drive in the city, there is a free app to download called AppyParking to find parking spaces. The parking rules can be confusing in London but this app understands all the parking regulations and shows everywhere you can park in London, including free areas.