If you’re moving to London from outside the UK, you may already know of its subway system by nickname: the “tube.” Tourists and expats alike can find this endearing as there’s typically nothing much cute about a train that speeds through hot subterranean tunnels kicking up paper rubbish in its wake or popping plastic bottles on the very tracks that rodents scurry on when the trains aren’t around. This is the image of subway trains and facilities in the States, anyway…as a Chicago native, not even having a nickname like the “El” for our elevated trains could remotely make them seem more appealing. I’ll give it to London’s tube, though—its efficiency and cleanliness beats any equivalents I’ve seen in the States, bar none. I can handle seeing a little mouse now and then on the tracks versus the sewer rats I’ve seen in New York. Bleh. Station platforms and train interiors are cleaner. And just the people commuting on these trains in general are so much more, well, normal than back home. Just average commuters like you and me. Even the London Underground’s multi-colored tube map, logo, and famous “Mind the Gap” announcement have made their way onto T-shirts, mousepads, coffee mugs, and whatever other kitsch of your dreams.
Yes, indeed, there’s a lot to be said for the London Underground, a.k.a. the tube. And on relocating to London from the States a few years ago, I initially made it my sole mode of transport—likely because, also to its credit, it has an extensive number of stops, so can deliver you essentially anywhere from anywhere in London. But after a while you start to pine for the light of day. The bus can then become a preferable mode of transport that keeps you above-ground, though the arrival times can be hit-or-miss. I did, after a couple years, finally start taking the bus to work for a change, and it cost me about a third less to do so.
And it’s after three years living in London that I’m finally coming to appreciate the London Overground. These are truly beautiful trains! Maybe locals would laugh at me for saying that, but they’re air-conditioned, clean, comfortable, and provide a smooth and quick ride with a view outside—so nice for those longer hauls across this big city. Today, for instance, I cut my usual Underground commute to Hampstead (to visit a good friend) in half by instead taking the Overground out of a rail station just as close as my usual tube station. And the best part is you can use your Oyster Card for it, too, just like for riding the tube, so you don’t have to deal with standing at ticket windows or kiosks to pay expensive rail fares; just tap your existing card to the yellow readers, and you’re good to go.
This is perhaps not the biggest revelation I could share, but, honestly, using the Overground is something pretty new to me after three years already. So, I’d be remiss not to encourage those of you making the international relocation to educate yourself sooner on the Overground map in the event it could spare you so much time/transfers on the tube. Being aware of such public transportation routes is a key part of London Relocation’s services as well—our relocation agents will advise you on the neighborhoods to live in so you have quick and easy commutes to work, school, and other places important to your lifestyle. They can strive to find apartments that are in close proximity to a number of public transport options so you can get to know this city inside and out, under and overground. 🙂