Tube Etiquette: An OE in London

Last updated 05:00 01/06/2013
Student Flights

LONDON CALLING: Most Kiwis travel to London for their big OE. Survival tips are essential.

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While seasoned public transport users will be aware of the dangers of crossing the safety lines, drinking alcohol or leaving luggage unattended, some of us Kiwis might be a little unsure about best practices - given our limited use of public transport.  

With thousands of Kiwis taking off to London every year, Student Flights compiled ten tips of tube etiquette.

Keep right and give way
The most important rule of all, if you're not in a hurry, keep to the right when you're navigating the escalators leading to or from the platform and leave the left side free for overtakers.

When it's time to get on your train, entering a packed Tube carriage is similar to entering a roundabout - give way to avoid chaos.

For a basic guideline, you have right of way when you're getting off, ahead of the people who are getting on. When you're 'boarding' the train, stand to the side of the doors to allow those exiting to make a quick getaway.

Space Invasion
Let's face it, in a packed peak-hour carriage there isn't much personal space, and no one likes a stranger's smelly armpit in their face.

Be aware of the lack of arm room and be courteous to your fellow travellers. Avoid wild hand gestures and actions at all costs - remember, it's always funny until someone loses an eye.

If you're lucky enough to have a seat, resist the temptation to read over a neighbour's shoulder or help them with their crossword.

And chances are you will need to reach for the hand rail at some point during your journey, so make sure you smell your absolute best.

You might think your back is the obvious place to keep your backpack when travelling.


Remove your backpack and keep it at your feet. With your backpack in its normal travel position, you're likely to wipe out a fellow commuter if you make any sudden movement.

Quiet please
You might not be at Wimbledon's Centre Court but some similar rules do apply on the Tube.

Just like on a bus, fellow passengers don't tend to take too kindly to loud music, mobile phones or even an animated conversation.

Rather than developing personal relationships underground, tube passengers are advised to adopt the same tactics to those who are confronted by bears in the wilds of North America - be aware of what's going on around you but don't make direct eye contact.

Break free from the masses
When you're waiting for your train, try moving to the ends of the platform to avoid the longest queues.

Commuters tend to crowd near the main arrival points at the platform, leaving prime Tube real estate vacant near the front and rear.

Should I give up my seat?
Ladies, don't expect men to automatically give up their seats for you - just like at home, it rarely happens.

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Common courtesy would suggest that you offer your seat to mothers travelling with babies, pregnant women, elderly passengers or those with disabilities.

People aren't actually Sardines
Unless you're trying to enter the Guinness Book of Records, don't try to squeeze into an overcrowded carriage at all costs.

When tubes are at their busiest, services tend to be fairly regular, so do everyone a favour and simply wait for the next train.

He who hesitates, creates a human traffic jam
Everyone's in a hurry to get in or out of the tube station and if you hesitate at the gates or slow traffic movement, you will quickly create a commuter traffic jam.

When you're heading for the gates, have your ticket or pass ready so you can escape swiftly and seamlessly. If you do need to stop, move well away from the entrance or exit to avoid being wiped out.

Hunger pangs?
No matter how many times it's said, someone always breaks the rules. Yes it might be close to dinner time and you might be starving, but it's a confined space so think of your fellow travellers before you crack open that can of tuna that you've been storing in your backpack.

Preparation is the Key
It's not all about Tube etiquette - there are certain tactics that can be adopted to make your trip easier.

Seasoned Tube travellers say it's best to always carry a mini-guide so you can find an alternative route if authorities close the line you're travelling on.

Lastly, if you're travelling for three or more days in the city, buy an Oyster card. The cards can be cheaper than daily travelcards and, in some cases, can be used for travel to the airport.

Student Flights has oneway airfares to London from $1,419 ex Auckland, per person.

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