How to use London Buses
Buses in London are plentiful and best of all, you get to see more of the city. Some visitors to London are a little scared of using the buses, but there’s no need to be wary.
A great benefit of riding the buses in London is that, apart from the London Cycle Hire Scheme, they’re the cheapest way to travel around London – £4.40 per day or £19.60 per week for unlimited travel for the whole of London.
London bus times
Many buses in central London run 24-hours. If they don’t, special Night buses (prefixed with an ‘N’) start running after 11.30pm.
Buses are frequent in central London during the day. You usually won’t have to wait more than 10 minutes. For early departures or travel at night, check the TfL website. Bus stops also list timetables.
You can also check live bus departures on the TfL website. Just type in a street, postcode, route number or bus stop code and it tells you when the next buses are due to arrive.
London bus route maps
Transport for London’s Central London bus map (pdf) shows all the bus routes superimposed on a street map.
Don’t be put off! When you arrive in London, pick up the more user-friendly paper version from an underground station. This has a simple bus map on the back which is more useful for visitors. It shows the main places of interest and most useful bus routes in central London (zone 1). It also lists all the routes and their main destinations on the back of the map.
If you want to see a central London bus map before you arrive, Bensons London Bus Map and Guide for Visitors is a good one.
London bus route planner
To find out how to reach a particular destination, use the TfL Journey Planner. Type in your departure and arrival points. Scroll down the page and deselect all options except ‘buses’. The planner gives you the route number, estimated journey time and tells you where to catch the bus.
If you’re familiar with London, the Busmapper is a handy website to find bus routes. Just point to your departure and arrival points on the map and it shows you all possible routes. BusIt is another similar website. It has a mobile version – useful if you’re using a phone.
London bus stops
To find the location of a bus stop, use the Bus Map tool. Type in an area, a place of interest, a street or a postcode and it shows you a map with the nearest bus stops. You can also use it to find the bus stops on a particular bus route.
Each bus stop has a letter at the top of the flagpole. Look at the Destination Finder on the bus stop wall. If the same letter is listed next to where you’re going, you’re at the right stop. If you’re not, it tells you where to catch your bus.
The last stop the bus makes, along with the bus number, is on the front and side of the bus. Check this before getting on as not all buses travel the full route.
Knowing when to get off
This is the main reason that stops some visitors from taking a bus, but it’s really quite easy. Buses in central London have displays and announcements telling you the next stop. You’ll also find time estimates at each bus stop. And if you’re still not sure, ask a fellow passenger. Londoners are very helpful when it comes to giving directions.
If you do miss your stop, don’t worry, you won’t have too far to walk. Distances between stops in central London are not that great.
Bus routes to major tourist attractions
For bus departures from a particular locations TfL produce spider maps. (Click on the link that says ‘Bus route maps’).
The following maps are useful for visitors:
Buses to/from Westminster
For Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
Buses to/from Trafalgar Square
For the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, St Martins-in-the-Fields church and Admiralty Arch.
Trafalgar Square (pdf)
Buses to/from Piccadilly Circus
For Soho and Regent St.
Piccadilly Circus (pdf)
Buses to/from Leicester Square
For Soho and Chinatown.
Leicester Square (pdf)
Buses to/from Oxford Circus
For Oxford St, Carnaby St and Regent St.
Oxford Circus (pdf)
Buses to/from South Kensington
For the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), Science Museum & Natural History Museum.
South Kensington (pdf)
Buses to/from St Paul’s
For St Paul’s Cathedral.
St Paul’s (pdf)
Buses to/from Tower of London
For the Tower of London & Tower Bridge.
Tower of London (pdf)
Buses to/from Waterloo
For Waterloo station, BFI Imax, the London Eye, the Southbank centre and the London Aquarium.
Buses to/from Southwark
For the Tate Modern and Bankside Gallery.
Buses to/from Victoria
For Buckingham Palace, Westminster Cathedral and Victoria station.
Last updated: 2 January 2013