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How to use London Buses

London Bus Phone BoxBuses in London are plentiful and best of all, if you ride the buses instead of always taking the underground, 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.

Another big benefit of taking the buses in London is that, apart from the London Cycle Hire Scheme, it’s the cheapest way to travel around London – £4.40 per day or £20.20 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.

Timetables

Buses in central London run frequently during the day and you normally won’t have to wait more than 5–10 minutes. For early departures or travel at night, check the timetables on the Transport for London website. Timetables are also shown at bus stops.

Live bus departures

Some bus stops have a screen telling you when the next bus is due to arrive.

You can also find this information from the live bus departures guide on the TfL website. Just type in a street, postcode, route number or bus stop code.

Alternatively, you can download an app. Bus Checker is one of the best. It’s free and very easy to use.

London bus route maps

Transport for London’s central London bus map (pdf) shows all the bus routes superimposed on a street map. Or you can view a simplified bus map (pdf) here.

Paper bus maps

A free paper version of the central London bus map is available from underground stations. This has the simplified 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 buy a central London bus map before you arrive, Bensons London Bus Map and Guide for Visitors is one of the best.

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 have a smartphone, Citymapper is the best app to plan a bus journey.

London bus stops

To find the location of a bus stop, use the TfL Bus Map. 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.

A simpler way to find a bus stop is with a phone app. Bus Checker and Citymapper will find your location and show you the closest bus stop.

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 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

The following maps are useful for visitors:

Buses to/from Westminster

For Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
Westminster (pdf)

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 Tottenham Court Rd

For the British Museum and the western part of Oxford St.
Tottenham Court Rd

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 Marble Arch

For Oxford St
Marble Arch (pdf)

Buses to/from Baker St

For Madame Tussaud’s
Baker St (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 the 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.
Waterloo (pdf)

Buses to/from Southwark

For the Tate Modern and Bankside Gallery.
Southwark (pdf)

Buses to/from Victoria

For Buckingham Palace, Westminster Cathedral and Victoria station.
Victoria (pdf)

See also

Last updated: 18 July 2014