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In London an organisation called TfL (Transport for London) coordinate all public transport. One of the aspects of this duty is releasing the official maps and it is these that should be consulted.
When you are in London you will be able to pick-up hard copies of the maps at the various information centres. The most popular map by far is the London Underground map which you will find at most underground stations in dispensers in the public areas. These are free.
The home page for public transport maps at TfL contains links to maps to all forms of public transport bus, rail, underground, tram and river services. There are also special maps depicting which underground stations have lifts or connections without stairs.
However, in this electronic age the number of paper format based public transport maps made available gets smaller and smaller. Many offerings now are single route or district maps rather than the universal single maps that dominated just a few years ago.
The London public transport system is divided up into zones that radiate from the centre. Nearly all the hotels and the main sights are in Zone 1. Heathrow Airport is in Zone 6 and the furthest zone out is Zone 9. For the majority of visitors you will only travel in the two most central zones 1 and 2.
Some stations like Turnham Green are in two zones, you use whichever zone for these stations is most beneficial in working out your fare.
Finding which zones your journey passes through is a major reason for consulting a map, even if you live in London.
The London Underground Map is fairly simple to use. It shows the 11 colour coded Underground lines, and, importantly, which railway stations are in which travel zones. (This will affect the ticket price.)
A separate Night Tube map is available for use on Friday and Saturday nights, on selected lines.
London also has a large commuter railway network, south of the river, the railway is dominant not the Underground. The Tube and Rail map integrates the two networks onto one map and also includes the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) which though not strictly correct can be thought of as part of the London Underground.
In the last few years the railway lines have at a slow pace become more integrated with the bus and Underground networks and now on the majority of rail lines in London you can use Oyster and Travelcards to travel as well as being valid on the buses and Underground.
Paper bus maps seem to be being phased out. Where you could once pick up one easily from an Underground ticket office, this is no longer the case.
TfL offer two kinds of online bus maps - the simplified tourist bus map and the 'spider' bus maps, covering individual boroughs.
When considering using a bus map in London you need to bear in mind that TfL now present the bus maps as individual spider bus maps for different boroughs in London. Therefore in order to use them effectively, you need to know the name of the borough your hotel or attraction is in.
In addition to the individual spider bus maps, TfL also offer a simplified tourist bus map, with the routes colour coded (as shown at the top of this page).
This map also displays popular tourists attractions and interchanges with other forms of public transport such as the Underground, Overground and River Services. It is useful as an overview, to be used in consultation with the individual maps.
During the week when the London Underground shuts down, between midnight and 5am, a very good night bus service operates. (Additionally at weekends you can now use a night service on the London Underground - a 24/7 service runs on Friday and Saturday nights only.)
The link below to the spider bus maps will also give you night bus maps for individual boroughs - just type 'night' into the search field.
The route of the London Commuter Service is shown on the map (click to show PDF).
Ask most Londoners about the scheduled river boat services on the River Thames and probably they will know little of what you're talking about.
The service is there though and should be hugely attractive to visitors to London.
Step into any bookseller in London and there will be a wide selection of street level maps with all the sights marked clearly.
London is a very walkable city, people are often surprised just how much can be seen and how little buses and underground trains are really needed. Just pick up the one whose layout, weight and size appeals to you.
Online the most popular maps are probably Google Maps. Streetmap.co.uk is another option that is more like a paper map and may be preferred.
For anyone seriously interested in travel and maps, Stanfords is the place to go. Their flagship store devoted to travel books and maps is in Covent Garden, between Leicester Square and Covent Garden Underground stations. If you want a map or travel book you will get the widest choice here backed up by knowledgeable and helpful staff.
Their address is 12-14 Long Acre. Long Acre is the main street that connects Leicester Square (north eastern corner) with Covent Garden.
Stanfords also have an online shop if you want product delivered to your home.
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