A Guide to London Underground Etiquette

A guide to London Underground etiquette - how to behave when you are travelling on the tube in the city centreI always dread my daily commute. The only way for me to survive it is to pop on some Music and get in the Zone. Although recently I have also started writing blog posts on the tube and this does help some in alleviating my discomfort.


If you are not a Londoner or are a hardcore cyclist you might not realise just how busy the London Underground can get. At peak times, commuters are rammed into the carriages like too many sardines in way to small a tin. My tip of the week: if at all possible, AVOID AVOID AVOID the London underground at peak times.


What makes it worse is that some people just don’t seem to know there Underground Etiquette. Granted this isn’t something you get taught at school and most of us have learned it the hard way by being thrown into the midst of the angry mob. So for some World Peace or at least Slightly Lower Cortisol Levels during your morning trip, here are my hard and fast rules of Undergound Etiquette.


Go With the Flow


The London Undergound Network is a Pulsating Living Being. Don’t Clog up it’s Arteries. No Seriously, don’t be a Clot. We are all trying to get somewhere as fast as possible. So have a plan, a mental one that is, of where you are going. 

If you are unfamiliar to the Underground and feel lost, don’t just stop. People will walk into you. Seek a quiet spot (generally close to a wall), get out of everyone’s way and only then try to orientate yourself. 

Never just stop at the top or bottom of an escalator, never ever just stop once you’re through the barrier. You will get trampled.

Always keep moving down the platform. the aim is to obtain an even distribution across all carriages.


Be Prepared


Keep your Oyster Card / Travel Card / Ticket on hand. Or use the spare time on the escalator to find it. Do Not walk right up to the gate, realise in a panic that you do not know where your ticket is and desperately rummage through your belongings. 


Do not wait until the barrier has shut. Lightly touch your oyster card onto the reader as soon as it turns green for the person ahead of you and keep moving through the barrier with a flourish. Be proud. You are a true Londoner once you have mastered this difficult skill.


Know your Left from your Right


If you are walking you should be to the left, if you are standing please keep to the right. In fact this is a rule that you can apply anywhere in the world. People will be sorely tempted to punch you or push you down the escalator if you are holding them up by standing on the left side. 

If you are in the unfortunate situation of carrying luggage with you, do not block the escalator with it. Any suitcase should remain in Front or Behind you, whilst on the escalator.


Know how to board a train


You are not a Barbarian. Wait for people to get off the train first. Put yourself in their position. Haven’t they suffered enough? So take a step aside and let those poor people out. 

Sometimes the train is so packed that one or two people will have to step out onto the platform in order to let people past. Remember they have precedence, so wait your turn. Don’t just barge past. 

Don’t fling yourself at closing doors. The next tube will almost definitely be there in two to four minutes. Aka don’t piss people off.

Finally you are not on the train until everyone is on the train. Keep moving down into the carriage to make room for people trying to board the train behind you.


Know how to get off the train


If you are getting of the train, don’t doddle doing so. Do not continue reading that blog on your phone or kindle. Set things aside and concentrate on stepping out of the train without falling flat on your nose. Always Mind the Gap.

At the same time don’t be that person who squeezes past everyone before the train has reached the station. Just wait. Chances are a good chunk of people will be getting off at the same time as you. Remember. Everyone always gets out. And breath …


Behave Yourself, Stay in the Zone


Whilst on the tube. Do not stare at people. They will not appreciate it. Do not talk to people or your friend. Especially in the morning, when most people will be in a dazed state, dreading the day ahead of them. Listen to some music, but not so loudly that everyone else can hear. Or read a book / kindle to distract yourself. Do not read someone else’s paper / book / kindle / text message. Keep those eyes to yourself.

Keep your Backpack or Gigantic Handbag between your legs. Do not create a trip hazard or use up valuable space above everyone knees. In fact try not to take any luggage at all. If you do, expect people to be exceedingly annoyed with you.

Avoid public affection (no snogging and associated noise allowed). Don’t groom yourself. Do not eat.

Do not force people to tube surf, i.e don’t lean against the post. Also remember: tall people hold on to the top rails, short people grab anything below (well not anything).

Offer your seat to the Pregnant Lady. She will almost certainly wear a badge to point out that there is a “Baby aboard”. Finally if a seat becomes vacant and two of you are entitled to it, make a great deal of it and insist the other person take the seat.



I hope this post has made you laugh just a tiny bit and brought a smile and some joy to your morning commute.



  1. May 24, 2016 / 6:59 am

    I think the public transport systems in the major cities of the world are in the same league and these tips would apply anywhere, be it the metros in Paris or Hong Kong, etc.

  2. May 23, 2016 / 2:58 am

    Having never been to London I find this post very helpful. I know how crazy the NYC system can be, and it sounds pretty similar. I’m ashamed to say I committed some of these faux-pas the first time I rode the NYC subway 🙁

  3. May 22, 2016 / 3:34 pm

    Great advise about continuing to move down the train until it’s loaded. This is a problem in America, for sure.

  4. May 22, 2016 / 5:36 am

    “If you are walking you should be to the left, if you are standing please keep to the right.” YES! I wish more people did this. Every time I fly back to the US, the first thing I always notice in the airports is how people don’t follow this rule.

  5. May 21, 2016 / 2:59 pm

    Once on a long layover in London I hopped on the Metro and explored a bit. One of the things that stood out to me is how many people were reading real, live books instead of staring at their phones like in America.

  6. May 21, 2016 / 11:18 am

    Two years ago I was in London for a week and I couldn’t believe the amount of people! Your guide is very useful (and funny). Everything helps to lift up a little bit of that stress of being stuck in the Underground during Peak hours! I’m not sure if I could do that every day tho!:)

  7. May 18, 2016 / 5:24 pm

    Great tips for navigating the London tube. My commute is in a car, far away, but I still recognize the frustrations.

  8. November 14, 2015 / 2:58 am

    This is very amusing and so true 🙂

  9. DandelionBlue
    January 16, 2015 / 7:34 am

    Haha. I think that is the one that always annoyes everyone the most. London is great normally, but not in rush hour on the tube 🙂 Thank you for comenting xx Dandy

  10. January 15, 2015 / 11:00 pm

    Great post! London can really be a nightmare at rush hour!! Love all your points – they're all so true, especially about *not* stopping as soon as you're through a barrier. Gah! xxx

  11. DandelionBlue
    January 14, 2015 / 8:31 pm

    London is such a big city with so many people. Most of us cannot afford to live in the centre where most jobs are. So a lot of people commute. It is difficult not to get stressed out which is why I always put some happy music on and just forget about everything around me.

  12. India Benjamin
    January 14, 2015 / 8:28 pm

    I've only ever had to go on the underground a few times when it's official commute time, it's insane how busy and stressed people get!

    India / Touchscreens & Beautyqueens

  13. DandelionBlue
    January 14, 2015 / 8:28 pm

    I do love being surrounded by a lot of people. And I will happily sit in a busy train or train station. Or even the tube anytime but peak times. But on a daily basis the London tube can be a bit much. Obviously I'm exagerating and just joking in the post. The Paris metro is a lot better. It is believe it or not more modern than the London Underground and bigger. I commuted for a year in Paris and it was more pleasant. xx Dandy

  14. Corinne C
    January 14, 2015 / 8:18 pm

    I love the hustle and bustle of undergrounds! The Paris metro has to be my favourite by far.

    Corinne x