7 Easy Steps for How to Catch a Bus in London (For Anxious Travelers)

If you have high anxiety like me, you’re probably wondering how to catch a bus in London. 

For anxious travelers, navigating a bustling city like London can be a daunting experience. The thought of catching a bus might evoke feelings of uncertainty and stress, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. 

how to catch a bus in london

I’m here with a simple guide for how to catch a bus in London step by step, so you know exactly what to expect. By the end of this article, you’ll feel confident and prepared to navigate London’s bus system with a bit less anxiety. 

How to Catch a Bus in London Step 1: Plan Your Route

how to plan your london bus route

The first step to catching a bus in London is to plan your route. My favorite navigation app for London is Citymapper, where you can find several different route options for where you want to go. Google maps is good too!

After you plug in your destination, Citymapper will tell you which bus numbers you want and which stop they will pick you up at. 

How to Catch a Bus in London Step 2: Find Your Bus Stop

how to find the correct london bus stop

Once you’ve identified the appropriate bus route, it’s time to locate the bus stop. London’s streets are equipped with numerous designated bus stops, which are easily identifiable by their red circular signs with a white bus symbol. 

Bus stops are designated by letters (for example, stop J or stop X). Make sure you stand at the correct stop letter, because the bus will not pull up to a stop it’s not assigned to. 

Some bus stops may also display digital boards showing real-time bus updates, but Citymapper has a very accurate timing display, too.

How to Catch a Bus in London Step 3: Hail the Bus

how to hail a london bus

London buses don’t stop unless someone hails the bus at that stop. Simply hold out your hand and the driver will pull over and stop for you. If you’re anxious about this, it’s highly likely that someone else will hail the bus anyway. 

The bus may stop anyway if someone on the bus is getting off, or if it’s a crowded stop where it’s very likely someone needs to get on. 

Be mindful of the queue if the bus stop has a lot of people. Londoners somehow intuitively know who was there first, and they will usually board in the order they arrived at the stop. 

If you know someone was waiting before you, it’s polite to let them board first. 

This is rare, but sometimes the bus is so full that it will not stop even if you hail it. If this happens, don’t worry, another will be along shortly. If you’re traveling during a tube or rail strike, buses will be very crowded and they may not stop to let more people on.

How to Catch a Bus in London Step 4: Tap In & Bus Prices in London

how to tap into a london bus

Board the bus in the front next to the driver and tap in to pay. 

In London, you need to use a contactless card, Oyster Card, or a digital wallet like Apple Pay to tap in. Tapping in is your London bus ticket; there is no physical ticket and you cannot pay cash. 

Simply touch your card or phone to the big yellow circle card reader as you board the bus, and the appropriate fare will be charged. You only need to tap in when you board the bus, and not when you leave. 

Bus prices in London in 2023 are £1.75 per journey, and this includes a transfer within the hour. So if you tap in on your first bus at 10am, you have until 11am to catch your transfer to avoid paying another £1.75. 

How to Catch a Bus in London Step 5: Pick a Seat

how to pick the best seat on a london bus

You can pick any seat that is open, or stand and hold the rails if it’s crowded. 

If you have a short journey, it’s probably best to stay on the ground level of the bus. If you have a longer journey, want a less crowded experience, or want to see the views better, you can go to the top using the stairs, which will be immediately to your left after you board the bus. 

Usually the top level of the bus is less crowded and there are more seats available up top. Plus, the best seat on the bus is at the top: front row, top level. These seats have the best views and the most space! 

Once you get to your seat, you can follow your journey on Citymapper or Google Maps so you know how far your stop is. 

How to Catch a Bus in London Step 6: Bus Etiquette 

london bus etiquitte

On the main level toward the front there are seats for elderly and disabled people. You can sit in these if they are not occupied, but make sure to offer the seat if someone boards who needs it. 

Generally, Londoners do not talk to strangers and you can generally expect the bus to be quiet. Don’t talk loudly on your phone, listen to music without headphones, or have your phone on speaker. 

But if you need help, you can always ask another passenger. We may not speak to strangers, but we are all open to helping people who need it. 

Remember that London is full of tourists all the time. We don’t think you’re stupid or annoying – you are just as much a part of this city as we are. You can always ask for help! 

How to Catch a Bus in London Step 7: Getting Off the Bus

how to get off the bus

When your stop is next, press one of the “Stop” buttons and you will hear a “ding” that ensures the driver will stop at the next stop. Often this will already be pressed by someone else, so you won’t need to do it yourself. But if the bus is fairly empty you will need to. 

If you are on the top level, it may be advisable to go down the stairs while the bus is at the previous stop and stand near the doors holding the rails. That way you’ll be sure to have enough time to get off. 

Get off the bus in the middle doors or the back door (depending on the type of London bus it is; some of the newest buses have a door and staircase in the back). 

If for some reason the driver is not opening the doors, press the stop buttons again to signal to the driver that someone wants to get off (this has only happened to me a handful of times, but sometimes the driver just makes a mistake and doesn’t open the doors).  

Sometimes if the driver has not opened the doors yet, it may be a double bus stop (one right in front of the other, each for different buses), and the driver is just waiting to pull up to the correct stop. 

You did it!

Congratulations! You conquered your fears and you rode the bus in London!

How to Use Buses in London: Final Tips

Catching a bus in London may seem intimidating, but with this step-by-step guide, you can confidently navigate the city’s bus system. I’ve been there, anxiously boarding a big red bus for the first time. After a few good experiences, it’s now second nature, and buses are such an easy and cheap way to travel London!  

Remember to plan your route, check bus stop information, use a contactless payment method, and enjoy your journey. London’s buses are a convenient and efficient mode of transportation, allowing you to explore the city’s vibrant culture and landmarks with ease. 

So, take a deep breath, relax, and embrace the adventure of traveling through the heart of London on a bus!

Common London Bus Questions

Bus tickets in London: How to get on a bus without an Oyster card?

If you don’t have an Oyster Card, you can use a contactless debit or credit card, or a digital wallet like Apple Pay or Google Wallet. 

Bus tickets in London: do London buses take debit cards?

Yes, as long as your debit card is contactless! You’ll know it’s a contactless card if it has a silver chip on it. 

Is contactless cheaper than Oyster?

The fare is the same rate for both. But generally, yes, it is cheaper because you’re not paying for the physical Oyster Card itself.

To get an Oyster Card, you have to pay for the physical card itself (£7), in addition to loading money onto it. If you use a contactless card, you save £7 by not buying a physical Oyster Card. 

What happens if I don’t tap in on the bus?

The driver will not let you on if you don’t tap in. 

What happens if you don’t tap off the bus?

You don’t ever need to tap off on a London bus; you only need to tap on. On the tube you must tap on and off, but not buses. 

Bus tickets in London: Do buses in London take cash?

No. London buses only take Oyster Cards or other contactless payment methods.

Bus tickets in London: How much is contactless bus fare?

£1.75, which includes one transfer within the hour.

Do you have to press the stop button on a bus?

If no one else has pressed it and your stop is coming up, yes. It’s not guaranteed that the driver will need to stop at your stop if there is no one getting on and no one getting off. It’s always best to press the stop button so the driver knows you want to get off. 

What is the cheapest way to get around London?

Buses are generally the cheapest, but they can take longer than the tube. 

Can you buy tickets on London buses?

No. You can only tap on with an Oyster Card or Contactless payment method. 

How does tapping in on a bus work?

It’s easy! Simply hold your payment method up to the yellow circle and it will beep, showing you how much the fare is. That’s it! It’s simple! 

If you’re nervous about it, don’t go first, and watch the people in front of you to see exactly what they do.

Do London buses take Apple Pay?

Yes. They take any contactless payment method. 

Is bus cheaper than tube?

should i move to london quiz public transport

Generally, yes. But keep in mind buses will take longer if you’re going long distances. 

When should I press the button on the bus?

You can press the stop button as soon as your stop is next. Once you’ve left the second to last bus stop, you can press the button at any time.

What does the red stop button on a bus mean?

It signals to the driver that you want to get off at the next stop, so the driver will stop to let you off when they reach the next bus stop. 

Do you have to say where you’re going on London bus?

No! You don’t have to say anything. You can say hello to the driver if you wish, but most people don’t.
If you need help knowing where to get off, you can always ask the driver.

Do you have to call the bus in London? Do you have to wave the bus in London?

You need to hail the bus, yes. Sometimes the bus will stop anyway, but it’s not guaranteed, so it’s best to signal to the driver that you’d like to be picked up by giving a wave. 

Do you thank the bus driver in London?

You certainly can! Though you don’t exit near the driver; you exit in the middle of the bus. You can give a wave of thanks if you wish. Most people in London don’t but drivers always like being appreciated!

More on Navigating London

How to Travel in London During a Tube or Rail Strike

The Best Navigation App for London to Download Now 

How to Use Google Maps in London

Citymapper vs Google Maps: Which App is Best for London? 

The Best Viewpoints in London 

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