London is consistently named one of the top tourist destinations in the world. New parents don’t need to miss out on all the fun as it’s an excellent place to travel with a baby! One of the many reasons London is so great to take your baby, is that it is so easy to get from place-to-place. Here’s all you need to know:
London is a very walkable city and you can walk freely with your stroller on the sidewalks virtually everywhere. A few of the sidewalks are narrow and are only wide enough for one person, but you will find the locals will always move aside to make room for you and your stroller.
Note, that while London itself is very walkable, there are some attractions which are not stroller friendly. For more info, visit our London: Stroller vs Baby Carrier blog post or pick up a copy our fun and informative Baby Can Travel: London travel guide.
TAXI’S AND UBER
UK law states that when travelling in taxis or private transfers, children under three may travel without a safety restraint in the rear of the vehicle if a child restraint system is not available.
If you plan on taking a taxi in London, you will have a choice to make. We all know that travelling in a certified car seat while in a car is the safest thing for your baby. Are you willing to take the risk of having your baby in a car without a car seat? (We wouldn’t).
Some taxi companies will have vehicles already equipped with car seats, but these must be requested and booked ahead of time. Uber does not provide car seats, but you can read more about taking an Uber with a baby or toddler here.
Transport for London (TfL) operates most of the public transportation systems within London. This service includes the Underground, the world famous red double-decker buses and the Thames Clipper river ferries. Given how walkable London is, you will likely use the Underground only if you need to go somewhere further afield.
The London Underground (also fondly known as “the Tube”), is one of Europe’s busiest subway systems carrying roughly 1.3 billion passengers per year. Its 270 stations are located quite closely to each other, meaning there will almost always be a station nearby. The Underground’s eleven lines are identified by both a name and a color.
The standard public transit ticket is good for use on all modes of public transportation and can be purchased at multilingual ticket machines at station entrances, tram stops or London Visitor Centres. The cost of a single ticket varies depending on the distance you are travelling – determine your fare here.
Children under 11 travel for free.
TfL offers a smartcard called a “Visitor Oyster Card” which is a quick and easy way to pay for public transit journeys in London. Besides convenience, this card has two addition advantages: the fares you pay using this card are cheaper than the single ticket fares and there is a daily fare cap in effect, which means you will never pay more than £6.80 for transport in a single day. You can buy one online here.
Having a map of the Underground will be important for trip planning. The TfL webpage offers maps here.
TIPS FOR PUBLIC TRANSIT
- Each Underground line is bi-directional, which means you will have a choice of two directions at each station. To know which platform to get on, you will need to know the name of the station at the end of the line in the direction you are travelling. There are signs at each station which provide this information.
- Use a baby carrier or very light weight stroller as you will be carrying the stroller up and down stairs. We took the Gatwick Express to the London Victoria station and had planned to take the tube from the London Victoria station to the Embankment Station. Taking the Tube with a stroller was difficult as there were stairs down to all the platforms. Our fellow passengers were very helpful though, many jumped in to grab the stroller and help us.
- TfL offers a Tube Map app for iOS and Android devices.
HOP ON HOP OFF BUSES
Hop On Hop Off buses are an easy and interesting way to get around and see London. Hop On Hop Off buses are double-decker buses which feature a popular open air upper deck. These buses follow a predetermined route through the city with stops at all the major tourist attractions.
The advantages of these buses are that they take you to many of the top sights in London and they give an excellent vantage point to view the town while en route. The disadvantage of these buses are that because they stop at all the sights in the loop, it can be a slow way to get around. Being efficient with your time is essential when travelling with a baby, so if you are concerned about travel time you may wish to take more efficient (and significantly cheaper) modes of transportation such as the subway.
The stairs to the top deck are steep and winding and as a result, you cannot bring your stroller up, but there is room to store your stroller on the bottom deck. If sitting on the upper deck is attractive to you, bring a carrier instead of (or along with) your stroller and also bring along some sun protection for your baby.
Big Bus London is a popular Hop On Hop Off bus. Children under 5 are free. Tickets also include three walking tours and a River Thames cruise. Details of their two routes can be found on their website here.