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Buses in London

Red double-decker (there are also single-decker) buses are familiar sights in London and a recognisable icon across the world. London has an extensive bus network comprising of about 5,500 buses covering more than 700 routes and 17,000 bus stops. It is quicker to get to your destination by bus for short distances but the commuter trains are better options for longer distances.

For sightseeing, the upper decks of the buses offer opportunities to see the many sights of London, which you would be unable if taking the London Underground trains. However, during the commuting rush hours, buses can get crowded to enjoy the view. The bus route number and sometimes letters are located at the front of the bus. Each bus stop will have a signboard indicating the location of the bus stop and destination of oncoming buses for each bus route number.

Single-decker bus in London by Baile24

Paying the Fare

You can no longer purchase a paper ticket when boarding the bus. You must use a prepaid card (Oyster Card, Visitor Oyster Card or Travelcard) or a contactless credit/debit card such as Visa payWave and MasterCard PayPass. Touch the card reader when boarding the bus but do not touch again when getting off. If you are using a contactless card (Oyster Card, Visitor Oyster Card or credit/debit card), you can get a free transfer to another bus or tram within one hour of touching the reader on the first tram or bus. Remember to use the same card for the second journey for the free transfer. The free fare will apply automatically after touching the reader for the second bus or tram.

Oyster Card by Frank Murmann

Operating Hours

Regular bus operations start around 6:00 a.m. until midnight and after the period, there are the night buses. Night buses are just about the only public transport available after midnight during the weekdays, since the trains would have stopped operating. The routes on the night buses stretch across London but the number of routes significantly reduced to just above 100. There are two types of routes on the night buses:

  • The 24-hour routes – they are the same as the day routes.
  • The N routes – they are slightly modified from their day routes. 

Fares for riding the night buses (after midnight) are the same as the regular buses and buses arrive every 5-30 minutes – more frequent on the busier night routes.

Night bus in London by Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

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