London Drum

London Buses: How to pay bus fares & Read timetables

A London bus

How much is a London bus fare?

It’s not possible to pay with cash and the driver doesn’t sell tickets, so you need to get hold of an Oyster card, contactless card or travelcard before you get on board.

How often do London buses run?

Buses in central London typically run every 5-12 minutes from 5 AM to 11 PM, and every 10-20 mins from 11 PM to midnight.

The most popular routes then have a night bus which runs through to the next morning (pre-fixed by the letter ‘N’). You usually get three or four of these every hour, but after 3 AM you might have to wait a whole hour.

Where can you get a London bus map?

From the TFL website – There’s an online map of all the London bus stops here:

Spider maps – If you’re looking for a bus map that spiders out from a particular location, like a train station or landmark, then you can look them up on the TFL website:

Key routes – This simplified map showing all the main routes is quite useful:

Where can you get a bus timetable?

Paper timetables – You can get paper bus timetables from one of the London Visitor Centres at Heathrow airport, Euston station, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, Paddington, Piccadilly Circus and Victoria.

From the TFL website – You can look up timetables by route number on the TFL website:

Download the TFL app – The official TFL app can locate your nearest bus stop and tell you when the next bus is coming –

How do you stop a London bus?

Bus stop outside the Royal Exchange

Most of the bus routes in central London are busy enough for the buses to pull up at every single stop without you having to do anything, but if you want to make sure that they stop then all you have to do is stick your arm out horizontally into the street so the driver can see it.

There used to be two types of bus stop in London. The ones with a red circle on a white background   (like in the photo) were called compulsory stops, and the driver was supposed to stop every single time without being hailed. But the ones in reverse, with a white circle on a red background were called request stops, and the driver would only stop if you stuck your arm out.

Unfortunately most Londoners never learnt the difference between the two types of stop so TFL instructed their drivers to treat them all as request stops. Both types do still exist, but you should definitely stick your arm out every time.

Note: It’s not possible to hail a bus between stops, but that doesn’t stop lots of people from trying (and some kindly drivers will even do it).

How do you get off a London bus?

To get off a London bus all you have to do is press a bell in good time. If you can’t hear a sound then it’s probably already been pressed by somebody else and become mute. Just look for an LCD ‘Bus stopping’ sign by the ceiling, or by one of the doors.

If you’re travelling outside central London then you might find that some of the suburban buses have ‘hail and ride’ sections. This basically means that there are no bus stops whatsoever, and you’re allowed to flag them down from anywhere. You can also press the bell and get off wherever you like.

Be aware that the driver will only stop if it’s safe to do so – so don’t expect him to come to a halt on a bend.

Are London buses wheelchair accessible?

London buses are very wheelchair friendly, and wheelchair users are even entitled to free bus travel (but not their helpers).

The buses are equipped with retractable ramps which come out from underneath the middle door. The driver will usually let some passengers off first and then close the middle door again. He needs to do this in order to work the ramp. Just wait patiently by the middle doors and you’ll hear an alarm sound and see the ramp descend onto the pavement. He will then open the door again so you can get on.

The wheelchair spaces are located directly behind the middle door. There will also be a bell positioned at waist height so it’s easy to press.

What’s the maximum size of wheelchair?

The maximum wheelchair dimensions that can be accommodated onboard a bus are width 70cm (28 inches) and depth 120cm (47 inches).

Are prams allowed on a London bus?

Yes. Prams are allowed on a bus if there’s enough space to accomodate it. If you have a wide model that won’t fit down the central aisle then you’re supposed to start at the front door, pay your fare, and then ask the driver to open the middle door so you can park it in the wheelchair space. If the space is empty then there’s no need to fold it up.

If the space is subsequently needed by a wheelchair user then you’re supposed to fold it up, because wheelchair users always take precedence.

How do you read the timetable on a bus stop?

Bus timetable on a bus stop

This timetable appears on a bus stop outside the Royal Courts of Justice. It’s very easy to understand once you get the hang of it. For example, it tells you the first No.11 on a Monday is at 5.38 AM and they run every 15 mins until 6.08 AM, and then every 7-12 mins until 00.24 AM. The last one is 00.39 AM.

Notice the little banner underneath the No.11 section which says ‘Night bus N11 please see separate panel’. If you looked at that panel (not included in the picture, but it’s on the same bus stop) then you would see that the No.11 actually continues running all the way through the night from 00.53 AM until 5.22 AM – but it’s called N11 instead of 11.

Most of the stops also include a little route map which shows you where each bus is headed from that point on, together with the time taken to get there. I have included the route map from the same bus stop below, so you can compare it with the timetable above.

Bus timetable map on a bus stop

Notice the grey line at the top which says ‘You are here > The Royal Courts of Justice’. The different bus routes then continue down the page in different colours (which match their colour on the timetable). You can see where each bus is headed from that point onwards.

So the next stop is Fleet Street, which takes 4 minutes, followed by Ludgate Circus, which takes 8 minutes. If you want to go to Liverpool Street then you’ve got a choice of three buses: 11, 23 or 26, which take 23 minutes. If you want to go to Moorgate then you’ve only got one: the 76, which takes 20 minutes.

Are London night buses safe?

Night bus

Travelling on a night bus in London is very safe, but it can sometimes be a little intimidating if you’re unlucky enough to get some dopey drunks on board. Just remember that 99% of the time they won’t mean you any harm, and it will just be a bit of drunken banter and them showing off to their mates, so don’t get yourself worked up into a tizzy for no reason. The best thing to do is just ignore them.

If you want to play it safe then always sit downstairs, close to the driver’s cab. You might want to take your headphones off as well, so you’re more aware of what’s happening around you.

Good manners and bad etiquette on the bus

Queueing for the bus – If there are only a few people waiting then it’s good manners to stand in an orderly line, but when it’s busy you’ll find that lots of people will just mill around in the general vicinity of the stop, joining the queue at the front or back, or standing off to the side, and nobody will have a clue who arrived first.

In those cases everyone will just make a beeline for the front as soon as the bus comes into view. It’s not polite, but that’s what happens.

Standing up – For safety reasons you’re not allowed to stand on the stairs, or the upper deck.

Giving up your seat – It’s good manners to give up your seat for elderly people and pregnant women, and this rule is generally well-observed.

Taking up an entire double seat – Lots of people try and hog an entire double seat for themselves by sitting on the outside, or strategically placing their bag on the empty seat.

Please don’t do this because it’s very annoying for the standing passengers! If you can’t make them shift with a stare, then a polite “Is it okay for me to sit there?” will usually shame them into moving.

Talking to the person next to you – There’s nothing wrong with striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to you, but Brits aren’t particularly comfortable doing it. Chatting with your neighbour is relatively rare.

Asking the driver where to get off – It’s okay to ask the driver a question when you get on, but not whilst the bus is moving. If you need him to shout out a particular stop when he gets there then some drivers are happy to do it (especially if you’re blind or partially blind), but others will just make you aware of the LCD display inside the bus which tells you the name of every stop as you get there.

Getting off the bus – You’re supposed to leave by the middle door or back door, but some people try and get off at the front. Some drivers can be a bit moody about this because they’d rather it be reserved for people getting on.

Thanking the driver – Drivers don’t expect it, but plenty of people shout out a quick thankyou when they get off. Alternatively you can just raise your hand as you exit the door because they’ll be watching you in the mirror.

Your comments and questions

Kim Maybe it's because it's summer and the weather is lovely, but everyone is being very nice to me today. When I got on the bus I found that my Oyster Card had run out of money, and the nice bus driver let me on for free! I felt very guilty though, and I was convinced that an inspector was going to get on any minute and catch me, I even got off a few stops early to avoid the busy stops. But thank you driver, whoever you were!

PHolden Often I have got on the bus when the swipe machine wasn't working and they let you on for free. That is one of the perks of having an Oyster card. When the machine breaks down you don't have to pay

Emmett I arrived in London with a ginormous suitcase, not a clue and a broken ankle. Whether bus, train, tube or taxi, I had grinning faces, hearty greetings, willing assistance and lovely chats. Fabulous experience last time, I am sure it will be this time too. A great city!

Fees Do you get cheaper bus travel if you are 60 and over in London. Thanks

Staff If you're over 60 and you live in London then you can apply for a 60+ Oyster card or Freedom Pass, which entitles you to free travel on the bus, tube and DLR at certain times of day. Most OAP bus passes supplied by non-London councils will be okay to use on TFL buses as well, but only if they have the red rose symbol on them. More info here:​transport/​senior-bus-fares.php

Wal I need only two single bus trips from Victoria to Holland Park. How do I get the necessary 'tickets' at Victoria station?

Staff Hi Wal. You can't buy individual journey tickets on the bus anymore. You either need to get hold of a travelcard, an Oyster card, or use a contactless card (your everyday bank card). Your bank card is by far the easiest, because you don't have to do anything to set it up.

Bill C Not knowing London and using the buses how will I know when my stop is coming up so I don't miss it.

Staff Hi Bill. An automated voice announces each stop over the speakers. And there will also be an LCD display towards the front of the bus (near the ceiling), or by the middle doors, which tells you which stop is coming up next.

RH Hi - I'm coming to London for a 3-night stay with just a small backpack and a bass guitar in a rigid rectangular case. Will I have any problems with this on the buses or tube trains ? I'm not expecting to travel during peak/rush hours.

Staff Hi RH. No, you should be fine. You might have to stand up because they get packed, but that's about it.

Ken Rhodes If I travel in Zones 1 & 2 mainly on the bus but once on the tube, which daily cap applies ? The one for the bus or the one for the tube ? Thanks

Staff Hi Ken. It will be the train one (which is higher). To get the bus one you have to stick with the buses all day.

jim What number bus do i get from liverpool st to tottenham count road

Staff Hi Jim. Either the 8 or 242. Both end at Tottenham Court Road tube station

Sheila Gwyn I'm coming to London from cornwall next week. Can I use my (senior) bus pass at all times of day on London buses?

Staff Hi Sheila. You should be able to use it on TFL buses if it has the red rose symbol on it (it should do). But only after 9 AM Monday-Friday, or any time during the weekend

Bec Hi can I get from Ealing to Kingston by buses. Years ago one went from Kingston to Richmond but that was the 70s!

Staff Hi Bec. The 65 still goes between Kingston - Richmond - Ealing Broadway

Jackie What number bus do I get from Hyde park corner to Tottenham park rd please?

Staff Hi Jackie. you can get the number 38

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