Public Transport: Metro Vancouver’s Translink vs London’s TFL

You are excited to use your new Canadian passport that allows you to travel visa-free to 180+ countries. As you think about taking public transport from one attraction to another, you feel your excitement turn into worry.

Do not fret and enjoy the experience.

In this blog, I will share my observations on London, UK’s Transport for London (TFL) system, and compare it with Metro Vancouver, Canada’s Translink. I am happy to share that the systems are similar, which makes navigating London’s complex system a breeze.

Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square Near Charing Cross Station

Here are some notes that may help you enjoy your adventure even more:

Travelers need to tap their contactless card or smart card on a card reader.

On a bus, you only need to tap in at the start of the journey. For trains, you need to tap in at the start and tap out at the end of the journey.

Translink’s Compass Card and TFL’s Oyster Card are smart cards to which you can add money, so you can pay as you travel.

Translink’s card readers now accept Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. TFL accepts more mobile payment options including Apple Pay, Barclaycard Contactless Mobile, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.

In terms of public transport, Metro Vancouver and London are divided into zones.

Metro Vancouver has three zones. Fares depend on the number of zone boundaries crossed and the time of day. Bus trips require a 1-zone fare regardless of the zones crossed, time of day, or day of the week.

London has 9 concentric zones. These include Central London as Zone1 then Inner London and Outer London in zones around Central London.

An Underground Station
An Underground Station

Travel during off-peak hours is discounted.

Journeys across the Translink system after 6:30 pm on weekdays and all day on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays are considered 1-Zone.

Discounted off-peak fares apply to travel using TFL’s rail services between 9:30 am to 4:00 pm and after 7:00 pm on weekdays and all day on weekends and bank holidays.

London’s tube system is way more complicated than Vancouver’s Skytrain network. However, the skills you have will be valuable to get you from point to point.

TFL has 11 lines and 272 stations while Translink has three lines serving 53 stations.

While Skytrain stations rarely offer connections to other lines except for bigger stations such as Waterfront, and Commercial-Broadway, some of TFL’s stations act as a hub to several lines. Thus, TFL has tunnels that require long walks and several turns to transfer to the next line. These can be intimidating but the pathways are well-marked and transport maps are strategically available.

In any country and on any transport system, the secret is finding the best connection between lines or modes of transport.

London Red Bus: A Common Mode of Public Transport
London Red Bus: A Common Mode of Public Transport

The red double-decker bus is a common mode of public transportation, not just a novelty for tourists.

I have seen a double-decker blue bus on a Metro Vancouver street less than 5 times in a decade. However, in London, I see these compact, red double-deckers often. These red buses are real modes of public transport. Thus, they are a common sight on the streets of London.

The Skytain is installed in the sky while London’s tube system is mostly underground.

While the underground stations are not necessarily tight or dark, you could feel a different vibe in underground stations. I sometimes found myself shaking off the thoughts of earthquakes and other disasters.

St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel Near Kings Cross Station
St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel Near Kings Cross Station

Bus drivers in London are a bit more patient, in my opinion.

One of the heartaches of commuters in Metro Vancouver is that bus drivers leave at the designated time, even if they see a passenger is only five seconds away and is running after the bus.

I’ve seen bus drivers in London let passengers on a few meters from the bus stop when these late passengers wave at them.

Special circumstances may allow London bus drivers to terminate a route and dump passengers in unexpected places.

During my recent two-week visit to London, I experienced this twice. Once, a driver terminated a journey because there were detours and hardly any other passengers. A few days later, we were told to transfer to the next bus since there were several buses traveling the same route.

Big Ben Near St. James' Park and Embarkment Stations
Big Ben Near St. James’ Park and Embarkment Stations

Regular taxis and rideshares are available in Vancouver as well as London.

Of course, other modes of transportation are available. But these can be expensive. Also, using public transport is an excellent way of immersing in the local way of life.

Canadian Immigrant Story Vlog: Public Transportation in London, UK – A Canadian’s Perspective

Watch my vlog entitled Public Transportation in London, UK – A Canadian’s Perspective here.

New experiences can be initially intimidating. But, once you get past the learning curve, these can be fun and enriching. Using a foreign country’s public transport is no different.

Use your Canadian visa and enjoy life!

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