The Cardinal Rules of Commuting in London

As told by Jason and Federica.

If you’ve read our previous posts you’ve heard us describe living in London as a bit of a slog. Sure, living here is a privilege and we realize we’re hashtag blessed and all that, but London also has its downsides. Commuting in London is definitely an item we would put in the downsides column of our hypothetical list. Trust us, the allure of the iconic London tube fades in about two weeks.

It’s reported that 85% of London commuters spend two or more HOURS on public transportation per day. That’s a lot of time tightly squeezed next to strangers, so it’s not only wise to establish some ground rules, but it’s also essential to surviving the London commute on public transport with your dignity intact. Here are a few simple, yet crucial, commuting wisdoms we’ve lived by since moving to London.

Leo still thinks riding the tube is fun.


There’s commuting and then there’s commuting efficiently. If you choose to be part of the latter club, you are our kind of people. And we’re not talking about a simple stand right walk left situation, any commuting amateur can do that. To be an efficient London commuter you must do much more – you must always have your payment type to get in and out of the train stations ready to go. After all you wouldn’t want to delay someone getting into the office 30 seconds earlier! You must always move into the middle of the train upon boarding or at least far enough in to allow any others that need to board to do so without having to violently push their way onto the train car. Bottom line: stop being so self absorbed and respect your fellow commuters with efficiency.


There are written rules, like posted signs, and then there are unwritten rules, like being a kind commuter. Kind commuters are aware of their surroundings at all times. But the extra challenge is being completely aware of your surroundings while engrossed in your phone and wearing noise cancelling headphones that are blaring Snoop Dogg. This is a special skill that only master commuters possess. If you’re aware of your surroundings, i.e. look up and actually look at other humans, you may avoid the following abhorrent behaviors 1. leaning against a pole making it impossible for anyone else to hold on while the train jolts around 2. wearing the biggest backpack known to mankind and “forgetting” to take it off in a crowded space 3. refusing to step off a crowded train to let others off at their stop, thus delaying the departure. Bottom line: stop being so self absorbed and respect your fellow commuters with kindness.

Sometimes you see this on your commute in London.


There are moments during your commute when you will carry great responsibility. For example, if you ride the overground trains you could be THE individual responsible for pressing the button that opens the doors when you get to your desired station – think about having that kinda responsibility before 9am. Don’t forget that your survival depends on your ability to push that button within milliseconds of it lighting up – Karen has got to get to the office for her free toast and doesn’t have a second to spare. Bottom line is: it’s not that hard to push a button so respect your fellow commuters and be a good button pusher.


The London transport system carries millions of passengers every day. Don’t get us wrong we do think it’s an impressive system, but that thought mostly comes to mind when we’re on the couch writing this blog. It NEVER comes to mind when the train is delayed on the way to work 2 days a week. (by minutes, 7 out of 10 times) Delays are a part of daily commuting and we’ve realized that the sooner you get over it and just accept it, the better off you’ll be. Getting frustrated about delays for more than 60 seconds is likely to give you an ulcer. Really, our mantra is lean back relax and let the delays wash over you. Bottom line: bring entertainment – a book, Netflix, your phone with an extra battery pack. Stock up it could be hours!

It is great that the Queen, Megan and the children draw so many visitors each year. Really, we think it’s wonderful and living in such an iconic tourist destination has certainly made it easier to con our friends into spending money to come visit us. I do selfishly think there should be a written rule that prevents tourists from using the train system before 9am. I mean why can’t they go to Harry Potter Studios just 30 minutes later??!! But I do feel bad for the Scandinavian family looking lost, staring at the wrong map on the train, panicking because they cannot locate the station they need to get off at on the map. That family WILL be swallowed alive by London commuters. I won’t begin to describe the type of passive aggressive anger that darts their way when they don’t have their payment type ready at the exit gates. Bottom line is: be kind to tourists, they don’t do this every day

When you come as a tourist, be sure to go to the Sky Garden for great views of the city.

So there you have it – our cardinal rules for surviving the London commute. Do you commute to work on public transport every day? What are your cardinal rules? Share in the comments!

You Might Also Like

  1. Living With Corona – The London Adventure

    […] the way, our last blog post, which was written roughly four months ago was ‘my cardinal rules for commuting in […]