Before venturing to London you are sure to hear about the public transport system between the classic black cabs, double decker buses, and of course the underground or more commonly known as the tube. When you first arrive in London with all your suitcases and bags it is not recommended you take the underground until you get a feel for where you're going and really know what you are doing! The first time using the underground is honestly a terrifying experience, there are so many lines going in every direction so learning how to navigate it takes a couple attempts, then you become a pro at it!
When it is your first time you have a couple options depending on how long you are going to be in London, where you live, and how often you are going to need to use the tube or public transportation. Once you figure out whether you will need a day ticket or if you want an Oyster Card you have the option of going to the teller (also depends on what time it is) or doing it at the machine. If you choose a day ticket then you need to be sure to keep it during the day, but if you choose to purchase an Oyster Card you have the option of topping off and keeping money on it, getting a weekly pass, or getting a monthly pass. And keep in mind when you have an Oyster Card you can use it on the buses, underground, and overground, so it is quite convenient! After you have your ticket or your card your voyage soon begins, you will see the entry gate, be sure to go to the ones with the green arrow and not the red X! When you get there you either tap your Oyster Card on the yellow circle, or you put the ticket in front where the large arrow is, once the entry gate reads your card the doors will open and you will enter the world of London’s underground tube lines!
Once through hopefully you have a general idea of where you want to go, as in what tube lines to take and which direction to head. Though if you are unsure there are plenty of maps and people you can ask to point you in the right direction. After you know the exact route you need to take you follow the signs and they will guide you to the right platform. Most of the time you will need to take escalators down to reach the platforms, and if you want to blend in and not anger the regulars STAND ON THE RIGHT, WALK ON THE LEFT! Then when you get down and have the choice between the westbound/eastbound or northbound/southbound platforms, but once again, if you are unsure there are maps that point out where you are right now and the different stations the line will stop at. It depends what station you are at, but most have screens that display what the next train is and when it will be arriving at that station. If you are at a platform that does not display what the next train arriving is, check the front of the train and the sides as they normally say which line it is, this ensures you will not be heading to the wrong place!
Once on the tube, it will either be completely packed (if you are traveling during rush hour, 8-9:30am and 5-6:30pm), partially full so there is a good chance you will have a seat, or it will be completely empty (which is a rare sight!). As the train starts to move a recording will announce the next station, what lines connect through the station, and if there are certain attractions such as The Tower of London, or Buckingham Palace. Until you get a feel for when the different stations occur, I recommend you keep an ear listening to the announcements just until you get your bearings! But if you want to listen to music during your journey there are signs that display what station you are at as you pull in so you are able to follow your path on the maps that are displayed overhead throughout the train. When you have arrived at your destination you follow the signs that say “Way Out” then as you prepare to leave the station you need to tap out if you have an Oyster Card or put the ticket in the slot then you are good to go and you have survived your voyage on the tube!
The best website to go to plan your journey when using the public transportation is: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/
They will update you on the services on the different lines, whether there are delays, and what buses go where, basically everything to understand London's public transportation system. It is definitely a go to guide to help you navigate around the city with ease!