Tube Etiquette

  • Tube Etiquette Poll (from - lets you vote for what you most dislike, and see what others have voted for)
  • Underground Etiquette (a good-humoured approach from independent website Going Underground -- turn off javascript and popups before you visit, for the best experience...)

Why is tube etiquette important?

You may be suffering in a hell hole, sardine can of a tube carriage. But everyone else is too. Do you want to inflict any more discomfort on your fellow sufferers, than they are already enduring? What about them towards you?

On the tube

  • Try to wash first. I know that you will end up sweaty after a day at work, or a journey on the underground in summer, but it's worth maintaining standards of personal hygiene.
  • Keep your personal stereo personal. You like the music, but your fellow passengers may not, so don't pump up the volume.
  • Drinking alcohol on the tube is banned.
  • Don't leave any bag or bags unattended, especially since 7/7 and the state of heightened paranoia operating. This causes delays, and could get you arrested as a terrorist or a hoaxer. If you do see a suspect, unattended bag, pull the red alarm handle when the tube is in a station, and point the bag out to members of staff. See Tube/Alarm for an instance when I carried this out. --IvorW

Rush hour

When travelling at peak times, the tubes will be crowded, and consideration for others becomes more important.

  • "Excuse me", "Sorry" and "Thank you" go a long way to encouraging civilised behaviour, and in others around you.
  • Get out of the way, if people need to get past.

At the ticket gates

The ideal condition for a Londoner is to be able to remove your ticket from your wallet, open the ticket gate, walk through it and head to the platform without breaking stride. Blocking up a ticket gate at a busy time through inexperience is one of the most annoying things you can do as a visitor to London. Here is a step-by-step guide covering the main issues.

  • Always have your ticket out of your bag/wallet/pocket and in your hand before you reach the gates.
  • The big yellow sensors on top of the gates are for the plastic credit card-like Oyster microchip cards. Cardboard tickets should be inserted into the slot in the front of the gates, well below the yellow sensor.
  • Use the Oyster sensor or ticket slot to the right of the gate you want to pass through.
  • If you are using a cardboard ticket, after you insert it it will usually be ejected from the top surface of the gate, unless it is the last time you can use the ticket. You must remove it before the gate will open. If the gate fails to open and a red "seek assistance" notice lights up, take your ticket, go to the staffed bypass gate and ask for help. Do not try again and waste the time of the people behind you.
  • If you are using an Oyster card, the small light by the big yellow sensor should usually be amber. When you touch your Oyster card to the sensor the light will turn green, there will be a beep, and the gate will open. If the light turns red, your ticket hasn't worked. Try again once. If it doesn't work again go to the staffed bypass gate and ask for help, rather than fiddling with it more and wasting the time of the people behind you. If the light is constantly red, the Oyster sensor is out of order. Use another gate.
  • Once the gate opens go through it immediately and walk at least three paces before you stop to work out where you're going or put your ticket away.
  • If your travel agent has unhelpfully given you a big cardboard airline-style ticket, go straight to the staffed bypass gate and don't try to use the normal ones.
  • If you have heavy luggage, use the bypass gate.
  • If there is a queue at the bypass gate, make sure you don't block access to the normal gates while you're waiting.
  • Until you are absolutely competent at using the gates, if you have just got off a train, wait until the main body of people you are with has passed through before you try.

Between the gate and the platform

  • Don't stand in the middle of a thoroughfare, be it the top or bottom of an escalator, a staircase, or in front of the ticket barriers. Stand to one side.
  • Stand to the right on escalators. This will allow others in a hurry to pass on the left.
  • Obey direction signs on staircases and in corridors, although you may not agree with the one way system that LT have set up.

On the platform

  • Always allow people to get off before you board.
  • Don't crowd the same part of the platform. Spreading out will ensure everyone gets on more efficiently.
  • Don't block the entrances and exits.
  • Stand behind the yellow line. The space in front of the line can be useful for getting along the platform quickly, if you are prepared to take your life in your own hands (recommended for expert Tube riders only).

On the train

  • When the train temperature reaches the lower 100's, as is increasingly common in summer, people should avoid standing in right up against the window at the end of the carriage, as this obstructs what little ventilation the tube has. It doesn't take much to move slightly to the side to let some air through.
  • If you are wearing a rucksack - take it off and put it on the floor. You will hit people with it when turning around otherwise and waste space which could be used by people wanting to breathe. Don't put the rucksack or any bag on a vacant seat; use the floor or your lap.
  • Falling asleep on the tube is acceptable (provided you don't allow your head to drop onto someone else's shoulder; obviously a partner's shoulder is acceptable). If another passenger is asleep, don't wake them, unless the tube is at the end of the line: most of the time, they know what they are doing; many people have waking up for their stop, down to a fine art.
  • Offer to give up your seat to anyone who is obviously disabled, infirm or pregnant. Quite often the offer will be refused, but will lead to good feelings on both sides.
  • If there are no spare seats and you are standing for more than one stop, stand in the aisles, don't just hog the space by the doors. It may be harder to get out, but nobody will thank you for squashing into an already overcrowded space.
  • If the train is very crowded and you are standing or sitting in the middle of the car, start trying to work your way closer to the doors well before the train arrives at your final stop.
Last edited 2008-11-14 21:30:59 (version 19; diff). List all versions.