Getting Around London During the 2012 Olympics

Be Prepared for the Chaos

London residents have been receiving warnings and advice from the London transport officials for the last few months. The city’s transport is not known for its efficiency at the best of times and the added pressure of the 2012 Olympics looks likely to send the city into melt down. It’s estimated (perhaps a little over ambitiously) that there will be around 10 million visitors to the city leading up to and during the Games. This figure is made up of around 200,000 Olympic competitors, who will be supported by their families, friends and training staff. There will also be around 150,000 people working and volunteering at the event.

You might need to be an Olympic weightlifter to push your way onto the bus, so you will benefit from knowing your alternatives.  If you are planning a trip to London to take in the Olympic atmosphere, or simply to see the sights, this guide will make sure you are aware of your best options.

London Buses

London bus drivers have been on strike because they believe they should be given a bonus for working during the Olympics. This is because they know there will be a lot of stress to deal with and a huge need for them to provide their reliable service. Although there will be a bus service to get you to all of the Olympic venues, many ‘normal’ routes will be diverted or disrupted. Extra buses will be added to keep up with the needs of spectators and will be trying their best to keep everybody happy. For their official timetables and routes make sure you check out the official London bus service website. And who knows, you may even bump into one of the competitors on the bus!

Reliability = 8/10
Comfort = 4/10
Atmosphere =7/10
Speed = 5/10

The London Underground

The oldest and most iconic underground transport system known to man, it’s also the most un-reliable and most expensive, but hey, this is London. During the Olympics, however, services have been extended to run for an hour longer than normal, finishing at 1.30am instead of 12.30am. Service will also start earlier than usual on Sundays, starting at 6.30am instead of 7.30am.

If you are planning to use the tube be aware that, even during the quietest times of the year, there are frequent cancelations and delays. It’s highly likely that the added pressure will cause the service a great deal of issues that simply, due to health and safety, cannot be avoided. Head to the official TFL journey planner and you’ll find route-specific updates, keep an eye on it and you’ll save yourself from wasting your time.

Reliability = 3/10
Comfort = 4/10
Atmosphere = 6/10
Speed = 7/10 (When it’s working!)

London Taxi Cabs

There are said to be over 20,000 of the famous black cabs in London and they are operated by the knowledgeable, famous London cabbies. These are the people that know the city better than anyone else and will make sure you get to wherever you want to go, in as little time as possible. They’ll also point out some of the local sights that you’ll want to see while you’re in London, so it’s kind of like a guided tour as well as a form of transport. London cabs are, perhaps, the most expensive way to get around the city, but it’s a fantastic way to see the old city streets and get a real feel of everything the city has to offer. Most London hotels will be happy to call you a taxi, or at least provide you with a phone number to dial.

Reliability = 8/10
Comfort = 9/10
Atmosphere = 8/10
Speed = 8/10


If you want to drive yourself to the Games, but are concerned about where to leave your vehicle, you should consider using one of the many secure park-and-ride services organised especially for the London Olympics. It’s worth bearing in mind that, although the service makes it easier to use your own vehicle as transportation, the roads are going to be exceptionally busy and stressful. If you get lost, it could end up taking a lot more time and money.  If you don’t know the roads of London well, why not consider one of the other, less stressful public transport services?

Reliability = 8/10
Comfort = 9/10
Atmosphere = 2/10
Speed = 4/10

River Transport Services

There is no better way to avoid the heavy London traffic, than to abandon the roads and take to the water. Many of the London 2012 venues will be accessible by boat and the River Thames offers some of the most magnificent views of the city. Admittedly, it’s not the quickest way to get around, but travelling on the River Thames is such a pleasurable experience, you’ll wish it lasted longer.

Tickets are available from the Games river bus, or you can buy them at the official site.

Reliability = 7/10
Comfort = 9/10
Atmosphere = 9/10
Speed = 5/10

Walking and Cycling 

If you are fit and healthy and want to get stuck into the action, why not throw on your running shoes or jump on your bike and power your way to the Games? The streets will be alive with Olympic spectators, and the occasional competitor, making their way to the official venues. You’ll save a fortune on transport costs and you will also get your daily exercise! There will be free and secure cycle storage facilities at all venues and make sure you have a London map, it’s too easy to get lost in London’s magnificent streets.

Reliability = 9/10 (As long as you’re fit!)
Comfort = 3/10
Atmosphere = 10/10
Speed = 4/10

Further Important Information

  • There is no parking for spectators at the official venues so be sure to make travel arrangements in advance. There, however, limited spaces for disabled visitors and these must be booked in advance.
  • Spectators with London 2012 tickets will receive a one-day pass called a “Games Travelcard”. This entitles the owner to free Underground travel in zones 1 to 9, the London Overground, Docklands Light Railway, Buses, Trams and national Rail Services.