London Late Night Transport: A Guide to Getting Around the City Past 6PM

London Late Night Transport: A Guide to Getting Around the City Past Midnight

Staying out late in London? Know your way around the city with this handy transport guide.

London has one of the most vibrant night scenes among major cities worldwide. Pubs and party places are abundant and they’re the best places to experience a great night out in the capital. And with different modes of late night transport available, you won’t have a hard time getting back to where you’re staying.

Even if you don’t intend to party your nights away during your stay, knowing your way around the city at night will definitely come in handy! No matter how long you intend to stay in London, it’s good to know how the late night transport system works. Here’s a guide on the late night transport options in London coupled with some tips.

Night Buses

Image credit: Aubrey Morandarte

London is well-served by the night bus network with more than a hundred routes available. There are two different types of services as follows:

1. N-prefixed bus routes

Save for a few exceptions, “N” routes usually cover similar routes as their daytime “parent” services. After which, they continue their journeys deep into the London suburbs. For example, the daytime route 9 plies mostly within Central London, while the nighttime route N9 extends past the western suburbs before a final stop at Heathrow Airport.

Such routes are useful if you happen to stay outside of central London where you usually have to depend on the Tube to get around. “N” routes essentially cover the areas where rail systems don’t operate during the wee hours.

2. 24-hour bus routes

Basically, they are normal daytime routes that operate round-the-clock every day. Such routes are clearly indicated on bus stop poles with “24 hour” shown on top of the route numbers. If there’s a 24-hour bus route serving your neighbourhood, good for you! That means you could always depend on a familiar bus route at any time of the day without worrying about getting lost.

The types of bus services are clearly indicated on bus stop poles like this. | Image credit: Bill Smith

To be frank, night buses in London aren’t really known for their positive reputation in terms of passenger experience. Tales of rowdy behaviour and onboard chaos caused by intoxicated partygoers are often heard of, and buses can easily become filthy. Just picture a party hangover scene brought onto the bus and imagine its aftermath. You get the idea.

That said, most night bus journeys are uneventful. The infamous reputation is just overhyped by sensationalist local media. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t hurt to be extra cautious when taking the night bus. While onboard, you may want to sit on the lower deck towards the front. This is where you could easily catch the driver’s attention in case something is amiss.

The night bus scene that’s usually uneventful. For extra precaution, you could always sit on the lower deck near the driver. | Image credit: Eric Huang

Do check the frequency of the night buses. Depending on the routes and specific hours, there may be fewer buses running due to lower demand. While on the bus, keep track of your location. Every bus stop is announced on the broadcasting system so you’ll know when you should prepare to get off as you reach your destination. Try not to fall asleep on the bus! Unless you want to end up in some unfamiliar and far-flung area! As highlighted earlier, night bus routes can go deep into the London suburbs.

Night Tube and Night Overground

Since 2016, selected Underground lines have been operating overnight services on Friday and Saturday evenings. A short section of the Overground line has also offered the same service, catering to the happening London East End. Frequency across these several lines ranges from 10 to 20 minutes. Click here to know more about the Night Tube and Night Overground networks.

The introduction of such overnight services has brought great convenience to Londoners spending their weekend nights out. For those benefitting from such services, worrying about catching the last train would be a thing of the past. The Night Tube and Night Overground are definitely more attractive options that provide safe and fast journeys. They also come in handy for travellers who are catching outgoing flights or long distance trains early in the morning, as well as those arriving in London past midnight.

London’s nightlife is pretty much alive thanks to the availability of late night transport.

London’s night transport pretty much covers a wide area and it’d be good to know about it. You never know if you’ll actually need to use any of the night transport networks while you’re there. And trust me, you’re better off arming yourself with these schedules rather than risk getting lost in the middle of the night.

Also read: What to Expect When Travelling to London: Expectations vs Reality

About Author

Tang Wai Kwan
Tang Wai Kwan

Tang finds joy through immersing himself in a local environment, savouring street food and meeting new people. He finds transit maps fascinating and loves navigating through different modes of transportation. While on the streets, he's easily distracted by cats, and he often wonders if cats in different countries "meow" in different languages. When he's not travelling, he's often seen consulting maps and exploring creative ways of getting between places for his next adventure.


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