Tourist Guide to London Underground Etiquette

Jun 11th, 2008 | By | Category: Readers Contributions

Guide to London Underground Etiquette When you descend the several hundred steps to the London Underground you are entering a new realm of unspoken rules and ancient tradition. Ruth has prepared a simple guide for the newcomer to this strange underground land; follow these eight rules and you will emerge safely into the sunlight with your sanity still intact.


  1. Always have your ticket to hand – under no circumstances can you get to the barrier and then begin to search your pocket/wallet/bag/large padlocked suitcase.
  2. Always remain as close as you can to the person going through the barrier in front of you. This is so when they find themselves unable to get through (due to a faulty ticket, broken barrier or plain stupidity) you can tut very loudly to display the great inconvenience this has caused you as you shuffle backwards into the groin of the person behind you.
  3. Upon descent of the escalator keep to the right. However, if you are in a rush walk quickly down the left hand side. If someone is standing on the left hand side, stand behind them and go red with anger, but do not say anything. Conversations are illegal in the London Underground.
  4. When waiting on the platform edge closely forward but never push in front of someone who is closer to the edge than you. This is highly frowned upon and when upon the train arriving, the crowd may turn and you could get stampeded in the name of ‘fairness’.
  5. When on the tube, avoid eye contact at all costs. This is made harder by the fact you are not allowed to face outwards towards the walls. You must face inwards and find a permanent spot to stare at that is not someone’s eyes, bum, breasts, child or wallet.
  6. Do not speak to anyone unless it is absolutely necessary. This is mandatory unless you wish to be viewed as weird/drunk/insane.
  7. Do not eat on the tube. Especially when is smells nice (e.g. chips with salt and vinegar). This can lead to severe salivation and a feeling of resentment among hungry Londoners.
  8. When alighting from the train, pick a direction and keep walking, even when you notice you are going the wrong way. Stopping or changing direction whilst walking through the underground is the equivalent to stealing from old people in the above world.


If you follow these simple steps you will have a trouble-free yet annoying journey, which is how we like it here in London.




Ruth Shanley

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  1. Sadly I’ve got an addition:

    9. No drinking alcohol.

    Not really a rule of etiquette but a recent rule of law, as imposed by Mayor Boris.

  2. Fantastic Ruth…! So so true… I especially liked the bit about if your walking in the wrong direction… keep on going… I have done this on many occasions… sometimes even in the above world!

  3. Yes me too…
    I just go to auto pilot and follow the person in front of me
    and thats when Im sober !

  4. Brilliantly observed – you’re becoming a real ‘Londoner’
    My additional one is to always have my rucksack hanging on my right shoulder so it clouts all those standing to the right as I bound up/down the escalator !

  5. Great observation. I didn’t realise that everybody was the same as me on the tube. By the way I always stare at the map of the underground, but pretend I know where I’m going.

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