Public transportation. For many, the habits of stepping on to a train or catching a bus are all too familiar activities in their daily lives. Growing up in central Montana, I must admit that my experience with finding my ways through a metropolitan area were somewhat limited to say the least. While it may not seem like one of the big challenges of a new place, navigating a new city like a local doesn’t come easily. After deciding to study abroad at the University of Reading in Reading, England, I gradually acquired insight into the routes connecting my university to London.
A large town, Reading is approximately 45 miles from central London. Within a few days of arriving at the campus, I embarked on my first adventure, a journey to England’s capital, and was rewarded with a visit to Buckingham Palace.
To begin my journey, I rode the city bus that travels from the University of Reading to the local train station. I received a bus pass during the school’s orientation week, and by going online, I could pay for the rides on my pass in advance.
After my ten minute bus ride, I entered Reading Station and picked up my prepaid ticket. I remembered to purchase a ticket online the day before for a train that left outside of the “peak hours”–the times when there are the greatest amount of commuters. Tickets are considerably cheaper when traveling during off-peak hours. Thirty minutes later, I arrived at Paddington Station where I had access to yet more connections to the sites of London.
Once the train stopped at Paddington, I weaved my way through the crowds and confronted London’s famous underground train system, the Tube. With a map in hand, I rode two trains to Green Park where I finally received my ticket and marched towards the queen’s royal residence.
Although public transportation seemed initially intimidating, I proved that it can be mastered with a little preparation, courage, and most importantly, patience. The internet was definitely the most useful resource when determining my route and buying tickets, but when the websites were inaccessible, the transportation workers were direct and helpful.
For a large city like London, public transportation is certainly practical and necessary. People from a diversity of nationalities and socioeconomic classes rely on it. Through public transport, one can easily visit new locations and meet interesting passengers along the way. With only a couple of trains and a bus, I managed to leave the simplicity of my dorm room to admire the grand, gold-embellished interiors of Buckingham Palace.
Want to read more about England? Check out “Day Tripping in England“!