London Tube question: Is it ALL underground?

We'll be in London for a week at the beginning of May. We're planning on using public transport as much as possible (we'll be renting a car in Cardiff, later, for the rest of our month-long vacation). We fly into Heathrow and would like to Tube it into the city (our hotel is just one block from the Tube station). Anyway, I am extrememly clausterphobic and the thought of being "underground" for the Tube ride from Heathrow to the city is bothering me. So, is it entirely underground or, are parts of it above ground? I'm already planning on being dosed-up on Dramamine for the flight from the US, maybe the residual drugs will be enough to calm me for the Tube! I know it sounds daft, but it is what it is and I think beforehand knowledge would help! Thanks so very much.... The knowledge on these forums is fantastic and oh-so helpful!!!

Posted by Nancy
London, UK
168 posts

Once you get into the city get yourself a good map of the buses. They are great!

Posted by Geor
Seattle, Wa, USA
269 posts

I took the Tube from Heathrow to Hammersmith station and then to Victoria. Sections of this trip (Heathrow to Hammersmith) were above ground which provided a view of the less glamorous parts of London.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
1982 posts

The Piccadilly line is mostly above ground until Hammersmith although is underground at Heathrow. Most of the lines are above ground outside of central London - just over half of the total mileage. The District, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines were built by cut and cover, so have some open air portions throughout. The longest continuous tunnel is on the Northern Line (17.25 miles).

Posted by Susan
St Paul
48 posts

From my memory,shortly after departing Heathrow,you will be above ground for 15? minutes or more before heading underground again. That also gives you the opportunity to use your cellphone, if needed. Perhaps the transit website would be able to give you more exact information.
Good luck!

Posted by gone
2081 posts

hi, have your dr prescribe you some happy pills. better living thru chemistry! im not sure about you and your motion sickness, but im really sensative to motion sickness and ive never been air sick (yet). I can get car sick-fast too. ive been on many sail boats with white caps on the Columbia River without any problems, and on the other hand, ive been sea sick on large ships with calm seas. just so you know that Dramamine doent work once you are sick. on one of my large ship trips, i was sea sick for 1 week and wasnt able to hold down anything, including water!. I finally went to the Dr office to get something. he gave me something that settled my stomach and after that, i was a happy camper! just a note, those subway tubes are large! some of walking tunnels can be smaller, but where the trains run, they are 4 train cars wide and about just as high! happy trails.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22111 posts

Leslie, Motion sickness will probably not be an issue on the Tube, as the motion is very gentle (just accelerating and stopping). It's difficult for anyone to say whether it will be a problem for you, as we don't know how badly you're affected by this. You'll have a better idea once you've tried it. Good luck!

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
3079 posts

Much of the underground system IS underground. But the stations and platforms are not confining at all. Just try to convince yourself that you are inside a large building (that's what it feels like, really). Talk to your doctor about zanx or something similar is your clausterphobia is really bad. I have a touch of it too, but never had a problem riding the tube. The trains are actually very nice, except when REALLY crowded (particularlly the Picadilly line around 8:00 am and again around 5:00-6:00pm-ish can be packed). I find it helps sometimes to close my eyes for a moment and then reorient on people or one of the intersting ads or the route posters.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
5013 posts

If you are worried about feeling closed in underground, you may want to take a car service in from the airport (particularly since you say "we," so it's not as expensive per person). Just Airports is one that gets good reviews (I've never used them); booking them in advance is cheaper than hopping in a cab at the airport. Then, once you've stowed your bags and are feeling a bit more oriented, you can try the Tube. If you don't like it, you can get out at the next stop, and take buses only. Remember that the Oyster card is good for both buses and the Tube, and calculates fares automatically. Also, the Docklands Light Rail (for eastern London) is overground. Most of the Tube in central London is indeed underground; the District, Metropolitan, and Circle lines are not too far underground and even are open in places, but other lines are much farther underground. However, the three lines I just mentioned can get you to a LOT of places you will want to see - just not all of them.

Posted by Sarah
St. Louis, MO USA
1689 posts

To echo Harold, parts of the District and Circle lines are actually above ground but the tracks are inside brick "buildings" or "tunnels" (for lack of better words). There are windows to the outside and you can see trees and sky. That may help with your claustrophobia.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

@ Ken Motion sickness will probably not be an issue on the Tube, as the motion is very gentle (just accelerating and stopping)./quote] You need to try the Victoria line near Victoria station arriving from the North.. it can toss you around at one jog in the tracks.. yehaw!
happy trails.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12558 posts

I don't know where the idea came from that London Underground tunnels are 4 trains wide and 4 trains high. I'm sorry to say, but is just not true. Sub surface lines, those in cut-and-cover, the Circle, Hammersmith and City, Metropolitan, and District are generally in square box tunnels a little larger than the generally squarer train cars. At the depots there are lots of tracks, but only one each way in the tunnel. Deep Underground lines, are, as the name suggests, in deep tunnels for much of the runs, and entirely so in central London. Those are the Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee, Victoria, and Central lines. The tunnels are round and that is where the expression "Tube" came from. The trains are rounded off too, so that they just fit through the tubes. That being said, I think that most people with your condition would be much more concerned being in a tube train which is full like sardines than being underground. The stations are large, tall and well lit, and the trains are well lit.

Posted by j.c.
NC, United States
868 posts

Leslie, only you can judge how you will react to a Tube ride in from Heathrow. Bear in mind, as well, that trains get very crowded during rush hour. You'll likely get seats out of Heathrow, but finish the trip with the aisle packed with passengers. Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect offer more expensive and faster rail alternatives. (Last time I took the Tube in from Heathrow I think it was about a one-hour-trip. Lots and lots of stops.) The Express is a fast (10-15 minutes) non-stop train to Paddington Station. The Connect is similar, but makes a few stops on the way to Paddington. I have not used the Connect, but the Express is above ground. The cost of two Express tickets is getting close to the cost of hiring a car. For me, after a tiring all-day journey, and then spending 45-60 minutes in a queue waiting to get through Passport Control, the last thing I want to do is drag luggage onto the Tube, sit for a ride of another hour or so, and then drag it around a Tube station and to a hotel. So, I spring for the Express and take a cab from Paddington. (Don't underestimate the scale of many Tube stations. They can involve considerable walking.)

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22111 posts

@Ray, I've ridden the Victoria lines many times as I prefer to stay in the Victoria station area (Ebury Street). I was speaking more in "general" terms. Cheers!

Posted by gone
2081 posts

@ Ken, No problem. London and then Paris was my first experience with any subway so i thought it was funny that some lines could toss passengers around somewhat. I used Victoria as my base so i became really familiar with the Victoria line snd where those jogs were. What i noticed was that some people didnt know or were unprepared for the jog. happy trails.