Posted by: travelrat | November 22, 2010

The Tube, the Map and the Card.

Every time I travel on London’s Underground, I offer up a silent prayer of thanks to Harry Beck. It was he who, in 1931, designed the wonderfully simple map of the system, that has been copied by Metro underground systems all over the world.

Before Beck came along, the maps had simply been overlaid on a street map, rather like a map of a bus network might be. But, he quickly took on board that passengers didn’t need to know about every twist and turn of the line, nor about an accurate depiction of the relative position of B from A. So, since the shortest distance between A and B is a straight line joining them, this is how it was depicted.

All lines on the map are either parallel, perpendicular or at an angle of 45 degrees.

You can pick up one of these excellent maps for free at just about any Underground station, but I do have an issue with them. The print is so small, I have difficulty reading it, even with my glasses on. I usually have to highlight the stations I’m interested in beforehand.

Then, along came PakaMap.

Now, if I read this right, you can’t actually buy an individual map from PakaMap. But, if you belong to an organisation that needs maps (or, indeed any kind of leaflet or brochure) you can order them in bulk, to sell or give to your customers.

I met the PakaMap reps at the World Travel Market, and got the London Underground map from them, which I found truly excellent. I could read it without any difficulty. And, like most PakaMap products, it’s printed on a durable, but recyclable plastic … which makes consulting a map on a wet, draughty street corner a slightly less unattractive proposition!

This is something I can definitely use. If they start producing street plans of unfamiliar places, Pakamap is definitely a name I’ll look out for.

Check them out at

Before we leave the Underground, let me mention the Oyster Card … since I only visit London occasionally, I got the ‘top up’ card, which you can use any time, and top up as necessary. The same principle, in fact, as a ‘pay as you go’ mobile phone card.

Using the card gives you great savings. I previously pointed out that a return ticket from Victoria to Olympia cost the same as my coach fare from Salisbury; from Victoria to Custom House … easily five times the distance … cost half of that with the card.

And, before we leave today’s post completely, let me point you at my latest article at


  1. Hi Keith,
    I’ve never heard of anything like this, it does sound wonderful. I too have a lot of trouble reading some fine print even with glasses, they forget about the “oldies” I feel when they print some of these things.

    But what a great idea from Pakamap, and being plastic it would last a lot longer as well as being handy if raining. It also looks to be just a nice size as well.

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