Oyster Cards / Travelcards, London
If you come to London often or visit the city for some days, consider getting the electronic Visitor Oyster card; this is a travel smartcard and the cheapest way to pay for single journeys on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London:
The card costs £3 (non-refundable) and is pre-loaded with money for you to spend on travel. You can choose how much credit to add to your card: from £10.
I.s.o. paying per ride on the pre-loaded credit; you also can load the card with a "Travelcard"; valid for either one or 7 days with unlimited rides in a number of zones (from zones 1&2 up to zones 1 through 6).
My experiences is that the zones 1 & 2 zones option covers most places you want to visit as a tourist. For futher out trips or the ride to Heathrow Airport you better buy a single ticket.
More info on the London Transport website; see below.
London's underground is the most expensive in the world but you'll use it anyway because it can get you almost everywhere. If you make more than 3 tube trips or 4 bus trips a day then you'd better buy a travelcard – daily(cannot ride the tubes before 9 a.m or use the night buses) or weekly.
There are six zones in the metro so you need a different ticket for each one. Most of the attractions are in the center so you will need only the 1-2 zones. Keep your ticket handy at all times, especially when entering and exiting the tube in order to get out!
Oyster Card is a new headache but it can also save you a lot of money, you have to give a deposit (£5) but can use the card in the future and just take the deposit back at the end of your trip. The only problem is that it requires some extra planning and of course that you have to pay in advance but there is a daily price cap where however much you travel in a day your total outlay never goes above this price cap(which is the same/lower than with a daily travelcard).. Check the differences with travelcard here: http://www.londontoolkit.com/briefing/travelcard_oyster.htm
Remember that peak hours are before 9:30am Monday to Friday(but also 16-19.00 for oyster but triggered only if you travel also before 9.30).
There are many combinations between zones, peak hours etc so here are some prices(may 2014):
Tube single ticket: £4.70 (2.20p with Oyster card)
1Day travel card 1-2zones offpeak £8.90 peak£9.00
1Day travel card 1-4zones offpeak £8.90 peak£11.40
1Day travel card 1-6zones offpeak £8.90 peak £17.00
7day travel card 1-2zones £31.40
7day travel card 1-3zones £36.80
7day travel card 1-6zones £57.20
Daily Oyster Price Cap 1-2zones offpeak £7.00 peak£8.40
Daily Oyster Price Cap 1-4zones offpeak £7.70 peak£10.60
Daily Oyster Price Cap 1-6zones offpeak £8.50 peak£15.80
You don’t have to worry about zones if you use the buses.
Bus single ticket: £2.40 (1.45p with Oyster card)
7day bus pass £20.20
The most often asked question in the VT London forum is, I think, about ticket options for public transport. And no wonder! There are several options available and with so many variables (whereabouts do you stay? will you walk a lot or rely on buses and tube trains? how long are you staying? how many sights do you want to pack in? and so on) it is impossible to give a single “this is best” answer. Here though are some observations that will perhaps help you decide. Note that all prices are correct for 2014 – they typically go up in January each year.
Most locals, myself included, use a pre-loaded Oyster card to travel on London’s tube trains, buses, overground trains etc. It’s convenient and it saves a lot of money. As an example, a single tube journey in Zone 1 (the centre of town) costs £4.70 if you buy a ticket on the day but only £2.20 with Oyster. A single cash journey on a bus in the same zone costs £2.40 while an Oyster one is £1.45. Also, there is a daily price cap of £8.40 if you travel in peak time (i.e. before 9.30 AM) and £7.00 if you travel after that time, meaning that you will never pay more than that in one day however many journeys you make.
There is a very useful table comparing ticket prices with and without an Oyster card on the TfL website here. However this is on a page devoted to the Visitor Oyster which can be ordered in advance, and I don’t however recommend that you do this – unless you expect to be in a real hurry on arrival and unwilling to queue to buy one then. You will pay a non-refundable £3 “activation fee”, whereas if you buy an Oyster at the ticket office on arrival you pay a £5 deposit which is refundable. Although in practice I would suggest that if you plan to visit London more than once you should simply hang on to the card, with any credit left on it, and use it next time you come.
Once you have your Oyster you can pre-load it with a sum of money which then deducts as you touch it on the readers at the ticket barriers. When you notice it running low you can top up again, either at a ticket office or on a machine in the station. If you visit London a lot (or are moving here) you can even register online for automatic top-ups which are triggered whenever the total drops below £5.
As an alternative you can buy a travelcard for one day, seven days or a month. This entitles you to unlimited travel for that period. Personally I see no point in a one day travelcard as this costs £9.00 which is higher than the Oyster price cap. But the seven day one can work out cheaper than Oyster under the following conditions:
~ you are staying in London for a week
~ you expect to use public transport almost every day and for multiple journeys
~ you will mostly use the Underground rather than buses
At current prices (£31.40 for a seven day travelcard) you need to be doing an average £4.50 worth of trips per day to make the travelcard the better option, which means more than two journeys every day. If you’re spending the whole week in London itself (rather than doing day trips outside the city) and mostly using the Underground, there’s a good chance you’ll do this and a travelcard will suit you best. But if you won’t use public transport every day, prefer to take the bus much of the time, or are staying less than a week (or some odd days over) the Oyster will probably work out cheaper.
Oh, and just to add to the complications, you can load a travelcard onto an Oyster! So for a ten day visit you might want to get an Oyster, load a travelcard on for the first week and then top up enough to cover your remaining journeys.
As if all the above weren’t complicated enough, there’s one other factor to consider. If you buy your seven day travelcard at a mainline station rather than an Underground station it will carry the “double arrow” rail logo (see image) and will entitle you to a number of 2 for 1 discount offers at major attractions such as the Tower of London, Madame Tussauds and many more. The offers can vary so you need to check the relevant website and have to download a voucher before you go which you show with your travelcard. Note that these deals are only available to those travelling to the sight by train but that having a travelcard bought in a mainline station means that you will count in that category, as explained on the 2 for 1 website! Also note that you need a photo to buy a travelcard as you need an accompanying photo card.
So where does that leave us?! Well, everyone is different and their travel plans differ too. But as I see it, if you plan to spend about a week in London, travel a lot on public transport (and especially on the tube) and visit some of the sights for which 2 for 1 offers are available, you should get a travelcard and buy it at a mainline station. But if your use of public transport will be less (shorter stay and/or fewer journeys) you should do the maths carefully to see if the extra cost of a travelcard will be balanced by any 2 for 1 discounts you’ll take advantage of, and choose accordingly. An Oyster also makes sense for the frequent visitor to London as you won’t have the hassle of buying a card on future visits.
I'm guessing that the #1 question about London is "should I get an Oyster Card or a travelcard?" I've given it a lot of thought on my many visits to London and I almost always get a travelcard although I do have an Oyster Card that I've kept from a previous trip.
Reasons to get a travelcard:
-if you are going for more than 4 days, it may be cheaper to buy a 7 day travelcard which currently costs £31.40 (as of 1/19/14). The daily price cap on an Oyster is £7 off peak or £8.40 peak. At day 5 it becomes cheaper to have a travelcard with off peak travel (5x7=35)and at day 4 (8.40 x 4= 33.60) it becomes cheaper if using peak travel.
Peak Oyster time is from 06:30-09:30 and from 16.00-19.00 Monday to Friday (except public holidays). The travelcard has different peak and off peak than an Oyster, off Peak time for the travelcard is after 9:30am and on the weekends/holidays.
-if you plan on taking trains outside of London, you can show your travelcard and get a discounted train ticket
-2 for 1 offers on places like the Tower of London and Kensington Palace, only available if you have a train ticket OR travelcard with the Crow's Foot logo on it. Purchase the travelcard at a rail station, there is a new requirement to have a photocard with the 7 day travelcard.
-no need to worry about your balance as you do with an Oyster
-no deposit to get back at the end of your trip
Reasons to get an Oyster:
-if you are planning on going outside of London's central zone 1-2 often, examples of tourist sights outside of zone 1-2 are Wimbledon, Richmond, Kew, and Heathrow. Ultimately it should be cheaper with the Oyster although not necessarily so
-you don't plan on hitting the daily cap (somewhere between 3-4 tube rides) and are only in London for a couple of days
-daily top up is less per day than daily travelcards unless staying for 4 or more days when it may make more sense to get a 7 day travelcard
February 2014 update, Oyster fares are significantly cheaper than cash fares, you may have to put up a deposit but you get it back when you turn it in. The Oyster cap is .60off peak/1.90 peak less than the 1 day travelcard.
The Oyster Card adds to the headache of trying to figure out the cheapest way to get around London, I'm pretty sure your head would explode before definitively determining what the best option for travel really is. If you purchase a 7 day at an underground/tube station they will automatically load it onto an Oyster Card. If you want to use the 2 for 1 offers you have to get a paper travelcard and you can only purchase those at rail stations. Heathrow is not a rail station so if you purchase it there it will be loaded onto an Oyster Card.
The Oyster Card is a rechargeable plastic fare card that you can add onto and keep forever. The TFL website says a £5 refundable deposit is required to get one but it was waived when I purchased a zone 1-2 7 day travelcard many many years ago. If you get the 7 day zone 1-2 travelcard on the Oyster, you can always add on if you need to go outside zone 1-2.
You can also use the Oyster card to PAYG (pay as you go), the Oyster card is a smart card and the daily price capping should calculate the cheapest fare for the journeys you make in a single day and will be less per day than a travelcard and much less than cash fares. You can top off the Oyster Card at the machines at the tube stations or with an agent in any amount that you'd like. If you are staying longer than 4-5 days, check to see if the 7 day travelcard won't be cheaper for your purposes.
I had read many tips about Oyster vs Travelcard. I chose the Oystercard. I used my Oystercard the whole time I was in London and didn't have to reload it. I have kept my card as I plan to return on day and having my Oystercard will be handy - just might need to refill it.
I had no problems with the Oystercard. Just had to remember to touch the pass when you go in and out of the Tube Station or the bus.
I hear that if you forget to 'tap out' as you leave the Tube you have to pay a full days fee. That's a great incentive to remember to 'tap out'.
Buy your Oyster Card at the tube station at Heathrow when you arrive in the country, it is cheaper. I notice on the Oyster Card website you can apply on line for the card but the charge for this is £18 which includes a £15 load and £3 fee which is non refundable. at the Heathrow tube station you can obtain an Oyster card for £5 refundable deposit and load as much as you like. It only takes a couple of minutes.Just hand in your card when you leave and your £5 will be returned.
The card will save you around 50% for your tube journeys, sometimes not so much if you are travelling at peak times (mon-fri 6.30-9.30am and 4-7pm).
Any bus journey will cost £1.35 off peak.
If you are making several journeys in one day the computerised system will stop charging you should the journey fares total more than a one day pass.
The Oystercard is an electronic chargecard which replaces the old paper tickets for public transport. You can buy a weekly card (for a small refundable deposit) and recharge it through the ticket machines or online. It works by holding the pass flat against the yellow readers on tube gates or buses. An excellent idea to speed away London's terrible queues!! Transport for London have thankfully realised that it is difficult for anyone to understand the way these cards work, so they have put together a page on their website with more information specifically for visitors to London.
A one-day travel card which covers all transport inside London Zones 1-2, plus bus travel in any London zone costs £8.40. An off-peak version, for travel after 9.30 a.m. weekdays, or any time at weekends costs £7.00. Alternatively, Oyster is a pay as you go smart card, with a daily cap at the same amount as a cost of the equivalent daily travelcard. http://visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk/help-centre/ticket-comparison.html
It doesn't cover entry to visitor attractions, though if you have a national rail ticket (or a paper travel card purchased at a rail station, such as Waterloo or Paddington) you can get 2 for 1 entry on many attractions. http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/2for1-london
The London Pass includes admission to visitor attractions. An adult one costs £46 per day, or £54 with a one day travel card included. A 3 day pass costs £66, or £91.60 with travel. http://www.londonpass.com/london-pass-prices.php
What will work out best for you depends on how many fee-paying attractions you visit.
The best and cheapest way to see London is a with a Day Travelcard - we bought a ticket for the buses and tube for only £5.50 (May 09) for travel zones 1 & 2. To illustrate its value our days travel was - Kings Cross to Hampstead by tube, Hampstead to Little Venice by bus, Paddington to London Bridge by tube, Tower Gateway to Park Lane by bus, Park Lane to Oxford Street by bus and Oxford Circus to Kings Cross by tube. All for £7.00 - is the new 2012 price.
Remember a single bus ride is £2.30 and single tube train ride is £4.40 - if you buy a £7.00 card and only make 2 journeys on the tube , you have made a profit.
The cards are available from Underground stations or mainline rail stations and I have shown below what each ticket looks like - they both have the same validity.
Let me start off by saying to OysterCard is a must for traveling around London. BUT if you are on a budget, try to walk as much as you can. The prices add up quickly even with an OysterCard and my friends and I spent most of our time topping off our OysterCard when we could have walked to our destination faster. In conclusion, good value just don't over do it.
I know everyone has an opinion, so I'll share mine. We chose the Travelcard for getting around London. It was good for zones 1-6, which meant we could use it from Heathrow to get to our centrally located hotel without any hassle. Since we were zipping all around the city it definitely came in handy and is much cheaper then buying individual tickets every time you want to use the tube, bus or metro.
Before you head to London, visit the website and compare the two cards to see which one meets your preference. Buy your card for the number of days you'll need it and then off you go. It's very easy to use, you just insert it into the machines at the entrance and exit at the tube station.
We bought our Travelcard in conjunction with the London Pass, so there are a few extra savings that we got out of our card (train ride out to Windsor Castle).
I love traveling on the "Tube" in London. It's the easiest and most economical way of getting around.
Recently on a day layover from a business trip I discovered this very ingenius way of traveling, the "Oyster Card". Its a refillable smartcard that never expires. Determine the amount you want to put into the card and use is as you wish.
For more indepth information about the Oyster Card, check out their website.
The Travelcard can be used on the DLR, London Overground and buses, trams (where your Travelcard would include Zone 3, 4, 5 or 6), National Rail (excluding Heathrow Connect between Hayes & Harlington and Heathrow, and on Heathrow Express).
The Travelcard must be valid for the zones you’ll be traveling through. You have a choice of pruchasing a 1 or 3 day Travelcard for peak or off peak times.
The off peak Travelcard can be used from 9:30 am Mondays to Fridays, all day Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, on the day you validate the card and for journeys that starts before 4:30 am on the following day.
I decided to purchase an off peak Travelcard for the one day I was going to use the public transportation as I found it to be the most economical way to get around London.
The Travelcard was £5.30 for Zones 1&2.
Please note that you can use the vending machines to purchase your cards. Some machines only accept coins, while others accept bills and credit cards.
Once upon a time when I was a girl, there was the Red Bus Rover - the day pass that allowed you unlimited access to London buses and all the magical possibilities that went with that.
This was superceded by the Travel Card, which allowed you unlimited access to the London Transport system for the duration of your stay - all you had to work out was which zones you wanted covered (the more zones, the more expensive) and how long a period the card should be valid for. And then the Oyster Card was introduced and things got more confusing ...
Essentially the Travel Card gives unlimited access to travel within selected zones for a set period of time. By contrast, the Oyster Card is a 'pay as you go' system which is not limited to a particular time period. I am not going to try and explain the complex details and conditions of each in any greater detail or take credit for someone else's work, so instead I will happily direct you to the website detailed below, which gives a simple, easy-to-use comparison of both options. It's then up to you to decide which meets your needs more closely ...