Oyster Cards / Travelcards, London
If you are doing some sightseeing in London you can buy a day travelcard, which gives you unlimited transport on the tube, train and buses (within the zones purchased).
If you purchase it after 9.30am on weekdays it is cheaper (a zone 1-3 day card is about 4.60 pounds).
On the weekends you can buy a weekend travel card that works out cheaper for the two days.
If you are in London for longer, you can also buy weekly and monthly travel cards.
Ask at any tube office for information
If you are planning to use mass transit in the London area, whether it be train, subway or bus, you can make your life easier by buying a multi-purpose Travelcard. In our case, we purchased two 15 pound sterling (US$26) each cards at the Farnham train station (using a credit card) and simply got aboard when the train to London pulled in. Part-way along the one hour journey, the conductor came by to check for tickets and simply glanced at our cards. Once in London, we also used the cards for three different subway rides (Waterloo-Westminster, Westminster-Covent Garden and Covent Garden-Waterloo) by inserting them into the passenger turn-styles. The cards are cheaper if you buy them for longer than a one-day useage, unlike our "17-December-05" ones.
I reckon a bargain way to travel around London - especially as a tourist coming from countries with exchange rates not as strong as the £ and therefore every cost matters!? - is the wonderful bus pass but with the £1 advantage more of as a Zone 2-3 Travelcard.
Lets explain - a bus pass for the day which means you can use the London red buses all around London ie all the zones out to zone 6 is £3 or for the week its £14.
Thats a bargain i reckon!!
You can get a free map of the London Buses for Central London from most tube stations, especially the large ones such as Victoria Station. and so marked on this map are the bus routes linking all around the city centre. So its a handy map for using to find your find around.
The advantage of paying £1 more to call it a zone 2 to 3 travel card means you can use all tube and overground trains from zone 2. Handy stations such as Nottings Hill Gate, vauxhall and Earls Court are both Zone 1 and 2. So you can use Zone 2 stations to go out further to places around Zone 2 and 3 - Clapham Common, Brixton, Putney and Wandsworth, Gunnersbury Park, Kew Gardens though you might want to catch a bus any further from there to say Richmond as its then Zone 4. So this makes a real cheap bonus for you!
You can also get free tube train maps called A Visitors Guide to Travelling ARound London that include the zones marked on them and also include where the overground trains connect so that can be useful too for faster travel.
The trick is still to use an Oyster card - which are electronic smartcard that are bought for £3 - and you put on this your travel card - but you can also carry money on it for single journeys which are charged at a lower rate when on an Oyster card - so if you do want to make a zone 1 tube trip it will only cost you £1.50 - otherwise use the excellent buses all over and then the tube and trains around Zones 2 and 3!!
Our transport pricing system is notoriously complicated but I hope to explain it in this tip.
An oyster card will be the most sensible purchase you can make during your stay it is a GBP3 deposit and can be reused on a future trip or refunded when returned.
Next to bear in mind is peak travel times are 4.30 - 9.30am Monday to Friday. Off Peak is after 9.30am weekdays & all of Saturday and Sunday + public holidays.
A cash single fare is GBP4 not bad if you are travelling from heathrow zone 1-6 during peak hours as you will have a GBP3.80 fare deduction off your oyster card & GBP2.20 off peak, but travel a few stops in zone 1 and having an oyster card will save you GBP2.40.
Providing you avoid peak hours a zone 1&2 oyster fare is GBP1.60 (single journey) and GBP2.20 zones 1-6. An oyster card will also cap itself at the price of a paper travelcard less 50p for zones 1&2 off peak price cap GBP 5.10 (provided travel is after 9.30 weekdays) and the cap price peak GBP6.70 no matter how many journeys you take. The day you arrive from heathrow though the cap is GBP14.30 peak or GBP7 off peak.
So keep in mind travel the tube within off peak hours or else travel by bus. Up to 4 children under 11yrs can travel accompanied by an adult for free. Ages 11-15yrs old need to bring a photo to obtain a photocard from transport for london which entitles them to get an off-peak day travelcard for GBP1 when accompanied by an adult.
The other alternative for zones 1&2 is a 3 day travelcard for anytime travel GBP18.40 (this works out GBP3.10 more then 3 days off peak with oyster) or a 7 day travelcard GBP25.80. Always touch in and out with your oystercard on the yellow reader accompanied by a green light and 1 beep or multiple beeps for child oyster. A red light with 2 beeps means card has not been accepted see a member of staff for assistance or face a penalty fare.
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 have lived in London for well over 20 years now and know my way around pretty well, so I try to answer VT forum tips on the city when I can. By far the most common question asked seems to be in relation to Oyster Cards and Travel Cards. I don't propose to go into the relative merits here, it really depends on too many factors which one will suit you best. The authorities have made ordinary tickets so prohibitively expensive that you are well advised to use one or the other. What I do want to do is alert you to a disgraceful scam being perpetrated by the transport companies.
I use the Oster Card (pictured) which is a pre-paid credit type card you can use on the bus, tube Docklands Light Railway and certain suburban train lines. Very recently (January 2011) I read a report in a local newspaper who had obtained information under the Freedom of Information Act. It stated that last year, the transport companies overcharged passengers to the tune of a staggering £60 million ($95.4 million US). This is how it works. On a train or underground journey, you must "tap in" and "tap out" i.e. press your card on the reader at both ends of your journey. If you do not do this you will be charged maximum fare.
Here is my personal experience from a couple of weeks ago. I went by Tube to Waterloo station to catch a train that I cannot use my Oyster on, of which more later. due to the poor signage at Waterloo (and I know the place) I tapped out and then mistakenly tapped into another line, thinking it was the way out to the overground train. I realised my mistake and the attendant let me back through the barrier, telling me to get the fare adjusted at the ticket office.
As always, there was only one ticket office open and a large queue, and I had a train to catch so I left it until the next day until I returned to my home station where I know a few of the staff. I went to the window there and was horrified to discover they had charged my £8:80 for a £1:90 journey. It gets worse. I explained the situation and the attendant said that he could see by reading my card I was telling the truth but because my card was not registered (this is not a requirement) he could only refund half the excess, so I have been grossly overcharged for my journey.
There is much anecdotal evidence that barriers are being deliberately left open at smaller stations in the hope that people will forget to "tap out" and generate extra penalty revenue for the operators.
I mentioned the registration issue and suburban trains and here is another thing to bear in mind. the train I intended to catch accepts Oyster Cards but only if they are registered. I have to queue up and buy a paper ticket. I can see no legitimate reason for this as the barrier would not open if I did not have sufficient funds for the journey. Therefore, you should always check before trying to get on a train if your unregistered Oyster is valid or, you have guessed it, you will be liable to a penalty fare.
On buses, you only have to "tap in", everywhere else, "tap in" and "tap out".
Confused, you will be!
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
Oyster Cards are a bit like debit cards and also like the Octopus card as used in Hong Kong. Unlike the HK version, the London version is capped for the day - so any journeys made after the capped price is FREE for the rest of the day.
The oyster card can also hold bus passes/weekly/monthly/ annual passes and as well as the pay as you go version.
You can use the card on buses/underground/DLR - no taxis. You can top at any underground station or at selected newsagents.
London is a small place, or should I say the parts of London visitors want to see is! I very rarely travel on the buses and Underground in London when visiting the sites, simply because they are all so near to each other.
Most of the major attractions are situated within a couple of square miles of each other and can be easily reached on foot. I also think that the best way to discover anything is on foot, you have more time to stop and look at things that take your interest.
But if you must travel around the city on public transport I would recommend getting a day/week pass for both the Underground and bus system, which are limited to travel after 9.30 a.m. but who want's to get up early when on vacation anyway. These passes are much cheaper than individual tickets and can be purchased for one person or a family.
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.
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 ...
London has an incredible public transportation system. The Tube (subway train system) and the buses are the best way to travel in the city. We took a cab only once, and that was after a late dinner.
If you are going to be exploring the city for 3 days or more, I highly recommend getting a a Visitor TravelCard. There are several zone and length-of-stay options to meet individual needs. We got a weeklong Zone 1 & 2 travelcard, which we used 5 or 6 times a day, getting more than out money's worth.
THE CATCH: These passes cannot be bought once you are in London. They must be purchased prior to you trip. I ordered mine on line a month before we left and got them about a week later. You receive a voucher that you cash in at a train station for the weekly pass. We went to the train stop at Heathrow airport, exchanged the voucher for a pass, and headed off.
It beats having to dig for unfamiliar change in a big crowd. And if you get confused and accidently exit the station or get on the wrong bus, you get a do-over at no extra charge!
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.
London requires ID cards for the purchase of week or longer travelcards for the Tube. These are free, but you have to supply a passport size picture. These identification cards can be made at any Tube station.
If you are a student, you can get a student ID card that will give you 30% off travel cards. The only problem is that they initially charge you 10 pounds for the card.
GET A DAY PASS! Its cheaper than paying single fares all day and easier. Do not forget, your day ticket gets you on ALL London busses too! Between the Tube and busses - you have London covered!
Have a great Holiday!