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Buying London Travelcards, Oysters etc In Advance Of Day Of Travel

Author: Bob Handford

Best To Buy In London For Most People

It is possible to purchase Oyster and Travelcards if you live outside London using the TFL on-line shop.
The downside of this is there is no true e-ticket, you have the products sent to you by  normal mail or courier which as well as taking days to deliver works out more expensive as you have to cover admin and dispatch costs based on where your home address is. The Oyster Cards called Visitor Oyster cards sold this way are also less flexible than the ones purchased in London. The ones purchased in London you get a full refund of your deposit, currently £5 – you do not get the equivalent £3 ‘activation fee’ refunded if you buy the Visitor Oyster.
The Visitor Oyster also doesn’t allow you to load fixed length Travelcards onto the Oyster which the London Oyster does. e.g. if you are in London for 9 days and flying into Heathrow its cheapest to buy a 7 day Travelcard for zones 1 and 2 and use Oyster for the fisrt and last day for the trip to and from Heathrow. On the London Oyster the 7 Day Travelcard can be loaded onto the Oyster.

Buying In Advance Of Dates Of Travel When In London

Oyster Cards – on a Pay As You Go basis are not date specific. You can buy the Oyster at any time and as long as you have enough money loaded onto it, you use it whenever.
As a broad rule of thumb if your visit is 4 day or less then an Oyster is the best value product. Over 4 days and you should be looking whether Travelcards are a better buy.
For Travelcards …
Underground (Tube) Stations – Perhaps the most popular place to purchase Oyster and Travelcards for visitors. From the ticket offices 1 day Travelcards and group tickets can be bought up to 7 days before first date of travel. 7 day Travelcards and longer 30 days. From ticket machines 1 day Travelcards and group tickets have to be bought on the day. 7 day Travelcards and longer up to 4 days prior.
London Overground Stations are the same as Underground stations.
DLR stations you cannot buy tickets in advance from ticket machines.

If you want to buy 3 or 4 one  day Travelcards on consecutive days its not a good idea to request this from an Underground ticket office at a busy period. Wait until a relatively quiet moment.

Travelcards Explained – How they work, costs and conditions
Oyster Cards – How they work, costs and conditions

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  • Rachel McDonald

    I have a monthly prepaid Oyster card for zones 1&2…can I upgrade this to zones 1-4 and pay the difference?

    • Bob

      I don’t know – you’ll need to call TFL for that

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