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Child Fares on London’s Underground, Buses & Public Transport 2016

Author: Bob Handford
Child fares on London\’s Underground and Buses are very complicated and fragmented. Every year on January 2nd ticket regulations and prices are reviewed and normally the authorities tinker around to a lesser or greater degree with the child travel concessions.

This piece tries to explain as simply as possible the situation for your child, some workarounds to get around some of the restrictions and if you still don\’t understand an opportunity to discuss and perhaps add to this piece.

At one extreme your child may travel free everywhere, at the other end of the spectrum if unprepared you may end up paying adult fare – so its worthwhile making sure you understand the following:

Free & Reduced Child Fares Entitlement By Ageband


Children under five can travel free at any time on the Tube (underground), DLR, buses and trams in London as long as they are accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket. Simple

Children 5-10

Under-11s can travel free at any time on buses and trams. Simple

They can also travel free at any time on the Tube and DLR (Docklands Light railway) when they are traveling with an adult who has a valid ticket. Up to 4 children under 11 years old accompanied by a paying adult travel free on the London Underground. Simple

Unaccompanied children between 5 and 10 must have a valid Oyster Photocard for free travel. (Ah yes, the Photocard we\’ll come back to these)

Children 11-15

Children aged 11 to 15 years must get an 11-15 Oyster photocard to travel free on buses and trams and at child-rate on Tube, DLR and London Overground services.

(Simple? – its the two words Oyster Photocard that creates the problems for visitors – see below.)

But wait! – if you are only visiting London for 2 weeks or less and have a child between 11 and 15 there is a scheme aimed squarely at you and its called the Young Visitor Discount. which enables you to skip the need for an Oyster ID card.
If you are visiting London for up to 14 days and have a child between 11 and 15, do read the Young Visitor Discount section below..

Children 16-17

In the UK you become an adult when you are 16. However in London it is possible to get child fares by getting an Oyster 16+ Oyster ID Card.

It is very similar to 11-15 Oyster Photocards, but you cannot use it to buy 1 Day Travelcards.

Simple? – again, its the two words Oyster Photocard that creates the problems for visitors – see below.

Student 18+

If you are studying at a recognised educational establishment in London that is registered for the scheme and you are residing in London you can apply for a Student card

This enables you to get 30% discount off bus and Travelcards of 7 days or longer

Only for students studying and residing in London, first step is to check with your educational place to see if they are registered.

The Young Visitor Discount - For Children Between 11 & 15 In London < 15 days

The Oyster ID Card required by children between 11 and 15 to get child rate fares on Oyster is for most short-term visitors not a realistic proposition. The cost, hassle and time to process the ID card is just not worth the effort for most visitors.. The Young Visitor Discount scheme has been created as the answer for short term visitors who have children between 11 and 15.

If you are visiting London and traveling with children aged 11 to 15 that haven\’t got an Oyster photocard; and are in town less than 2 weeks then the Young Persons Discount is probably your solution. The Young Persons Discount loaded onto an adult Oyster Card gives you  half adult rate Oyster fares and caps for up to 14 days.

The official rules read.
The Young Visitor discount can only be set onto Oyster Cards and Visitor Oyster Cards at:
– Any Underground station – note manned ticket offices are closing fast, the last ones are due to close by April 2016.  Members of staff will be available in the ticket hall with the ticket machines – make contact with a member of staff to have the Young Persons Discount loaded onto the Oyster.
– TfL Rail station ticket offices
– Visitor or Travel Information Centres (Gatwick & Heathrow Airports, Liverpool Street, Euston, Paddington and Kings Cross Railway Stations and Piccadilly Circus Underground Station)
– Victoria Station National Railways Ticket office

To get the Young Visitor discount::
You and your child must be together at the ticket office when asking for it to be set
No proof of age or identity is required, but you might be asked to confirm the child’s age. One adult can get the Young Visitor discount set for up to four children

The Young Visitor discount gives half adult rate pay as you go fares on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services for up to 14 days and also gives your child a daily cap half that of an adult.
After 14 days the discount will expire and the Oyster card will charge full adult rate fares.
The discount can be set on both regular Oyster Cards and Visitor Oyster cards.

Child Rate Oyster Cards & Oyster Photo ID Cards

In Bob\’s day you became an adult when you were 16. If you were 18 but looked 14, many asked for a child fare got a knowing look but got a child ticket. If you were 14 and looked 18 you made sure you had some documentation on you that proved you were entitled to child fares.

Today with Oyster Cards, age bands, automated ticket barriers and such like much stricter controls are needed to avoid fraud.

The system is no real problem if you are a London resident with a young child. Take a little time for the initial registration process to get your Oyster Photocard and thats your passport to free and half price public transport until you are an adult. When you want a child travel product, just produce your Oyster Photoard. If a ticket inspector see\’s you are using a child Oyster and you look a little old for it, the Oyster Photocard is demanded as proof.

For visitors its a hassle you can do without and often its too late when you do find out the hoops you have to jump through to get child fares via the Oyster Photocard.

First of all, the recurrent question from visitors – my child has got a passport with his/her age on it, isn\’t that good enough as ID?.

I\’m afraid the answer is no, you need London\’s unique Oyster Photocard, nothing else.

How Do I Get An Oyster Photocard?

If you are a resident of London, its quite straight forward. Get a form from your local Post Office and fill it in, then return to the Post Office with the fee, a passport size photo plus birth certificate or passport and you should get it in 2 weeks.

If you are resident in the UK then you have to do the process on-line, you\’ll get the Photocard within 4 weeks.

Now the aspects of Oyster Photocard that works against visitors from overseas. The Oyster Photocard costs between £10-£20 per child and you need to order the Oyster Photocard at least 3 weeks ahead on-line.

It won’t be sent to your home address, you have to collect it from a small number of visitor centres in London, (Heathrow Airport or Liverpool Street, Victoria, Kings Cross or Euston Stations)

The application web page is: https://photocard.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/gotoApply.do?type=under18&res=false&from=home

Can I Get Around The Child Oyster Photocard Requirement

There are four main ways of getting around the need for an Oyster Photocard to get half price child fares if your child is under 16 and isn\’t entitled to free travel.

1) Use the Young Persons Discount facility (see section above) loaded onto an Oyster card.

2) The first is to buy a 1 day child Travelcard, (it doesn\’t need Oyster Photocard), but a 7 day child Travelcard does.

3) The second is to buy Travelcards from a railway (not Underground) ticket office. The railways have their own ticketing system but sell Travelcards at their Central London stations. Perhaps bizarely the railways issue their photo id cards free of charge, but they can only be used to buy tickets sold from a railway ticket office. So for a 7 day Travelcard you can walk up to a railway ticket office with a passport size photo of your child, buy a 7 day child Travelcard and a railway photo id will be issued on the spot. Note: only railway stations in Central London sell Travelcards (e.g. Paddington, Euston, Kings Cross, St Pancras, Liverpool Street, London Bridge, Charing Cross, Waterloo and Victora), they do not sell Travelcards at the railway station ticket offices of London\’s airports.

Another minor complication is that at railway ticket offices adults need a photo id card to buy adult 7 day Travelcards, whereas this is not a requrement at TFL outlets like Underground Stations.

The other bonus with buying Travelcards from a railway station is that it qualifies you for the railways 2 for 1 sightseeing promotion.

4) The third work around is that you can buy 7 Day Child Travelcards without any photo id on-line from the TFL / Visit Britain on-line shop and have them delivered to your home, including overseas. There is a delivery charge.

TFL / Visit Britain On-Line Shop

5) Use the Young Visitor Discount applied on Oyster Cards. This gives you up to 14 days half price travel on an Oyster Card for 11-15 year olds who do not have an Oyster ID card. Its not the golden bullet solution the headline suggests, so read the section above this carefully.

Free Travel - How Do I Get my Child Through the Ticket Barriers Without A Ticket?

If your child is entitled to free travel, you do not obtain a ticket

London\’s buses are ticketless, so no problem there.

On the Underground and DLR and suburban railways you have to pass through a ticket barrier where you need to insert a valid ticket for verification before the barrier is raised. If your child is entitled to free travel you do not get a ticket that costs nothing, instead you need to get a member of staff to let your child through the manned barrier onto the platforms.

London's Urban Railways

The National Railways in the UK as well as running inter-city trains into London also operate many of the  commuter lines of London, especially south of the river.
For visitors  it can be very confusing as the national railways only offer free child travel to children under 5 years.
The London Underground and the DLR (Docklands Light railway) use the TFL ticketing rules where children under 11 travel free without a ticket.
Rail services designated as the Overground or TFL Rail also use TFL ticketing rules.
The rest of the train services are run by the railways where only children under 5 travel free. To complicate things further, in the last few years many lines have transfered from railways operated to the Overground or TFL Rail networks.
The good news is that a simple map has been produced depicted which suburban lines a child under 11 can travel free and which do not.
Map Of Suburban Railways Offering Free Travel For Those Between 5 and 11 Years Old

London Underground – Fares, ticketing and how to use


Travelcards – Full details including prices


Public Transport Passes – Travelcard or Oyster Card?


Still Confused - Discuss With Bob

If you are still confused about child ticketing in London just make a comment below and I\’ll normally get back to you within 24 hours
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  • Gianpaolo

    Hi there !!!
    I plan a vacation trip with my two children (14 and 17 years old) at London for next Easter for 4 days.
    I plan to buy Oyster pre-charged card on line and to receive them at home by mail before to leave.
    For the one that is 14 years old I should ask to a member of staff in one of the ticket hall to load
    a Young Persons Discount on my Oyster prepaid for half price adult.
    I need to do this thing one time and it’s valid for all the journey or I need to do this thing every time I use the card ?
    When I put the card on the reader I enter with my youngest child or I must put the card 2 times on the reader ???

    Thanks !!


    • Bob

      Sounds like you need an Oyster Card each and as you say for the 14 year old get a member of staff at an Underground Station to load a YPD on their Oyster. This gives up to 2 weeks of half price Oysters fares and caps on their Oyster

      Each person has their own Oyster so you need to go through the ticket barriers individually

      You can buy Visitors Oysters Cards on-line if you want and have them delivered to your home address, a standard Oyster purchased on arrival will be slightly cheaper though.

  • catbeenie

    Hi there! So, if I already have an oyster and get it loaded with young persons discount for my 11 year old and I use contactless payment for myself, will this be the best way to travel for a 3 day visit?

    • Bob

      For 3 days, yes

      • catbeenie

        Thank you Bob!

  • Mikko

    Hi Bob,

    We’re going to visit London for 6 days in March. My family consists of 6 persons: 2 adults, 2 children 11-15 and 2 children 5-10.

    We will arrive in Gatwick airport on Tuesday evening and return back to Gatwick on Sunday evening. Our apartment is located in zone 1. The only planned trip beyond zones 1-2 is the WB Studio Tour from Euston railway station. Any advice?

    Thank you in advance,

    • Bob

      On the basis of the information supplied I would suggest

      a) Buying the return train tickets between London and Gatwick in advance. There is a choice of 3 train lines, so where exactly your apartment is may be a factor. The Gatwick Express is the dedicated airport train and although it is the most expensive offers Groupsave tickets at all times and a 10% discount by buying from their web site in advance.
      See: https://www.londontoolkit.com/travel/gatwick_rail.htm

      Buy buying return (round trip) tickets from the railways on any of the lines you qualify for the railways 2 for 1 attractions promotion
      This also applies to the other 2 train options, Southern Trains and Thameslink
      See: https://www.londontoolkit.com/whattodo/london_travelcard_2for1.html

      Once in London I would buy 4 Oyster Cards from the Underground Station ticket machines
      For the 2 adults buy a 7 day Travelcard zone 1-2 and also add some cash to cover the trip out to HP

      For the 11-15 year olds ask a member of staff in the ticket hall to load a Young Persons Discount on their Oyster for half price adult Oyster fares, do not load any 7 day Travelcards

      The kids under 11 travel free without a ticket on the Underground.buses, DLR and lucky for you the trains between Euston and Watford Junction without a ticket (but not on the trains to/from Gatwick)

      Full details of Oyster at:

      • Mikko

        Thanks a lot of the quick response, Bob!


  • Deena Feldherr

    Hi Bob! Thank goodness for you!! I hope you can help me as I am going nuts….. Taking my 15 year old to London for three days. Booked Park Plaza outside of Victoria Station for ease of traveling to WB Studio Tour by tube or underground… not sure of the lingo….. Victoria to Euston – London Midland. We may also take the tube from/to Heathrow (I read somewhere that it is two trains). Do I need to buy Oyster cards or can I simply pay as I go? HELP!!! Thank you!!!!! Deena

    • Bob

      For 3 days you are best to buy Oyster Cards at Heathrow Underground Station ticket machines

      For the 15 year old you ask a member of staff hanging around the ticket hall to load a Young Persons Discount on their Oyster which gives half price adult fares and caps for 2 weeks

      You’ll pay a £5 deposit on each Oyster which is refunded when you cancel the Oyster at Heathrow at the end to gether with any cash (up to £10) left on the Oyster

      From Heathrow to Victoria change train at Hammersmith where unlike other stations both trains depart from the same platform.

      For Victoria to Watford Junction get the Victoria Line to Euston then take the Midland train to Watford Junction. For this interchange you’ll exit the Underground system before swiping the Oyster again to board the train. For this journey to count as one fare you’ll need to make this interchange within about 15-20 minutes

      Use the single fare finder below for individual Oyster fares

      but beware of the daily price cap, after which once you hit the cap travel for the rest of the day is free.

      For journey planning the best utility is the TFL journey planner


      • Deena Feldherr

        Thank you for your amazingly quick reply! You make it seem simple so I am going to try it. Do you know how much money I should load onto the cards? I guess we just need them for Victoria to Watford Junction and back…..

        What happens if you use up all the money on the oyster card while using it? Is it linked to my credit card?

        I think I would feel more at ease taking a shared shuttle from the airport to Victoria rather than the tubes…. we are on a red eye flight into London and I’m not sure if I will be able to sleep on the plane and I don’t want to have to think about subways, you know??

        THANK YOU!

        • Bob

          Probably best if you read how an Oyster Card works at the page linked below


          You can then use the single fare finder and the daily price cap links in the previous post to work out how much you will spend on fares.
          Fares do vary for the same journey depending on day and time travelled

          You can top up Oysters at any time at any ticket machine

          Shared van shuttles are a novel concept in the UK and the one at Heathrow is just about the only one of irs type – few people use it as its so expensive, slow and infrequent. It seems to be used mostly by North Americans on their first overseas trip.

  • Julie from Montreal Canada

    Hello Bob,
    Thank you for your advice. I have more questions.
    We will travel to London in august for 21 days, staying in zone 3 and visiting zones 1-3.
    I am thinking of getting the zip oyster for my boys.
    My oldest will be 16. I think it will be better to buy 7days travelpass for him at child rate (3 times).
    My youngest will be 12. I am thinking of paying as we go on the zip oyster.
    For my husband and I, I think 7days travelpass is better.
    We will use the tube most of the time and rarely more than twice in a day, often before 9:30.
    Am I on the right track? (A bit of rail humour!)
    Thank you in advance.

    P.S. Last question, can the zip oyster card 16+ get my son child fare on the Gatwick express?

    • Bob

      Can you advise exactly where you are staying in zone 3?

      • Julie from Montreal Canada

        We will be staying in Walthamstow.

        • Bob

          Ok, quite a trek from Gatwick to Walthamstow on the other side of London.

          Regards the airport transfers from Gatwick probably on intention buy rail tickets and not use Oyster fares.
          On the Gatwick Express web site there are advance Groupsave fares that should be cheaper than using Oysters and by buying train tickets you qualify for the 2 for 1 promotion.

          Its not a great idea for visitors to Use Oysters if they are using Gatwick as there is no ticket machine at Gatwick currently where you can cancel your Oysters and get your £5 deposits plus any cash left on the Oysters refunded.

          For the adults its fairly stright forward, just buy Oyster Cards from the ticket machines at Victoria Underground Station.
          London has no ‘downtown’ area in the North American sense its quite spread out. You’ll no doubt take journeys within London in addition to the commute into and out of London each day.
          So if you are going to travel 5 or more days in any 7, load a 7 day Travelcard onto the Oyster for those 7 days. Otherwise just put cash on the Oyster for Oyster Pay As You Go Fares. If you travel outside zone 3 like to Harry Potter or Hampton Court with a Travelcard zone 1-3 loaded, cash on the Oyster will kick in to pay the sections of the journey not covered by the Travelcard.

          The Victoria Line of the Underground will take you direct to Walthamstow from Victoria

          For the 12 year old you have two choices.
          a) Buy an adult Oyster Card like the adults above and ask a member of staff to load a Young Persons Discount which gives half price adult Oyster Pay As You Go fares for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks swap the Oyster with one of the adults Oysters and get another YPD applied.
          In 2017 the most you can pay in a calendar days in zones 1-3 using YPD is £3.85.
          Unfortunately you cannot load child 7 day Travelcards onto an Oyster with YPD
          b) You can buy a child 7 day Travelcard zone 1-3 from any mainline railway station ticket offices in London, including Victoria. this costs £19.35 in 2017 and comes as a stand-alone ticket (not on an Oyster). Tedious part is you’ll need to provide a passport size photo so a railways id card can be issued.
          Or you can buy them off the TFL on-line shop and have them delivered to your home in Canada, no photo required but there are delivery charges.

          For the 16 year old your idea of applying for a Zip Oyster 16+ Card looks a good option as you’re in town 3 weeks even with the £20 charge and you have plenty of time to apply on-line.
          You can collect the Zip Card at Victoria Visitor Centre on arrival

          • Julie from Montreal Canada

            Thank you so much for this great info. Did not know about 2 for 1.
            If I may ask another question as I am not certain about the info for the 12 year old.
            I calculated the cost of tube on the official site of London transport and I got 0,85£ or 0,75£ for one way ticket for a child (depending on time of travel). Is that cash only or is it on the zip oyster 11-15 photocard? It is quite complicated. Thank you for your patience and very good advice.

          • Bob

            I’ve set out the relevant fares and caps below

            I’d forgot that with an Oyster 11-15 ID Card there is an off-peak price cap so its quite a complicated decision for the 12 year old between using an Oyster with a Young Persons Discount or an Oyster with a 11-15 ID Card.

            With regards the off-peak price cap with the 11-15 ID Card you only have to do one journey each day between Monday to Friday from 0630 to 0930. or 16:00 to 19:00 and the price cap goes up to the peak level.

            In 2017 relevant Oyster fares to you are as follows (where two fares are shown the most expensive is for travel between Monday to Friday from 0630 to 0930. and 16:00 to 19:00:only)

            Any Bus journey = £1.50
            Underground journey between zone 1 and zone 3 = £2.80/£3.30
            Underground journey within zones 1 = £2.40
            Daily price cap zone 1-3 = £7.70
            7 Day Travelcard zone 1-3 = £38.70

            Child with Young Persons Discount loaded – all prices half of the adult ones above
            Any Bus journey = £0.75
            Underground journey between zone 1 and zone 3 = £1.40/£1.65
            Underground journey within zones 1 = £1.20
            Daily price cap zone 1-3 = £3.85
            7 Day Travelcard zone 1-3 = n/a

            Any child under 16
            7 Day Child Travelcard zone 1-3 = £19.40 (but only available bought from the railways or on-line)

            Child with Oyster 11-15 ID Card (Initial Cost £15)
            Any Bus journey = Free
            Underground journey between zone 1 and zone 3 = £0.75/£0.85
            Underground journey within zones 1 = £0.75/£0.85
            Daily price cap zone 1-3 = £1.50/£3.85
            7 Day Child Travelcard zone 1-3 = £19.40

            Child with Oyster 16+ ID Card (Initial Cost £20)
            Any Bus journey = £0.75
            Underground journey between zone 1 and zone 3 = £1.40/£1.65
            Underground journey within zones 1 = £1.20
            Daily price cap zone 1-3 = £3.85
            7 Day Travelcard (with Oyster ID Card) zone 1-3 = £19.40

          • Julie from Montreal Canada

            Thank you.
            Happy New year’s!

  • Fer UK2017

    Hi Bob,

    First at all thanks you for helping us to understand the transportation system. Unfortunately I still have a doubt.

    I´m going to London on February 4 and I´ll stay until February 9 with my wife and 2 kids (age 8 and 11). We will stay by Bayswater near Lancaster Gate station.

    We are arriving to London Stansted and returning from Gatwick. We plan to do some sightseeing
    and mainly travelling in zone 1-2. We will make our Stantsted-London and London-Gatwick trips by train but i´m not sure if those tickets allows us to get the 2 for 1 benefits during the 6 days or if we should buy the 7 days travelcard at the train station to get the 2×1 benefits.

    I will be grateful for your help in determining the best possible combination

    Thank you in advance.


    • Bob

      A strict interpretation of 2 for 1 rules would be that you only qualify for 2 for 1 on the day of arrival with the Stansted Express tickets into London
      Attractions vary enormously on the degree of scrutiny they give to the rail tickets so you may well get away with it at many, but this by no means can be assured or expected

      You can buy 7 day Travelcards zone 1-2 at Liverpool Street Railway Station ticket office but unlike 7 day Travelcards purchased from non-railway outlets like the Underground you need a railways id card which requires a passport size photo each.

      With regards the kids, once you get into London the 8 year old is entitled to free transport on the red buses and the Underground travelling without a ticket.
      As they travel without a ticket they are not qualifying for 2 for 1 and in turn that makes your 11 year old orphaned from qualifying for 2 for 1

      As the 7 day Travelcards bought from a railway station are stand-alone magnetic strip tickets and do not come loaded on an Oyster Card like those purchased from other outlets if you want the odd trip outside zone 1-2 this would mean buying additional physical tickets.

      Without the 2 for 1 requirement the best transport ticket for you for the adults would be a 7 day Travelcard zone 1-2 bought from a ticket machine at Liverpool Street Underground Station that comes loaded on an Oyster without the photo requirement and if you require a trip outside zone 1-2 its just a matter of putting some cash on the Oyster at a ticket machine for the travel outside zone 1-/
      For the kids the 8 year old travels free without a ticket, the 11 year old is best with either a 7 day Travelcard bought from the raileays or an Oyster Card with. young Persons Discount loaded on the oyster

      National Express coaches also operate a 2 for 1 promotion, not as large as the railways but still with a good list of attractions
      National Express run airport services from Stansted to Paddington, next to Lancaster Gate as well as Liverpool Street and are cheaper than the trains.
      Details of theie promotion is at:

      • Fer UK2017

        Thank you again Bob. I liked the “orphaned” part.

        As the discounts on the 2 for 1 promotion are really good, I was thinking on buying a rail ticket for my 8yo kid on the date i will use the promotion, even if we don´t use the ticket. It will probably cost less than the saving.

        I´ll also check the national express coach service you´ve mention.



  • Jan Kowalski

    Hi Bob,

    I’m coming to London on February 1st, together with my wife and kids (age 10 and 12) for one week. I’m going to buy travelcards for zones 1-2. Are 7-days travelcards bought from a railway ticket office EXACTLY of the same price as those taken from underground stations (both adult and child)? Can my younger travel then for free with me? When using these railway travelcards: can everybody (so the younger) also take National Rail lines marked green on this map: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/5-10-free-travel-national-rail-services-map.pdf? Many thanks in advance, Marek 🙂

    • Bob

      The only reason to buy 7 day Travelcards are a way of qualifying for the railways 2 for 1 promotion.

      Although the Travelcards purchased from the railways are identically priced and you can use them on identical services to those bought elsewhere there are differences

      To buy 7 day Travelcards from the railways you need a railways id card which requires you to provide a passport size photo each at time of purchase

      7 day Travelcards from the railways are card tickets with a magnetic strip, those purchased elsewhere come on an Oyster Card. The impact of this is only when you travel outside the zones you purchased the Travelcard for. So if you buy a zone 1-2 Travelcard from the railways and want an occasional journey to say zone 3 you need another fare whilst those with Travelcards on Oysters you just put some cash on the Oyster and you just have to pay a small fare for the travel in zone 3 only

      Children under 11 travel free without a ticket, its under 5 on any service run by a national railway company marked on the map you have.
      So your 10 year old can travel free without a ticket on most public transport in London.
      As they do not have a ticket they do not qualify for 2 for 1
      Without a ticket the child cannot go through the automatic ticket barriers at stations so you have to go through the manned barriers – for a 10 year old I would recommend bringing some age id in case challenged about the age of your child

      Its also worth noting that you cannot buy a 7 day child Travelcard from an Underground Station unless your child has an Oyster id card which doesn’t make sense unless you are resident. Buy an Oyster with a Young Persons Discount

      Also the 2 for 1 promotion is 1 person pays full walk up admission another gets in free irrespective of age, its not one child admission, one child free

      • Jan Kowalski

        Thanks a lot,

        for so helpful advice 🙂 Just to make it clear (as I got it):
        – If I decide to purchase the travelcard from the railways for my elder (12 yrs old), I will pay just half price of the adult rate and in that way I don’t need to buy an Oyster with a Young Person Discount for him?
        – My 10 year old will NOT be allowed to travel free on the service run by a national railway within zone 1-2 company EVEN IF I purchase an adult travelcard from the railways and then he will accompany me?
        – How does a card with a magnetic strip work? Does it run through the machines to open the ticket barriers or should I just TOUCH the yellow card reader at the start and out – like in Oyster case?

        Best wishes, Marek 🙂

        • Bob

          Child Travelcards are half the price of adult 7 day Travelcards
          I presume you are only going to travel in zones 1 and 2 of the transport system?
          If so the only downside for the railways 7 day Travelcard is coming up with a pasport size photo.

          Your 10 year old will not be able to travel free on any of the train services operated by a railway company, most of these are south of the river. Companies include Southern, Thameslink and South West trains. On these only children under 5 travel free.
          Children under 11 can travel free without a ticket on the red London buses, London Underground, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway and TFL Rail services only

          For all tickets that are not Oyster Cards or others that you swipe like Contaxtless Credit Cards or Apple Pay, there is a slot below the yellow pad which you insert your ticket into. The ticket goes inside the machine checks it is valid, opens the barrier and ejects the ticket on the top of the machine where you retrieve your ticket before walking through the barrier

          • Jan Kowalski

            Thank you
            so much for such a detailed explanation! Let me stay in touch in case I’d have any doubts on quite a complicated system of public transport in London still before our departure. Best regards, Marek.

  • Richard van Steen

    Hi Bob,

    I am visiting London on december 27th for 4 days, together with my wife and two kids (age 12 & 14). We arrive at London Luton and stay in a hotel in the center of London (Kennington Road). What is the best way to travel from the airport to the hotel? Thanks in advance. Regards, Richard.

    • Bob

      There is no universal best way for the airport transfer
      Broadly your choice is the cheaper, slower airport buses betwwn Luton and London Victoria or the faster train option to St Pancras

      Kennington Road is the other side of London to Luton so you’ll need to use the Underground or buses then to progress to your hotel

      National Express who run the airport bus have discounted advance purchase tickets on-line though it may be too late noe for these

      Unlike the buses the trains do family return (round trip) tickets called Groupsave tickets so if these are available the price may make this option very attractive
      Return train tickets would also qualify you for the railways 2 for 1 attractions promotion

      Once you arrive in London buy 4 Oyster Cards from the ticket machines at the Underground Stations
      For the kids ask a member of staff to load a Young Persons Discount on their Oyster for half price fares and caps
      In Central London using Oyster once you hit £6.50 in fares in a day all travel after that is free for the rest of the day (half that for the kids)

      • Richard van Steen

        Hi Bob. Thanks for the detailed response!

  • Kevin Ace Hinkley

    Hi Bob….
    We’re taking our 9 year old grandaughter to London in Feb for three days.Does she need an osyter photo card or can she travel free with us,as we both have a pay as you go Oyster card…?
    Thank you…

    • Bob

      Children under 11 travel free on nearly all public transport in London without a ticket.
      The only exception are train services run by a national railways company, (but TFL rail, London Overground and Underground and DLR are ok)

      You do not need photo id if the child is accompanied by an adult.

      As the child has no ticket they cannot go the ticket barriers to enter and exit stations so you have to be let through a manned gate by a member of staff
      If the 9 year old could be mistaken for a 11 year old bring some age id in case challenged about age

      • Kevin Ace Hinkley

        Thanks Bob….

  • Tonia

    Hi Bob,
    We’re travelling to London for 8 days and plan to do a lot of touristy travel, mostly by bus and train within the city, from our base in Peckham. 2 adults, 2 children 13 & 15 and 1 child of 9.
    Any recommendations?

    • Tonia

      We’re all new to London, having never been before.

      • Bob

        The 9 year old travels free without a ticket (but not on the trains, ok on Underground and DLR and London buses)

        For the other 4 buy an Oyster Card each

        Assuming you are travelling around London every day for the 2 adults load a 7 day Travelcard zone 1-2 onto these Oysters and out Cash on the Oyster to cover fares on the 8th day and any travel outside zones 1-2

        For the 13 and 15 year old get a member of staff at an Underground Station to load a Young Persons Discount on their Oyster Cards for half price Oyster fares and just put cash on these.
        As an indication for the kids the most you can pay in a day using Oyster in the centre zonees 1-2 id £3.75 per day

    • Kevin Ace Hinkley

      Thanks Bob……

  • Jacqui

    I am still wondering what is the best option as I have been informed that there will be engineering works going on too ( out of Richmond on the underground line) when we are there? Any ideas I just want the best options many thanks in advance

    • Bob

      For 4 days Oyster fares are cheapest
      If the Underground is not working out of Richmond and there is no bus replacement service you can use Oysters on the train from Richmond to London Waterloo

      The only issue is that children under 11 travel free without a ticket on everything but services in London run by National rail services which includes the Trains running through Richmond to Waterloo

      For the kids you will need to ask a member of staff at an Underground Station to load a Young Persons Discount onto the Oyster which gives half price adult fares for 2 weeks

      If the adults have debit or credit cards that support contactless payment you can use them as Oyster Cards and get debited Oyster fares

      If the Underground trains are not running at Richmond not sure if there will be Underground staff there, but there are ticket machines where you can buy and top up Oysters

      • Jacqui

        Thanks Bob for your reply..

        We will have tp pay for the 10yr old on the train from Richmond then if the Underground is not functioning due to engineering works ..If we opted to use the bus how long is the journey from Richmond to Hyde Park Corner please?
        Many Thanks

        • Bob

          The official journey planner is very good for planning journeys, you can customise it so for examople you can take out rail as a travel option and the planner factors in known issues and time and day of travel

          The planner is at


          • Jacqui

            Thanks I will have a look at it

  • Jacqui

    Hi Bob

    We are two adults and two kids aged 10 and 11 yrs ..We are staying in Richmond (arriving there by car) but intend to use public transport in and out of London ..Winter Wonderland, London Eye Natural History Musuem and maybe ChinaTown ..We are staying for four days in total…What is the best solution for our needs…Both adults have contactless cards and I also have an old Oyster card ..Will it be poss to load the Oyster card at Richmond station? Or is there any river travel options? Many Thanks


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