Oyster Card or Travelcard – The Best London Pass in 2016 ?
Author: Bob Handford
A Decision Tree Selecting The Right Transport Pass For You
This blog post is aimed at the visitor to London, visiting for two weeks maximum. If you are a resident, the answer to this question will inevitably be Oyster Card perhaps with a Travelcard season ticket loaded if you commute or a contactless payment card.
Just follow this page through and you should be able to make an informed judgements on the best solution for you.
Contactless Payment Cards - Best On Paper For Most Visitors But ...
The killer aspect of contactless payment cards is that you just use your own personal debit or credit card as your ticket on all transport. Fares are put then put on your card account at the end of the day like any other purchase.
In 2016, for adult short term visitors to London who have a valid contactless payment card this is almost certainly going to be your best option. But there are lots of caveats, especially if you are from overseas …
– every person traveling needs their own individual credit/debit card that supports contactless payments
– you cannot use contactless payment cards for concessions i.e. child fares
– if you are from North America the chances are that unless you have an American Express Card your credit/debit cards will not support contactless payment. So do use the link below to the contactless payment cards detail page which goes into compatability issues in more detail
– if your credit/debit card is issued outside the UK, you’ll be hit for foreign exchange fees like all other purchases. Many issuers have punitive fees for foreign exchange which may make that card unattractive for use purchasing transport in London.
Visitor Oyster Cards
The reality is the opposite is true, the only reason to purchase a Visitors Oyster Card is if you are happy to pay a price premium for a less flexible product just for the convenience of having the Oyster Cards in your hands before departure to London.
Oyster Cards bought in London have a refundable deposit of £5, Visitor Oyster Cards have a non refundable deposit of £3.
Oyster Cards bought in London allow you to load Travelcards (but not 1 day Travelcards) onto your Oyster. If you are staying 6 or more days a 7 day Travelcard will probably be cheaper than Oyster alone. Visitor Oyster Cards do not have this capability.
Do you have any children, under 18 years
I\’m afraid child fares are needlessly complex.
Are You Travelling In a Group Of 10 Or More
1 Day Group Travelcard – Full Details
Is Sightseeing A Major Part Of Your Visit To London
Under the promotion one person pays the full adult admission, the other goes in free. For places like the Tower of London that\’s a saving of over £20 – more than the cost of your Travelcard that day. The savings are substantial, but there are some tedious aspects too. You may well buy Travelcard purely on the basis of obtaining these savings on your sightseeing.
In London 6 or More Days Or Occassional Travelling In Zones 3 to 6 (Combining Travelcards and Oyster)
If you are staying in London for say 10 days or are staying in the outer zones where your travel patterns may well be more irregular in terms of which travel zones you travel through it may well suit you to combine Oyster and Travelcard, Sometimes using both for the same journey.
For Oyster Cards bought in London, (not Visitors Oyster Cards) you can load 7 day, monthly or annual Travelcards onto the Oyster Card. You cannot load Travelcards onto contactless payment cards either.
So if you have an Oyster Card with money loaded onto it under Pay As You Go and also a 7 day Travelcard zone 1/2 a classic example of where it becomes beneficial to the visitor is now outlined:
You are flying into Heathrow (zone 6) and staying in a hotel in Central London (zones 1 and 2) and sightseeing for 9 days before flying out of Heathrow. One day you are visiting Hampton Court in zone 5.
What you can do is buy an Oyster Card at Heathrow Airport Underground Station and load some money onto it immediately and use it as an Oyster card. On the 3rd day you buy a 7 day Travelcard zone 1 and 2 and load that onto the Oyster Card.
For the next 7 days all your traveling is in the central zones except the airport trip on the last day and your trip to Hampton Court.
On 5 of the days where you are exclusively traveling in zones 1 and 2 the Travelcard covers your travel needs. On the journeys to and from Hampton Court and to Heathrow the system will take from your Oyster an extension fee to cover the part of the journey outside zones 1 and 2 covered by your Travelcard.
If you buy your Travelcard from a railways ticket office they only sell card 7 day Travelcards, they do not load Travelcards onto Oysters. If you have such a card Travelcard covering zones 1 and 2 you can go up to a ticket office and ask for an extension fare if you are travelling say to Heathrow in zone 6.
Travelling To and From London's Airports
Heathrow Airport is in zone 6 of London\’s transport system.
You cannot use Oyster or Travelcards on the Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect airport trains to Heathrow, you can use them on the Underground and London buses at Heathrow
Do not get a 7 Day Travelcard for zones 1 to 6 just to cover the Underground transfers from Heathrow. Get a zone 1 to 2 7 Day Travelcard and pay for an extension fare for zones 3 to 6 to cover for the airport trips, you will save a lot of money this way. (See example in above section)
City Airport is in zone 3 of London\’s transport system and is served by the DLR system that connects with the London Underground.
From January 2016, you will be able to use Oyster pay as you go and contactless cards on train services between London and Gatwick Airport.
Whether its a good idea to use Oyster rather than buy tickets from the railways is another question and a very complex one to answer. You will need to carefully read our dedicated pages on the Gatwick trains and also understand how Oyster work to make an informed comparison.
Luton, Southend & Stansted Airports
Neither Oyster or Travelcard go out to any of these airports.
Making 1 or 2 Journeys in a day, no more
On the trains and underground you can buy a single ticket but it comes at a punitive price.
Travelcards are not appropiate for one or two journeys in a day.
If you have a credit/debit card that supports contactless payment then use it, this will be your cheapest fare.
Oyster Cards have the same fare structure as contactless payment cards.
If you have neither Oyster or contactless payment card then you have an awkward decision.
You can either pay single cash fares on the underground and trains, but not buses. If you are making 2 journeys not one it will almost certainly be cheaper to buy a 1 day Travelcard instead of 2 cash one-way fares (there are no return tickets)
You can get an Oyster Card. This ensures you have the cheapest fares but you have the hassle of the Oyster deposit on purchase then canceling your Oyster at the end of your trip to reclaim your deposit and any balance left on the card.
Still Confused, Got Something You Want To Add?
Well just post it below. I\’ll mormally answer within 24 hours.