Practical guide to London buses with 2024 fares & maps

Be informed and in control using London's famous red buses

London Double Deck Buses
Double decker London buses

London's famous red buses form a big part of getting around in London.

Although the London Underground is the fastest and for newcomers the simplest way of getting around London, the buses play their part and are an experience you should try at least once on your visit.

Unlike the London Underground, perched up on the top deck of the bus you get a great sightseeing experience of London as well.

Key points   Journey planner   Bus maps   Bus fares 2024   Oyster & contactless   Child concessions  

Key points about London's buses

  • Although there are separate bus operating companies, the regulation, fares and ticketing for buses, Underground, DLR and London suburban trains are managed by a central government body called Transport for London (TfL) chaired by the Mayor of London. The transport passes that nearly everyone uses, Oyster and Travelcard, allow you to travel seamlessly across all modes of transport, bus, Underground, train and DLR using the same ticket/pass.

  • You are unable to use cash on London's buses to buy tickets on the bus.

  • Children under 11 travel free on red London buses (and the Underground) at all times. Child fares are available for those under 16 but it is very complex. It is possible to get discounted fares if you are under 18 or studying in London with an Oyster ID card.

  • There are no seniors fares for visitors. If you reside in London and are over 60 you can get a pass that makes free bus travel available and anyone with an English National Concessionary bus pass can use that on London's buses too.

  • Many of London's bus routes run 24/7. When the Underground closes between about midnight and about 5am, extra night buses are put on. In the centre of London you only wait a few minutes for a bus whatever time of day or night. At weekends only the Underground now runs a service through the night on Friday and Saturdays.

  • London's buses are zone-less. If you have a Travelcard it is valid in any zone on the buses, so if you have a Travelcard valid only for zones 1 and 2 you can use it on buses in Zone 6 if you wanted.

London Bus Journey Planner

Use the TfL (Transport for London) journey planner to plan your travel. The journey planner covers all public transport.

TFL Journey planner

London Public Transport Journey Planner

London bus maps

For first-time visitors to London who can invest a little time pouring over the Central London Bus map, you can quite easily put together your own tour cheaply with just a few well chosen routes.

A simplified tourist bus map shows the key bus routes from a tourist perspective and the location of the main sights marked on the bus map.

London bus fares

On the buses there are flat fares whether you go one stop or to the end of the route. It is not possible to pay for London bus fares in cash. Instead you can pay with a Visitor Oyster card, Oyster card, Travelcard or contactless payment card, or use a bus pass.

Just touch Oyster and Contactless payment cards on the card reader as you enter the bus. The majority of people using buses will be using Oyster cards or Contactless cards at the moment.

Hopper Fares - complete a journey by connecting with another bus & pay for one fare

Make an adult journey using pay as you go (contactless or Oyster card) on a bus or tram, and you can make a second bus or tram journey for free within one hour of touching in on the first bus.

You must touch in using the same card on the second bus. The free fare will then be applied automatically.

The scope of the bus hopper fare has been expanding since 2018 to permit multiple free transfers within an hour.

London Adult Bus Fares & ticket prices 2024 (Children's fares see below)

Fares Available Paying By Oyster Card or Contactless Payment Card

Single Journey Fare (Hopper Fare) £1.75

1 Day Bus Pass £6.00

1 day bus only cap for Oyster & Contactless Payment Cards £5.25*

7 Day Bus & Tram Pass £24.70

1 Month Bus & Tram Pass £94.90

7Annual Bus & Tram Pass £988.00

* Daily Oyster and contactless payment card cap - the maximum you pay in a calendar day no matter how many bus journeys you make. e.g. 4 journeys made in one day at £1.75 cost £5.25 (the daily cap) not £7.00.

If you need to change buses to make a journey. As long as you swipe your Oyster within 1 hour on the second bus from the first bus, the second journey is free. See Bus Hopper Fares section below.

Oyster & Contactless payment cards

The Oyster card is a permanent reusable electronic ticket which is topped up from time to time by its owner. Londoners also have their season tickets loaded onto Oyster cards as well and there are passes for 7 days, monthly and annual durations. All can be loaded onto the one electronic Oyster card.

Contactless cards are standard credit or debit cards that support the contactless payment technology. Total cost of all the journeys that you make in one day is calculated at the end of the day and a single charge is made to your Contactless payment card account.

Unlike the Oyster card the Contactless facility has a 7 day cap as well as the Oyster daily cap used by Oyster.

You can use Oyster cards and Contactless payment cards on all of London's public transport, not just buses but the Underground, Overground, DLR, suburban rail services and some river services. Note Contactless cards cannot be used on the heritage Routemaster buses in London.

You can purchase and subsequently top up Oyster cards from Underground Stations and a wide variety of other outlets throughout London including neighbourhood stores.

If you don't have enough credit for the bus fare on your Oyster card, you will be able to make one more bus journey to help you get to your next destination. You must then top up your credit before you can use your Oyster card again.

Oyster cards - more details

Contactless payment cards - more details

Understand the differences between Travelcard, Oyster Card and contactlessd card. Ask bob if still confused.

Transport for London


London Travelcard & Oyster Card

Visiting London? Save time and money on London public transport

• Visitor Oyster Card • Travelcard for 1 day anytime / off-peak or 7 days anytime • Group day travelcards available

Further details on bus fares

Bus Hopper fares

Make a journey using pay as you go (Contactless or Oyster) on a bus and you can make a second bus journey for free within one hour of touching in on the first bus.

You must touch in using the same card on the second bus, the free fare will then be applied automatically.

Bus Passes

You can buy 1 and 7 day bus passes for unlimited travel on London's red buses only. However it should be noted that the daily cap on Oyster card and Contactless payment cards are cheaper than a 1 day Bus Pass.

Seniors concessions

There are no seniors fares for visitors. If you reside in London and are of pensionable age you can get a Freedom pass giving free travel. If you are 60+ and live in London the Seniors Oyster ID Card that makes free bus travel available. You can apply online or get a form from your local Post Office.

Anybody with an English National Concessionary bus pass can use that on London's red buses too and travel free of charge.

If you have a Senior Railcard you can get your 1/3 discount on off-peak Oyster fares. You have to ask a member of staff to load the concession onto a standard Oyster card (note, not a Visitors Oyster card) at an Underground Station after showing your Seniors Card.

If you have a Senior Railcard you can also buy 1 day off-peak zone 1-6 Travelcards at with the discount applied.

Child concessions

This is a very complex subject and is covered in detail at the foot of the page.

A child is defined as under 16 years old, but in the last few years it has been possible to get child fares after jumping through a few hoops up to the age of 17.

On the buses children broadly enjoy a 50% discount on child Oyster and Travelcard tickets if there is no free travel available.

Children under 11 can travel free on the London Underground, DLR and buses without a ticket. If a child is between 11 and 15 years old you require an Oyster 11-15 Photocard (which has a fee, see below). This allows 11 to 15 year olds to travel at child fares on the Underground, DLR, Overground and some trains, free on the buses.

If you are a short-term visitor (in London for up to 14 days) with kids between 11-15 you can take advantage of the Young Visitor Discount. This means you can get half price fares on an Oyster card on a temporary basis for your child without going through the hoops and expense of getting an Oyster ID card. You do need to read carefully the rules of this scheme though.

Child fares - more details

Swiping Your Oyster Card
Swiping an Oyster Card

Boarding the bus

When you board the bus with an Oyster card or contactless payment card you will see a yellow pad like the one pictured right.

Swipe your Oyster over the pad and the machine will confirm your fare has been taken. That's it, you don't get a ticket and you don't swipe it again on exiting the bus.

Travelcards are unlimited journey passes where as long as your Travelcard is valid the day of travel you do not need to swipe.

Children's Fare Concessions

Children Under 5

Children under five can travel free at any time on the Tube, DLR, buses and trams as long as they are accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket. You do not need a ticket for free travel. Children in this category do not need Oyster ID Cards*.

Children 5-10

Under-11s can travel free at any time on buses and trams without the need for a Oyster ID Card*. You do not need a ticket for free travel.

They can also travel free at any time on the Tube, DLR , Overground and any TfL train service when they are travelling with an adult who has a valid ticket. Up to 4 children under 11 years old accompanied by a paying adult travel free.

Travel on the national railways which operate suburban commuter trains in London only have free travel for those under 5. In the last year or so many train routes in London have switched from the railways to TfL Rail. Confusingly a few national railways routes where both rail and TfL rail operate on the same tracks children under 11 can travel free on the railways trains - this includes the popular route for visitors between Euston and Watford Junction (for Harry Potter Studio Tour).

Unaccompanied children between 5 and 10 must have a valid Oyster ID Card*.

Children 11-15

Children aged 11 to 15 years must get an 11-15 Oyster ID Card* to travel free on buses and trams and at child-rate on Tube, DLR and London Overground services. You do not need a ticket for free travel, just the ID Card.

You cannot get a standard child rate Oyster card without an Oyster ID Card.

Young Visitor Discount (for visitors to London staying up to 2 weeks)

If you are a short-term visitor to London you can get child fares on a special child Oyster card that expires after 14 days. There are restrictions. You can only get these Oyster cards credited with a Young Persons Discount at Underground stations, TfL Rail stations, Visitor or Travel Information Centres and Victoria National Rail station ticket office. For full details of this scheme click through on the Child Fares banner, below.

Alternatives to Oyster cards for children

You can get around the Oyster ID card requirement by purchasing a 1 day Travelcard for the child (longer length Travelcards do require an Oyster ID Card), paying the cash fare or purchasing your Child Travelcard online in advance from the TfL Visitor Shop.

You can buy 7 day child Travelcards at railway stations (not Underground or Overground) with a railway ticket office. The railways will issue a railways photocard free of charge if you bring along a passport size photo of your child. You can only use this for buying tickets from the railways which in practise for visitors means Travelcards.

Children 16-17

All 16 to 17-year-olds can travel at child-rate on bus, Tube, tram, DLR and London Overground services with a 16+ Oyster ID Card*.

However, you can only use this concession on Oyster cards and 7 Day Travelcards or longer, not 1 day Travelcards.

Students 18+

If you are 18 or over and enrolled with a participating education establishment registered on the TfL scheme and are resident in London while studying there is an Oyster ID card that gives a 30% discount on adult-rate Travelcards and Bus & Tram Pass season tickets.

Apply for a child's Oyster ID card

Advance application for Child Oyster ID Card

*Oyster ID Cards

Visitors to London from overseas can order an Oyster Photocard in advance for their children and collect on arrival at a travel centre. There is a Travel Centre at Heathrow Airport as well as in Central London. If you are resident in the UK but live outside London you can again order online but the Oyster ID Card is sent to your home address.

Note you need to apply (online) at least 4 weeks prior to arrival.

Note: There is a non-refundable £10-£20 administration fee for each Oyster ID Card

Child fares in London public transport

Transport for London


London Travelcard & Oyster Card

Visiting London? Save time and money on London public transport

• Visitor Oyster Card • Travelcard for 1 day anytime / off-peak or 7 days anytime • Group day travelcards available

Every effort is made to keep all our information correct and the advertised prices up to date. We endeavour to be as accurate a source of information as possible but Travellers Toolkits cannot be held responsible for any price differential between our stated prices and those of the companies supplying the product or accuracy of information provided on our sites.