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Oyster Card or Friends and Family?

I am arriving at LHR on 7/31/14 with two daughters under 13. We will need to get in to Marble Arch area, bop around London until Sunday when we will take train to Cambridge for Folk Festival. Next day we will need to get to Stanstead Airport. Am I better with Oyster card or Friends and Family Rail card?

Part II, Can I purchase a Friends and Family at Heathrow?
Part III, If only adults can purchase visitor Oyster cards, do I pass it back through for my girls?

Thank you!!!

Posted by
25585 posts

The two have nothing to do with each other.

The Oyster Card is used as a means of prepaid automatic payment of much transportation within the 6 main transit zones of London. Heathrow is at the end of zone 6, Marble Arch is in zone 1.

Friends and Family is a discount card providing a 33% discount on adult tickets and 60% off child tickets on National Rail so might be helpful on the trips to and from Cambridge and then out to Stansted. Or are you not returning to London and are you going straight to Stansted from Cambridge?

Are there 2 adults or just you? The Friends and Family card costs €30 so you have to get discounts on €100 of train tickets before you even break even.

If you wish to avoid the use of an Oyster Card you can get a paper Travelcard (possibly not available at Heathrow) for zones 1-6 at 1/3 off using the Friends and Family card, but as I say the logistics could be difficult at Heathrow. Heathrow has no National Rail sales facility and the Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect are NOT National Rail facilities.

You can't get any Friends and Family discount on other zoned Travelcards - particularly not on zone 1-4 and zone 1-2 cards which would likely be what you would need while in London.

Child tickets on British trains are pretty cheap already. Children under 5 travel free, and 5 to 15 are half fare. So 60% off half price is pretty cheap.

BUT - you have to work out if you will have well over £100 of rail tickets so that the card makes sense.

You can't pass an Oyster card around. Each card is for one person.

Posted by
2 posts

Hello Nigel, Thank you so much for your help and advice. I will be the only adult, so I thought the friends and family card covered myself and my children for the 30 GBP. It sounds like it wont be much help in the city though so I will just purchase individual Oyster cards when I get to LHR.

We are leaving from Cambridge to Stanstead and then over to Dublin so not coming back through London again.

Many thanks.!

Posted by
4521 posts

If the daughters are 11+ don't get Oyster cards for them but buy child-rate Day Travelcards instead.

You can preorder 11-15 Zip Oyster Zip cards for them which would get them free travel, but with a one off fee of £10, and some hoops over proving ID, and a 4 week processing time it may not be worth it for you for a short trip

Under 11 they go free

Posted by
25585 posts

The confusing thing here is that the rules for children are so completely different between the railways and Transport for London who run the tube, trams and red buses.

Even more confusing is that London Overground, the orange painted heavy rail trains which run an inner loop around London and up to Watford follow the TfL rules because they are part of TfL.

So, for complete confusion - not related directly to this thread - if children aged 5 to 11 (with parent of course) are at Euston station going to Watford Junction to see the Harry Potter they could get really confused. If the train is coloured red they can't take it at all because Virgin do not set down northbound at Watford Junction, they only pick up even though it says Watford Junction on the diagrams. If they get on a bluish grey train with London Midland written on the outside they pay half fare. But if they get on the orange painted Overground train from platform 9 they travel for free.

In my post above I was quoting the rail rules. Marco was quoting the TfL rules.

Confused yet? No? Hmmm let me think of something else that may cause you to pull out your hair>...