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Oyster Card Questions

1) Can I buy the "regular" Oyster card (not the "visitor" Oyster card) at the Heathrow tube station?

We plan to take the tube into London, spend 2 full days using the Oyster card, and then use the card to pick up and drop off our car later in the month (probably just 2 short rides.) Is the regular Oyster card the best option for this scenario?

Posted by
7188 posts

Can I buy the "regular" Oyster card (not the "visitor" Oyster card) at the Heathrow tube station?

Yes. You say we so you should know that each person would need their own card.

We plan to take the tube into London, spend 2 full days using the Oyster card, and then use the card to pick up and drop off our car later in the month (probably just 2 short rides.) Is the regular Oyster card the best option for this scenario?

Yes. You might just have to add more money to it depending how much you put on it the first time you buy it and the amount left after the trips you take over the two days.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you for your kind advice. Not sure why it's all so confusing. We understand we all need our own cards. Just want to be sure we can actually purchase the "card" at Heathrow, not just load money to a previously purchased card.

Posted by
332 posts

A bit of reassurance, one less thing for you to worry about: Although I had done lots of reading on this website prior to arrival, when I actually arrived at Heathrow and ready to take the tube out on the Piccadilly line,I was a little shy about how to get the oyster card. I swallowed any hesitancy, walked up to to London transit workers at the tube stop in Heathrow, and simply asked for help. The man walked me over to the machine, helped me with Purchasing an Oyster card using the credit card machines. He was super nice, asking how long we would be in London, where we intended to use the tube , number of days, super nice, amazing customer service. Couldn't have been more helpful. During our vacation, we had multiple scenarios at different tube stops where we simply asked the workers and they were always extra helpful.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
11613 posts

I was confused, too. Heathrow probably has a dedicated transit pass desk in your arrival terminal, on the way to buses, taxis, tube; Gatwick does, that is where I bought my Oyster Card and 7-day transit pass for my 9-day stay in London.

You can also get a refund on the balance when you finish using it - at most machines.

Posted by
4678 posts

Note if you have contactless credit / debit cards or Apple/Android pay you may be able to use this directly and bypass needing to buy an Oyster at all. Experiences vary across issuers, and you need to have one with a decent policy for foreign currency transactions.

Posted by
219 posts

We have always found dedicated transit desks, as Zoe references, in the various Heathrow terminals were we have arrived. As another poster mentioned, the staff is always super friendly and helpful.

Incidentally, we buy "regular" Oyster passes, not visitor ones. The staff will help you decide how much to initially load based on the length of your stay. You can either choose to return them at the end of your stay to recoup your deposit or save them for your next trip. We were assured that the amount loaded on them does not expire.

Posted by
27713 posts

not just load money to a previously purchased card.

Do you mean that you already have one or more left over Oyster cards from a previous trip to London?

If so, yes you can just top it up - the money never expires. If you are talking about ordering a "Visitor" Oyster and having it sent to you - don't. You can't get back what you spent for the deposit nor the postage and shipping on a"Visitor" one so even though the deposit is £3 instead of £5, when you lose that £3 and pay whatever they charge these days to send it to you, you are way behind. And it is so easy to get a real one - see above.

Posted by
1220 posts

There are automated kiosks as well. It is as easy to buy an Oyster card and load it with money as it is to buy a soda from a vending machine.

Posted by
3262 posts

I was skimming through Rick's blogs and came across a fairly recent one on just this subject. The blog includes a video showing just how easy it is to buy and load an Oyster card from a ticket machine. I can't find a way to link the specific post, so just scroll down this page till you come to it.

http://blog.ricksteves.com/page/2/