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Travel options for upcoming 9 day London trip - Oyster/Travel cards, zones, etc.

Hi, wondering what you would all recommend for an upcoming London trip regarding travel around the city - the options (Oyster Card, Travel Card, 2-for-1, zones, etc.) are a bit overwhelming!

Our specific details are as follows:

There will be 2 of us, we'll be arriving at Heathrow on a Saturday morning and leaving 9 days later on a Monday afternoon.

We plan on taking the tube to and from the airport to the place we're staying (near the Barons Court station and #9 bus) and back...tube and buses around the city to the typical sights throughout the week...planning on visiting Greenwich, and making maybe a day trip or two (Stonhenge/Bath private bus tour or the like).

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Posted by
3336 posts

Sounds like you'll be out of the city for at least a couple of days so I would just get an Oyster Card, load it up, and go. You can easily do this at machines in any tube station or staffed window where you can find one open. When you run out it's easy to top it off. Many of the stations in central London that see a lot of tourist traffic have a staffed window. To get from Heathrow into the city you can either just take the tube (only one line from the airport goes into town; about a 50 minute trip) or you can take the Heathrow Express train - only about 15 minutes to Paddington Station. The train is a lot more expensive but is nice after a long flight.

Posted by
1063 posts

"The train is a lot more expensive "

Not so if you book the HEX in advance.

Posted by
27425 posts

A one week Zone 1+2 Travelcard issued by a National Rail ticket window (take photos) will suit you fine for the 7 days, also have an Oyster for the two other days and the airport journeys. On your day trip days the Travelcard will get you to the tour coach and back when you return.

Most Greenwich stops are on the border of zones 2 and 3 so your Travelcard will cover that. If you want to go further you can get an extension into a neighbouring zone or use the Oyster.

By having the Travelcard (issued by a rail booking office) you will all lined up for the 2-4-1 Days Out deals.

Posted by
2818 posts

Heathrow Express is as low as £5.50 if you are arriving on a weekend and book 3 months or more in advance.

Posted by
27425 posts

I see people suggesting Heathrow Express when the poster is staying at Barons Court. What possible advantage would HEX give that Piccadilly Line straight to the destination wouldn't. The original post said that they intend to use the Tube back and forth to the airport. ????

Barons Court is nowhere near 50 minutes from Heathrow. Try about 31 or 33 minutes.

Posted by
38 posts

Thanks all for the replies - things are becoming a bit clearer!

Since we'll be a couple of blocks from the Baron's Court station, the ability to take the tube there directly from the airport will certainly be very convenient.

The savings available from the 2-4-1 deal seem to make getting a 7-day Travelcard worthwhile, even if we only plan on going to a few of the covered sites and even though it requires jumping through a few hoops - from what I understand, we would need to bring passport-sized photos and the cards would need to be purchased from one of the major train stations (it cannot be purchased at Heathrow?) Are there photo machines in the stations?

The card would then cover bus or tube travel within zones 1-2 for 7 days, and in addition we would also purchase Oyster cards for travel to and from the airport, travel outside zones 1-2, and any travel on the 2 days not covered by the above?

Posted by
6508 posts

With regular Oyster Cards, you can get a refund for the remainder on the way out at the airport, so you only pay for as much as you use. If you only plan on using it about 3 days, put about £20 (+deposit) for each card and that should cover it. You can add funds to it, if you use it more than you thought.

Posted by
2900 posts

To continue what Stan said, you can either get a refund for your Oyster card at Heathrow as you leave to fly home, or keep it for using on another trip to London. The cash that is on it does not expire.

To answer your most recent question, "Are there photo machines in the stations?"
I have never seen one. Someone else on this Forum (one of the locals) may say they know of one. Best to have your photo taken before you leave home. There are one hour photo type places in many towns in the U.S. Some of these do a couple of passport size photos for $7. to $15. Some Walgreens stores have a photo desk that does passport photos; about the same price as one hour photo. Some AAA offices do passport photos.

Posted by
27425 posts

Are there photo machines in the stations

In some major ones, and some lesser ones. But they are expensive. And take finding and then time.

hile passport size is a reasonable guide, anything similar will work, and you don't have to have the goofy passport one with no glasses and silly no-smile unless you have some extras kicking about.

Take a full face selfie and print it at home. Cut it out and bring it along.

Posted by
1063 posts

The general consensus on other forums is that it has to be passport size not passport quality.

Posted by
26 posts

I understand the confusion about buying rail tickets to activate the two for one offers. My husband & I just returned from a trip to England. I realized after reading this great forum with wonderful advice it was best for us to buy a 7 day Travel Card for each of us to utilize the 2 for 1 offers. The husband was convinced Oyster was the way to go but when I explained with the 7 day Travel Cards we also paid for only one person but two gained entry he was totally on board! We were in London for at least 7 days at one point and advice I read stated the 7 day Travel Card is better if you are in London for 4 or more days. We just needed to get the Travel Cards which we did at Paddington as our Airbnb was very close by.

Be sure when at a rail station to ask for help in locating the Two for One brochures as that's where you find the vouchers in the back you must complete before presenting to the attraction's ticket office. We got several to have enough. What a wonderful value!

I was very organized but on that one left our two properly sized photos at home. So we paid the money at the photo booths at Paddington getting lots more photos than we needed (although we needed two sets for Travel Cards and for the Two for One Cards).... and we looked like two criminals in mug shots after flying overnight. I can look at them and laugh now.

When we returned to London later on in our trip we found we used Oyster Cards because we realized it was less expensive due to the number of days we were there, and we didn't plan to do as much as far as expensive attractions. That last London visit was spent going to sights we had not seen before. Lucky us our Airbnb host had Oyster Cards people had left so we just topped them up and left them with the host with as much or maybe a little more than when we received them. So we used a combination of Travel Cards and the Oyster Cards. Our first London stay was 9 days, and we also used Oyster part of that time with 7 Day Travel Cards. The second London stay was 6 days but actually 4 open days due to 2 days involving travel. The combination worked well for us.

Posted by
17 posts

We just returned from London and the 7 day travel card paid for itself with the 241 offers. We took advantage of the offers at the Tower of London, St. Paul's, Westminster Abbey and Shakespeare Globe.

I printed our own passport size photos at home and they worked fine.

I struggled with this decision as well and just went with the travelcard and I feel like I saved some money, so that makes me happy.

Have a fabulous time.