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Visitor Oyster Cards

Hello,

We will be spending a week in London this fall - two adults, and two kids between 11 and 15. Other than the travel to/from Heathrow, we plan to use public transit. This forum was helpful in steering me to the choice of the adults using our credit cards, while getting Visitor Oyster cards with the children's discount for the kids. I'm a little confused as to where the latter are available.

The TFL site is explicit in saying "You can't buy a Visitor Oyster card in London" and we need to order these before we leave. The online site shows +10 GBP for two cards and the cheapest delivery method to the US adds another 9 GBP to the actual amount loaded on the cards.

To further confuse the matter, I understand the Visitor Centers are where we can have the discount added to the cards, and the one in Heathrow is closed on Sunday when we arrive, while the one at Kings Cross (where we are staying) is closed on both Sunday and Monday. That is 2 of the 6 days we are there. Is the additional 19 GBP worth it for 4 days? Or am I getting something wrong?
Thanks in advance.

Posted by
972 posts

Do not buy Visitor Oyster cards. You don’t need them and they cost more and are less flexible than normal ones. A waste of money.
When you arrive at Heathrow go to the tube station. At the machines buy regular Oyster cards and ask a member of staff to apply the Young Visitor Discount to them. It’s as simple as that. There will be staff there and they are well versed in the needs of tourists. They can also advise on the amount of money to add to the cards for your trip. You don’t need to go to any Visitor Centres.

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you! I should have come to the forum earlier instead of trying to figure it out on my own.

Posted by
149 posts

And I would suggest holding on to them if you think you will return; you can use them on your next trip. When we return home, we store our Oyster cards with our passports.

Posted by
8808 posts

I still have an Oyster from my 2021 trip. Used it 2022 as well. Intend to use it later this year. Still has 10 pounds on it.

Posted by
5355 posts

Can you purchase a 7 day Travelcard at the Tube station too?

Yes, but it needs to be applied to an Oyster card. It isn't a separate product now.

Posted by
22 posts

I thought you could purchase a 7 Day Travelcard as a paper pass. Not added onto an Oyster card!

Posted by
1019 posts

We just got back from london. It’s a card. We top it up and have it saved for our return visit in November

Posted by
5636 posts

I thought you could purchase a 7 Day Travelcard as a paper pass.

The paper cards were discontinued.

Posted by
292 posts

Once upon a time, a travel card was cheaper. Now it seems to be no different than the weekly cap. What would be the purpose of them now?

Posted by
6431 posts

The real purpose of a weekly travelcard now is that it can run for any 7 days, whereas the weekly cap can only run from Monday to Sunday.

Posted by
292 posts

Ah, so if I arrived on a Wednesday and added a travel card, the cap will be good til the following Tuesday, whereas with no card, a new weekly cap would start on Monday. Have I got it?

Posted by
6431 posts

Correct, or to pay it another way, if you stay in Zones 1 and 2, then you pay £40.70 for your Travelcard for the Wednesday to Tuesday.
If you used the DAILY (not weekly cap) that is £8.10/per day. So 7 x £8.10= £56.70, whereas had you arrived on the Monday rather than on the Wednesday you could have utilised the weekly PAYG cap of £40.70- the same price as the travelcard.

Now with the Zone 1 to 6 daily cap (that is including Heathrow) being £14.90, you would need to do the math, to see what works best. On arrival and departure day travel in by tube and it is £5.60 from the airport or £13.30 on the Elizabeth Line.
So it may be cheapest to use the Zone 1 to 6 cap on arrival and departure days then 5 x £8.10 daily caps [which is 4 tube journeys a day] on the other 5 days.
A Zone 1 to 6 weekly travelcard is £74.40 so that probably isn't cost effective- just depends on your own plans.

Posted by
292 posts

Thank you! That is valuable information. I wouldn’t have thought there any value to the Travelcard otherwise.

Posted by
5355 posts

You do have to know your travel pattern to be sure. If you are grouping things together and thus minimising travel, or using bus rather than other modes it might not pay off.

Posted by
5 posts

Is there any difference between using an oyster card and contactless phone payment now? Do you just walk up and use your phone...no need to register first?

Posted by
972 posts

Essentially yes. There is no need to register anything. You can just walk up to a reader and use a contactless card or phone or smart watch pay. Just make sure that you use whatever method you choose you use it all day to get the best deal.