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Worth buying in advance?

Advice on what is worth buying in advance for our trip to London

Oyster Card?
Heathrow Express?

we are not sure on what sites to see in London so any that are a must buy ahead... we will likely do Nat Gallery, Brit Mus, and Tate Modern, maybe Globe and Tower of London too


Posted by
2487 posts

There is not much to buy for the National Gallery, British Museum and Tate Modern. All these - and a lot of other - museums are free.

Posted by
3271 posts

Neither. Buy them when you arrive.

The only one of the sights you mention that really need an advance purchase would be the Globe, if you want to attend a performance. Depending on the time of year you will be there, lines for Tower of London could be long ( if you don't arrive early). Ricks book describes how to get advance tickets. The museums you mention are free ( donations encouraged).

Posted by
4670 posts

".....There is not much to buy for the National Gallery, British Museum and Tate Modern. All these - and a lot of other - museums are free...."

Unfortunately they're not free for the British public as we pay for them via our taxes! Please consider a donation when you visit.

Posted by
6642 posts

You can buy pay-as-you-go Oyster cards all over London, including from a kiosk or a human at tube station at Heathrow. That is a different card than the Oyster Visitor Card which can be mailed to you, for which you are also paying for mailing.

Posted by
5623 posts

A couple weeks ago, we landed at London Gatwick Airport (not Heathrow), but there was similar situation - buying our tickets for the next departing Victoria Express train from Gatwick, we also bought our Oyster Travel Cards from a helpful, live person. One trick with the Oyster card, you scan it to get into the Underground, and again when exiting. Once, although my card opened the exit gates, the transaction somehow didn't register in the system, so it turns out I was charged the highest possible fare for that trip, rather than the normal rate for the 4-stop journey I actually took. On the next-to-last day in Lodon, I should have had plenty of pounds left on my card and the system wouldn't let me through the In gate, saying I only had 40 pence left on the card! An attendant checked the records and restored money onto my card, and said sometimes if you go thru the gate too fast, the system doesn't credit you for scanning yourself out. Take an extra 2 seconds and ensure you've accurately scanned your card and are credited fairly for your Tube trips!

Also, donation boxes are at the entrances to museums, and museum maps for the National Gallery, Tate Britain, etc. are priced at 1 pound apiece, but are kind-of on the honor system, with a box near the map racks throughout the museum where you can drop in a pound or five, so that's another place where you can drop in a donation.

Posted by
2658 posts

Yes, for a Heathrow Express if bought 30 days in advance it's £14.30 pp. I bought 30 days in advance for our trip in September and have the ticket in my wallet app on iPhone. If you purchase when you arrive it's £25.00 pp.

Posted by
2939 posts

Oyster card--
buy when you get there. There are machines that look like an ATM all over London, including in the airports. Insert your credit card or cash, choose an amount to put on the Oyster card (40 pounds will do), and the machine will spit out your Oyster card. You can also buy them at some grocery stores, and at the Tourist Information office.

Heathrow Express--
buy ahead of time, as explained by Robin Z.

Most museums are free, including the ones you mentioned;
National Gallery
British Museum
Tate Modern
But please make a donation as you are entering the museums.

Globe Theatre--
Buy tickets there for a tour through.
Go online and buy tickets ahead of time if you'd like to see a performance there.

Tower of London--
Just walk up and buy tickets at the gate.
Go first thing in the morning, as soon as the Tower opens, to get ahead of the crowds.
You can buy tickets online, but not a huge savings.

Posted by
1217 posts

There are some pay exhibits at the 'free' museums, some of which like the Pink Floyd one at the Victoria & Albert do sell out early for a lot of available time slots. Check the web sites for each museum and see if anything that will be open sounds relevant to you.

If you're sure of when you need the Heathrow Express tickets, they do advertise what can be significant early discounts for early purchase, especially for weekend travel.

Posted by
2831 posts

The best price for the Hethrow
Express is purchased 90+ days in advance. As low as £5.80.

Posted by
1172 posts

Buy your Oyster card at the airport when you get there. When returning it ( for the 5 deposit and whatever money is left on it)make sure to do so at the last train station you leave.

We pre-purchased tickets to: Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Churchill war rooms and Kensington Palace
Tower of London as not worth it at all as I had to stand in line to exchange my on line print out for actual tickets and that window opened when the Tower opened.... the silliest thing I have ever seen. The other 3 were well worth it as we go to skip the ticket line and just go in

Posted by
6 posts

Oyster Card, no because they force you to buy the six Zone card and you only need the two Zone card. In my e periemce the London Pass is only worth it if you get up at 7 am to be at a first site at 9/9:30 and then visit two other big feerewuires sites. So three sites in a day makes it worth it. Stress. So much in London is free. All major museums are free!!!

Posted by
1217 posts

We've found we venture beyond zone 1/2 at least half the days over the course of a week- we do the tube to and from LHR and there will also be at least one suburban visit to a place like Kew Gardens or Wimbledon.

Posted by
2939 posts

If you do not already have a hotel booked, look at hotels along the Piccadilly tube line coming in from Heathrow.

As Emma said, the tube can be used to get into town from Heathrow airport, and is cheaper than Heathrow Express. You would travel on the Piccadilly tube line, which passes through some good neighborhoods in London.

Some hotels are just steps away from a Piccadilly tube station, making it easy for you to arrive and depart from London.

EDIT:I just noticed on your other thread that you have already chosen a hotel. I will leave my answer on here, so anyone else reading the thread and looking for a hotel might have use if it.

Posted by
27745 posts

I disagree with the advice given above by the person calling herself info:-

Oyster Card, no because they force you to buy the six Zone card and you only need the two Zone card

The Oyster card doesn't come in zones. It is valid in all zones as long as there is sufficient credit on it. Perhaps the person calling herself info was considering a Travelcard. Completely different animal.