1. I can't find this info in Rick's guidebook, so I may have gotten the wrong impression, or read it somewhere else. But that impression is: even though I use an Oyster card to ride a downtown bus (travel zones 1 & 2), I would still have to purchase a reduced-fare ticket. Yes/no ? 2. Are Oyster cards still available in Tube stations ? 3. Are 3-day Oyster cards still available ? If not, can I get a refund on unused days ? Thanks.
I can answer some of your questions. Yes, you can buy an Oyster card at a tube station. There are electronic vending machines from where you can buy one. These cards are not sold by the number of days but rather by how much money you add to the card. At the end of your trip you can get a refund of the balance including the deposit that you paid. Please be advised that you should not purchase a card with a credit card and then add funds using cash. I did this and had to spend down the balance on the card before they would give me a refund of what was left.
1. No. The fare for the bus ride is deducted from the Oyster card when you tap it on the reader in the bus. 2. Yes. 3. No. (Unlike paper Travelcards, the Oyster Cards aren't sold by the day; they are loaded with your choice of an amount of funds and the funds last until you use them up.) 4. Yes. Links from the official Transport for London website are below. See: http://visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk/help-centre/oyster-card-help.html for more info. Also: http://visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk/oystercard/product/oyster-card.html - you do NOT have to order them online, but this shows you the purchase options and has other info. And just the FAQs: http://visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk/SiteData/Root/File/Visitor-Oyster-Card-FAQs.pdf
1. No 2. Yes, and other places. Details here: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/14482.aspx 3. If you live in London and commute daily you might put your monthly Travelcard on your Oyster, but for visitors you just put cash on the card, which is then deducted as you use it. Any money left on the card when you leave can be refunded. Details here: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/14631.aspx
3) You can load a 7 day travelcard onto your Oyster. They stopped offering the 3 day travelcard a few years ago. On travelcards, there is no refund if you don't use the days. You can also load pay-as-you-go money. The fare will be deducted from your card each time you travel until you reach the daily cap.
While it's true that you can get a refund on the unused money you put onto your Oyster card, my wife and I (both experienced London visitors) learned to be cautious about starting with too much money on your card. We put 20GBP on each card at the start of a five day visit, but the fine weather and our itinerary made it so that we ended up walking more and using the Underground much less than planned. On our last busy day, we were still using the card and ran out of time to apply for a refund before departure. We ended up coming home with two cards with 6 or 7 pounds each on them. Hardly a disaster (we'll use them again some day), but it did teach us that it's smart to plan accordingly and start with a conservative balance on the cards. You can always add more as needed. (Just my opinion)
Thanks to all for your replies ! It sounds as though things have changed since I last visited London (2008 ?). Back then, I bought a 7-day Oyster card for a fixed price and was able to use the Tube an unlimited number of times. It sounds as though you are recommending the Travelcard, and keeping track of my balance -- that this could be more cost-efficient than buying a fixed-price Oyster card. I will most definitely check the web sites you recommend. Thanks again.
Bill, I don't think you have got it yet - there is an Oyster card which you can use PAYG and/or with a travelcard, or a travelcard which is paper, not oyster. What you bought last time is still available as a 7 day "unlimted number of times" option. I suggest you look at London toolkit website and its travel page which explains the whole thing a lot better than I can do.
Bill, You still have it backwards. Please have a look at the websites.