Oyster card/photocard Questions

I'll be travelling to London with my wife and 15 and 18 yr old children in late June for 10 days arriving via Heathrow. I have a couple of Oyster card questions I'm hoping someone can answer: 1) Zip Oyster photocards - should I purchase these online for my kids, and collect them upon arrival at the Heathrow 123 Travel Info Center? My concerns are how reliable is the TFL in having the cards there when I arrive. Also, at the end of our trip can I cash out any remaining balance on these photocards? The other option is to just get them regular adult Oyster cards at the same time I get mine and my wife's. 2) Adult Oyster card vs visitor Oyster card - which ones to get? From what I've read, the visitor card (has L3 fee but no deposit) requires any remaining balance to be mailed home as a GBP checque. To me it makes much more sense to get a regular card, pay the L5 deposit, but have the ability to cash out just prior to departure. Is there any downside to getting the regular one ilo the visitor one? Sorry for the long winded questions. Thanks.

Posted by Linda
Bromley, Kent,, UK
1629 posts

Not answering your questions I'm afraid but, because there are four of you in your party, have you considered buying National Rail travelcards? They not only give you the same transport coverage in London but will also let you take advantage of the National Rail "2 for 1" entry ticket deals. You buy them at one of the National Rail stations in London. You will get paper tickets ie not loaded on a smart card like Transport for London's Oyster Card. Take a look at the FAQ on the site. http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/attraction-types/2for1london.aspx

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
766 posts

Your 18 year child would not be eligible for a Zip oyster photocard. They are available to anyone wherever they live for those under 16 on 31 August the previous year, but only to London Borough residents for students over 16. If your child is 18 now, he/she must have been at least 17 on 31 Aug 2012. The 11-15 photocard is quite reliably issued when pre-ordered so I understand.

Posted by Dan
Northville, MI, USA
15 posts

Linda - you're right, that is confusing. We're staying in the Knighsbridge/Chelsea area so we'll go to the London Victoria rail station (not to be confused with the nearby Victoria Tube Station) to get our Nat'l Rail Travelcard with the crows feet. Thanks! Leslie - thanks for confirming the plan!

Posted by Dan
Northville, MI, USA
15 posts

Marco/Linda - thanks for the info. I've checked out the various sites and found this is quite involved! :-) However, here is what I think makes sense for my situation: 1) Buy four Zones 1-3 7-day Travelcards (one of which is a child travelcard) > Buy on line and get paper travelcards > This will cover our local travel for 1st 7 days and get us the 2for1 discount provided I print out vouchers ahead of time. 2) Buy 4 Oyster cards one of which is a 11-15 Zip Oyster > This can be used for the Tube ride from Heathrow (Zone 6) and for travel for our days 8-10 > We'll be doing most of the site seeing the first week so don't need the
2for1 discounts the last few days. Does this make sense? Thanks.

Posted by Linda
Bromley, Kent,, UK
1629 posts

AFAIK you cannot buy National Rail travelcards on-line only Transport for London/Oyster versions, easy enough to buy when you arrive. Someone can put me right? Here is a list of the main London National Rail stations - there are also some others/smaller stations but it depends where you are staying whether they are convenient. http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/ticket_types/crossing_london.html#terminals There are spare blank 2 for 1 vouchers in the back of the scheme promo booklets available by the ticket offices at train stations. Useful should you change your mind about when you want to visit. In busy times they can run out of stock so, I have not tried it, can you print out blank forms from the site for the same reason?

Posted by Linda
Bromley, Kent,, UK
1629 posts

Yes they are different, those are Transport for London travelcards and therefore not elegible for the 2 for 1 deals because the deals are subsidised by the rail companies. It is confusing and sometimes my head hurts when thinking about the pros and cons as well as the ifs and buts! Both travelcards give the the same travel privileges and there is little if any difference in price.

Posted by Leslie
Orange, USA
151 posts

Dan, Your idea to buy both the 7 day Travelcards, and the Oyster cards for the initial trip into London and your last days in London makes perfect sense. That's exactly what my husband and I did in Fall 2011 (except the Oyster cards were supplied by my wonderful English friend--we just topped them up and returned them as we left). Just make sure to buy the Travelcards in a train station as Linda said. If they have the National Rail crow's foot logo, then they are good for the 2 for 1 deals. We asked at the information counter in Victoria station to make sure we were headed to the right window to buy the passes. You can even buy them that first day but ask that they be good for a week starting the next day if that's what works best for your sight-seeing plans. Printing vouchers ahead of time is a good idea since I've heard they sometimes run out of the flyers during the summer. I'd take a look for them while you're at the station though. It's nice to have the ability to add things you weren't sure you were going to see at first. Have a great trip!

Posted by Linda
Bromley, Kent,, UK
1629 posts

Dan - I saw that you plan to buy Zones 1 to 3 travelcards. At first I thought you might be staying in Zone 3 so did not comment. Most visitors find Zones 1 and 2 travelcards more than adequate. However if, for example, you wanted to visit Hampton Court in Zone 6 you can buy a one off extension ticket from the edge of Zone 2 to HC. You can also use a Zone 1&2 travelcard on buses in all Zones. There is a (not very clear) map showing the Zones on the TfL site, page 8 of the link. http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/visitor-guide.pdf

Posted by Dan
Northville, MI, USA
15 posts

Thanks Linda. After looking at the Tube $ Rail map, it looks like a Zone 1-2 Travelcard will be sufficient as you suggest.