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Transportation in London over a short stay

I'll be flying into London and staying in Kensington for 5 or 6 days (then flying out to Athens) this summer. I would like to know the best (cheapest) way for my fiance and I to travel while in London. In the past I have bought one-ways to/from the airport and 3 day travel cards for Zone 1, but I'm curious about the Oyster card. Is it more economical? Does it coveruy more zones? Do I have to buy or pre-load it online before I get there? Help! Thanks,

Posted by
4684 posts

The Oyster card is a stored-fare card, but there is a cap system so that you can't be charged more per day than if you bought a One-Day Travelcard for that day. If you are travelling a lot in the six days it may possibly be cheaper to buy a weekly Travelcard than to go the stored-fare route, though. The stored-fare Oyster is valid for travel in all six zones for bus, Underground, and now also suburban rail. (Note that it still does NOT cover the rail routes to Heathrow Airport.) Another possibility is to get a Zone One Travelcard and use the stored-fare capacity of the Oyster to travel beyond Zone One, which will save you money on bus and Underground compared with buying tickets with cash (be warned that the system for going beyond your Travelcard zone on suburban rail if you want to pay using Oyster stored-fare is horrifically complicated and even Londoners have trouble with it).

Posted by
8700 posts

There is a travelcard for zones 1-2 but not for zone 1 alone. 3-day travelcards have been phased out. Your choices now are 1-day and 7-day.

You can use an Oyster card in a variety of ways:

  1. Load money on it and use it as a pay-as-you-go card, topping it up as necessary. The Oyster computer will automatically give you the best fare and you will never pay more than 50 pence less than the cost of a 1-day travelcard for the zones in which you travel that day. When you leave London you can get a refund on any unspent PAYG money.

  2. Load a 7-day travelcard on an Oyster card for rides in the zones of your choice.

  3. Do both #1 and #2 with the same Oyster card. Use PAYG money on the card to get from Heathrow to London and back on the Tube and for any other rides you take beyond the zones covered by the loaded travelcard. Use the loaded travelcard for getting around in London.

You can also buy 1-day or 7-day paper travelcards with the National Rail logo on them at mainline train stations (not at Tube stations). Doing so qualifies you for many 2for1 discounts. See the offers and print vouchers for them on the Days Out Guide site.

Posted by
970 posts

The difference in cost between an Oyster Card and the various version of a Travelcard is not that dramatic. Just get a one-week Oyster Card and be happy. Life is too short to figure out any alternative that might save you a few pounds.