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Public Transport

Choice between Travelcard and (Visitor) Oyster Card

You can put a credit on the Oyster Card. With this credit you can use Public Transport in London. The Oyster Card automatically calculates the cheapest rate, so you do not have to worry about that. The day-capping applies to zones 1 to 6. This means that you will never have to pay more than a certain maximum amount per day for traveling with public transport in those zones.

With the Travelcard you can choose to travel by public transport for 1 or 7 consecutive days in the zones in which you want to travel. It seems that traveling with a Travelcard is gradually being discouraged. Traveling with a 1-day Travelcard is (in 2018) always more expensive than day-capping. A 7-day Travelcard can be cheaper if you travel a lot with public transport. Please check this webite for an overview.

dubbeldekker overground


With the Travelcard you can:

  • travel for free with buses, metro, DLR, London overground and Tfl Rail
  • travel for free with trams from zone 3
  • travel with Emirates cableways at a discount and on certain River Boat routes
  • travel for free with most National Rail trains from zone 1-9 and beyond to Watford Junction, Broxbourne, Hertford East, Ware, St Margarets, Rye House and Shenfield.

The Travelcard is not valid for these train lines:

  • Heathrow Connect between Hayes & Harlington and Heathrow
  • Heathrow Express
  • Southeastern high speed services between St Pancras International and Stratford International

When you go through a zone that is not valid on your Travelcard, this is automatically paid from the credit you have on the Oyster Card.

A 1-day Travelcard is always a paper version. A 7-day Travelcard can be put on your Oyster Card, but you can also buy a paper version. With the Travelcard you can travel 1 day or 7 consecutive days. You can choose how many zones you want to travel in.

A passport photo is required for a paper version of the Travelcard. When you buy a paper Travelcard at a National Rail station in London, there is a special offer. You can visit attractions (such as London Eye, Tower, Shard etc.) with 2 people for the price 1 person. See here for more details and conditions. You must order tickets for the atractions in advance.

voorin lightrail

Oyster Card

The Oyster Card can be used for bus, metro, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, Emirates Air Line, River Bus services and most National Rail services in London (zone 1-9). Click here for an overview. In addition, it is valid for the train connection to Gatwick airport (Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Southern services), but not valid on the Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect services between Hayes & Harlington and Heathrow.

Differences between the Visitor Oyster Card and the (regular) Oyster Card

The Visitor Oyster Card must be sent in advance because it is not available in London. Shipping costs are therefore included. You can, for example, purchase these tickets from the British Tourist Board. You can also buy a Visitor Oyster Card at TfL (Transport for London). The shipping costs for shipping without track and trace are £3.25, and costs £9.75 per express.

You get a discount at a number of restaurants, museums and shops with the Visitor Oyster Card. A complete list can be found here. With a regular Oyster Card you pay £5,- deposit, which can be refunded later. With a Visitor Oyster Card you pay 'activation costs', these will not be refunded.

The "regular" Oyster Card can be bought at many locations in London, such as all tube and railway stations.

Check this site for more information about the Visitor Oyster Card.

uitzicht lightrail lege bus

Public transport with kids

Up to and including the age of 10, children can generally travel with adults free of charge. From the age of 11 it becomes slightly more complicated.

Kids up to 4 years

Children up to and including 4 years of age travel for free with an adult.

Kids from 5 to 10 years

Children from 5 to 10 years old travel free with paying adults (up to 4 children per adult). This applies to journeys by metro, DLR Overgroud, TfL Rail and a very limited number of National Rail lines. This is a bit confusing because adults who use the Oyster Card can use most trains from the national rail. Check this website for more information and an overview of the train lines.

If you want to travel for free with most other National Rail lines, a 5-10 Zip Oyster Photocard is required. In addition, a 5-10 Zip Oyster Photocard offers the advantage that children can travel at a child rate at Southeastern high speed services between St Pancras International and Stratford International, Gatwick Express Southern and Thameslink services between Coulsdon South and Gatwick Airport.

The Zip Oyster Photocard for children must be ordered online and can then be picked up at a Visitor Center. The confirmation email and the passport/id must also be shown for checking the age of the child. There must be at least a 28-day period between the time you order the Zip Oyster Photocard and the day you pick up the card at the Visitor Center. Look at this website for more information. The costs are £10,-. Look here for the locations/opening hours of the Visitor Centers.

Kids from 11 to 15 years

The category of children aged 11 to 15 years are no longer allowed to travel with adults for free. There is a number of possibilities:

  • buy an Oyster Card and put a Young Persons Discount on it (there are no special Oyster Cards for children). This can be done at an ticket office at a tube station. The child then pays half the amount compared to an adult. Also the cap (the maximum rate per day) is half of what applies to an adult. The Young Persons Discount is valid for 14 days, after which the Oyster Card works again at a standard rate. When loading a Young Persons Discount you have to bring your child and show proof of the age of the child.
  • buy single tickets at children's rate
  • buy a 1-day Travelcard for a child every day
  • buy a paper 7-day Travelcard for a child at a National Rail station. You have to bring a passport photo, but the card will be made free of charge and on the spot!
  • For free travel with the buses and trams and at the child fare the other TfL vehicles and most National Rails services you have to buy a Zip Oyster Photocard. This costs £15. The Zip Oyster Photocard for children must be ordered online and can then be picked up at a Visitor Center. The confirmation email and the passport/id must also be shown for checking the age of the child. There must be at least a 28-day period between the time you order the Zip Oyster Photocard and the day you pick up the card at the Visitor Center. Click here for more info and click here for the locations/opening hours of the Visitor Centers.

uitzicht lightrail

Re-claim credit and deposit

The credit on the Oyster Card does not expire, so you can keep the Oyster Card for a next visit or give it to others who will visit London. Only the deposit from an ordinary Oyster Card can be re-claimed, not from a Visitor Oyster Card! If the credit is less than £10, then the credit and deposit (if applicable) can be re-claimed at a subway ticket machine. This only applies if at least 48 hours have elapsed since the first use of the card. If the credit is more than £10,-, the possibilities are somewhat more limited. You can then go to a Visitor center (not in Gatwick) or call. Click here for a regular Visitor Card and here for a Visitor Oyster Card.


Other tips Public Transport

  • With MBNA Thames Clippers you can sail over the Thames with a boat. The prices of an adult one-way ticket vary from £3.90 to £7.50 (depending on the zone, prices are for traveling with Oyster Card, otherwise it is slightly more expensive). Children can travel 50% cheaper by buying a child ticket at the ticket office or the ticket machine or by using an Oyster Card with a childrate. Click here for more information.
  • There are useful apps for public transportation in London, such as the Citymapper app (and others)
  • The tube can be very crowded during the rush hour (7:30 to 9:30 and 16:30 to 18:30). Try avoid the Central line at those times. If possible, take the bus, which is less crowded!
  • You pay a fixed fare in buses and trams. You therefore only need to check in on the bus or in the case of the tram on the platform.
  • The bus is an inexpensive alternative to a hop-on-hop off bus. In the double-decker buses you have a beautiful view up front. Click here for some interesting bus routes.
  • Contrary to what you would expect ... you have to stand on the right-hand side of the escalators of the metro. Then people can run through at your left.
  • In general, the Londoners are polite, such as getting up for the elderly etc. We have even experienced several times that people of our own accord sat in a different place for us so that we could sit together as a family!
  • If you stay in London for longer, contactless payments can still be advantageous. Then, in addition to a maximum daily rate (day-capping), you also have a maximum weekly rate (week-capping). This week-capping starts on a Monday and lasts until Sunday. See here for more information.

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