10 Must-Dos in London

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London: Public Transport – The Oyster Card

London: Public Transport – The Oyster Card

What is the Oyster Card?

Source: TfL
Introduced in 2003, the Oyster Card is a contactless rechargeable pre-payment smartcard that you can use instead of cash on all public transport in London.
Although cash is still accepted of most services across London, over 95% of all journeys in London are made using a contactless payment method, such as the Oyster Card (note that cash is not accepted on any London bus). 

Oyster Cards eliminate the need to search for change when boarding public transport. This has made bus journeys, in particular, faster and more reliable. 

The Oyster card has largely replaced the paper Travelcard (see the next section) for most Londoners. This is because it is faster and cheaper than paper tickets. 

Will the Oyster Card save me money?

An Oyster Card is a serious money saver, with big discounts over cash fares. As an example, a cash journey on the Underground in central London (zone 1) is £4.90 at any time of day. The equivalent journey paid using an Oyster Card is £2.40. That’s a saving of over 50%!

Where can I get an Oyster Card?

The easiest way to get an Oyster Card, is to visit any Underground station where Oyster Cards can be purchased from ticket machines directly. There is a £5 refundable deposit for the card. You can then top it up at the ticket machines at any station, online, at Customer Service locations, as well as at independent retailers showing oyster advertising on shop windows. You can top-up your card using both cash and credit or debit cards.

You can also buy an Oyster Card at many newsagents throughout the city, visitor centres, and some hotels may sell them too.

Once your visit to London has ended, you can choose to either keep your Oyster Card, or get a refund. Your refund will be for all the credit left on the card (up to £10), as well as the £5 deposit you paid for the card. You can do this at certain ticket machines at Underground stations.

How do I use an Oyster Card?

On a bus, you tap your Oyster Card on the yellow reader by the driver on the way in (see image). You do not need to do anything when leaving the bus as all bus journeys are a flat fare regardless of distance.

On all rail services (including the Underground), you must tap your Oyster Card on the yellow reader on the way in (either at a ticket barrier or a standalone reader if the station has no barriers), and also on the way out to calculate the correct fare. Failure to do so will result in a penalty charge. If you only tap in or out, but not both, you will be charged a maximum journey fare.

How much is a single journey on the tube with Oyster?
• Zone 1 Only – £2.40 at any time
• Zones 1 and 2 – £2.90 peak, £2.40 off-peak
• Zones 1 to 3 – £3.30 peak, £2.80 off-peak
• Zones 1 to 4 – £3.90 peak, £2.80 off-peak
• Zones 1 to 5 – £4.70 peak, £3.10 off-peak
• Zones 1 to 6 – £5.10 peak, £3.10 off-peak
Peak times are 06:30 to 09:30 both into and out of central London, and 16:00 to 19:00 going from central London outwards.

Daily Capping Oyster Card Prices
When you travel using an Oyster Card, the system automatically sets a daily “cap”. When your individual fares reach this amount, you are not charged any further. This is the equivalent of the 1-Day Travelcard price, or less.

The daily caps on Oyster Cards are:
• Zone 1 Only – £6.60
• Zone 1 and 2 – £6.60
• Zones 1 to 3 – £7.70
• Zones 1 to 4 – £9.50
• Zones 1 to 5 – £11.20
• Zones 1 to 6 – £12.00

Daily caps increase in January each year.

If you think you will be using your Oyster Card far at least 5 days out of 7, then a 7-day Travelcard can be added to your Oyster Card to save money.

Oyster Card Weekly Capping
From Summer 2018, TfL will implement a feature whereby an Oyster Card will also have a weekly cap - so when you have travelled enough to reach the price of  Weekly travel card (from Monday to Sunday), you won't pay any extra for the rest of the week. This technology is already available for passengers using Contactless payments.

Oyster App

In September 2017, TfL released an Oyster App that allows you to top-up, keep track of your journeys and receive low balance alerts when you need to add credit to your Oyster. It is available for free on the Apple and Android App Stores.

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