How does the London Oyster Card work?

The Oyster Card is, in my opinion, the easiest way to travel around London. It’s an electronic card that you can re-load as you need to and gives you access to most public transportation in London. To place credit on the card, you have to buy it first (£5) and then load money onto it. Some are opposed to purchasing the Oyster card because of the £5 non-refundable charge, but it makes public transportation so much easier and cheaper that I can’t imagine going without it. There are two “types” of Oyster cards (Visitor Oyster v. Oyster), but they are essentially the same thing. The only difference is that a citizen of the U.K. can get their £5 Oyster charge refunded and a visitor cannot. All of the official London tourism sites will advise you to purchase the Visitor card prior to your visit but that means you are charged extra for postage when you can simply buy an Oyster Card at any major underground station and save yourself the postage (see the sites below).

Here’s how they work: If you’re on the underground, touch your Oyster card to the yellow readers before you start your journey and after the journey – if you’re on the trams/buses, just touch the Oyster card to the reader before you start your journey. You “fill up” the card at any Underground Station after you use the credit. If you choose “pay-as-you-go,” you can save the credit you haven’t used indefinitely. “Pay-as-you-go” also means that you can max out the amount you spend each day and keep riding. After £4.50 has been spent on the card, you are able to continue riding for free for the remainder of the day.

If you are in London, you can purchase the card at any TFL location (listed here or at any Oyster card stops (found here.)

If you’re only going to be in the Central London area, you can get a 1 or 7-day travelcard which may save you money as it offers unlimited transport on the London buses, Tube, trams, DLR, London Overground and National Rail. Purchase it here. If you have any other questions about the Travelcards you can check out the official sites here. Truthfully- if you make 2-4 journeys per day and are only staying for a few days, there is no point in getting a Travelcard. The Oyster card is the better way to go.


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