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Fares increase each year in at the beginning of January.
The guidance that follows sounds horrendously complex, particularly for those who are not regular users of urban public transport systems. However, do not despair, it is really very simple and you will get the hang of it very quickly.
Transport for London (TfL) is encouraging use of the Oyster Card, a plastic smart card that can be "charged up" with different kinds of tickets. The main types you can get are:
Alternatively, if you have a contactless payment card, or Apple Pay, you can use this in the same way as an Oyster card - it will deduct the pay as you go fare as mentioned below in the same way as an Oyster card, and any payments are capped at the relevant daily or weekly travelcard rate.
If you buy a single Tube with cash it is much more expensive (and it is no longer possible to pay with cash on buses) - Zone 1 Tube prices start at the intentionally high price of £4.80, but the same ticket using an Oyster card (or contactless) is £2.30.
It is really worth getting an Oystercard if you are in London for more than one day and you don't already have a contactless card - you can ride the Tube and buses all day to your heart’s content. So the question is, "which ticket should you put on your Oystercard? ".
This is great if you are staying in the centre of London. PrePay can be used on the tube, buses, the Docklands Light Railway and The Emirates Air Line. Just remember to charge it up with cash before you travel - you can do this at any tube station (in person or at a ticket machine, and you can also check your balance), or even at some 2,200 newsagent shops. Pre-pay (pay as you go) is cheaper than cash fares. Additionally, your fares will be capped so if you make a lot of tube or bus journeys, you will not be charged more than the price of a one day Travelcard.
One thing to note however is if you don't have an Oyster card, but you have a contactless payment card or Apple Pay, then you can use that instead and it works in the same way for pay as you go payments. You simply tap your contactless payment card or Apply Pay on the yellow disc at the station (don't worry you will see other people doing this), and it will deduct the Oyster pay as you go fare from your account. Plus, if you end up making more journeys than planned, any pay as you go payments made via a contactless card are capped at the applicable daily or weekly travelcard rate - so you will never end up paying more than a travelcard.
So if you are traveling for multiple days, and you don't have a contactless card or Apple Pay, the convenience is worth the effort of getting an Oyster card and redeeming it. At the end of your stay, if you have any PrePay funds left over on your Oyster Card, you can cash it in and get a refund! However, if you do so, your Oyster Card will be cancelled and you will have to buy a new one next time you travel to London.
A Travelcard provides unlimited travel for 1 day (peak or off-peak) or 7 consecutive days (or any period up to a year) for the combination of travel zones purchased. This is a season ticket, so you are paying up-front for your travel. Travelcards are valid on London Underground (the tube), London Overground, buses, night buses, the Docklands Light Railway, trams, and National Rail (but not the Heathrow or Gatwick Express). They also give you a one-third discount off river boat services. If you want to save a bit of money, you can buy a one-day off-peak pass which only works after 9:30 am, Monday - Friday or any time on weekends and public holidays.
One-day Travelcards are issued as a paper ticket. All Travelcards for longer periods will be issued in the form of an Oyster card (except if you buy them from a National Rail station - see the note below about National Rail and Travelcards).
If you are just sticking within Central London, pick up a Zone 1 & 2 pass. There is no need for an All-Zone pass unless you plan on heading out to the more suburban areas of London. The more zones and days you choose, the more you pay. Travelcards prices start at £12 (1 day, zones 1-4). A 7-day Travelcard covering Zones 1-6 will cost an adult £58.60 - only worth it if you will be using the transport system across a variety of Zones, hopping on and off a lot of trains.
To simplify Oyster Card validity, here is a summary table of which tickets you can use where:
|National Rail||DLR||Tram||Airport Express trains|
|PrePay/Oyster||yes||yes||yes||London only||yes||yes||Gatwick only
Be sure to use your Oyster card properly. On a bus, touch the card on the reader (the yellow disc) in order to debit your card with the amount of the fare. At the Tube entry gate, touch your card on the reader to tell the card where you are starting your journey. Be sure to touch at the reader at the exit gate at your destination as well, so the card can calculate the journey made and the fare to be deducted. If you do not "touch out" the card will think your journey is continuing, and you will be charged the maximum fare for a trip, £4.90 or £7.20. This is less of a problem on the Tube, as most stations have exit gates, but on the Docklands Light Railway, and on the National Rail lines that accept Oyster, the stations often do not have exit gates and there will be an Oyster reader positioned in a prominent place at the exit on which you must remember to touch your card.
In addition to the money loaded on to the Oyster card, you have to pay a refundable deposit of £5.00 when you buy your Oystercard. Note - If you buy a Visitor's Oyster Card you pay no deposit, only a charge of £3.00 plus shipping (which means you'll usually pay more than the £5 deposit, making this a more expensive choice). You can also get any unused PrePay funds refunded at the end of your stay. There is a chatch here. There must be a minimum 48 hrs gap from the time of purchase of the Oyster card to become eligible for refund of the deposit as well as unused credit. Note: if you want a refund of unused pay as you go on your Oystercard make sure you either only pay by cash or card as refunds are not possible of "multiple tenders" (a mix of cash and card payments). Alternatively you can keep your card for your next visit to London - as the credited funds on your card never expire and can be used again on your return. If you are keeping the card, it is a good idea to register it on the Transport for London website - this way you are guaranteed to get a refund if the card gets lost. Plus, DO NOT CASH IT IN at the end of your visit. Leave some on there, or it will be cancelled and you have to buy a new one.
As well as the tube network, London is served by National Rail trains. This may seem a subtle distinction to visitors who aren't familiar with public transport system, but the different ownership and operation of these services does have some effects on tickets and travel. For most Londoners, the phrase "railway station" (or latterly the American import "train station") will mean a station for National Rail trains, not a tube station.
The system now works for rail within the validity area, just as it does for the tube. Note that apart from the major termini (Waterloo, Liverpool Street, etc) many railway stations do not have ticket barriers, so if you are using PAYG you will need to remember to seek out an Oyster reader (usually on the platform near the exit) to touch in and out.
Most smaller National Rail ticket offices do not sell or top-up Oyster cards. You can usually, though, top-up an Oyster card at a ticket machine at a railway station (but not make the initial purchase of the card), or at a nearby newsagent (there are thousands of oyster resellers).
London Travel Zone - http://www.tfl.gov.uk/maps
Transport for London: Visiting London Page - http://visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk/
Transport for London: Travelling with children - http://visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk/help-ce...
Transport for London: Zip Oyster Photocards for Children living outside of London - https://photocard.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/goto...
Visit London Official website: http://www.visitbritainshop.com/world...
Oyster Card Refunds: Return Oyster Cards via post to receive a refund - http://leftovercurrency.com/oyster-ca...