Oyster Cards in London 2023

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What is an Oyster Card?

An Oyster Card is the name of the smart card that riders of London’s transit systems use to travel the city.

Yes, you can still buy paper tickets, but the Oyster card will often give you the best rate available.

What are the Alternatives?

You may buy a paper ticket from a machine. You may also use a contactless credit or debit card. Apple pay, or Google pay.

NOTE: If you are a foreign traveler, there is a chance your card will incur a foreign transaction fee every time it’s used. You will have to check with your bank or credit card issuer.

What Forms of Transit Can I Use the Oyster Card On?

The London Underground, London Red Bus, London Overground, Railway in Zones 1-5, Heathrow Express.

See Transport For London for a full list.

What are the Two Types of Oyster Cards?

There are two main types of cards: the Visitor Oyster Card and the regular Oyster Card. How do you know which one is right for you? Let’s start with the regular card. The regular card can be used by anyone and purchased virtually anywhere in London. It does require a small deposit of 7 pounds to obtain one, but you’ll get your money back when you’re done with it. There are no restrictions on the card unless you decide to register it and/or receive a discounted transit pass. You can read more about it here.

The Visitor Oyster card is a card you will need to order before you head over to the UK. it can not be purchased once you arrive in London. One advantage of the Visitor Oyster Card is that it will arrive to your home pre-loaded and is immediately ready for use. The Visitor Oyster card costs an initial 7 pounds, like the regular card, but will require you to pay for postage. The Visitor Oyster Card will offer you discounts the traditional Oyster Card will not. 

What’s the Difference Between a Regular Oyster Card and a Visitor Oyster Card?

Image and Information from London Toolkit

Traveling With a Family?

If you are traveling with kids, you should know that you will receive a special discount! Kids under the age of 2 are free. Kids aged 3-11 can travel for free with an adult holding an Oyster Card. You will need to let the agent at the booth at each station know you want to take advantage of this. If you have kids aged 11-17, you can have them apply for a discounted Zip Oyster Card (note that it must be done at least one month prior to your trip). 

Oyster Pay-As-You Go versus Travelcard

Pay as you go offers riders the option to add a set amount to an Oyster card, say 15 pounds, then have the fare deducted per trip the rider takes until the reach a daily cap.

The travelcard allows for unlimited travel throughout a day.

Both can be taken care of any Underground station. It will come down to how many trips you will take in a day.

Unless you are traveling for more than 5 days, the pay as you go will be the cheaper option. See Transport For London for more information.

Image and Information from London Toolkit

What Are Zones?

Image and Information from London Toolkit

What are the Price Caps for Each Zone for Contactless and Oyster Cards?

Image and Information from London Toolkit

What Are the Rates If I Want to Pay Cash?

Image and Information from London Toolkit

Are Their Discounts for Seniors?

Unless you live in London, no.