Oyster or Travelcard: Which transport card in London to choose

Oyster or Travelcard. This question can be a headache if you visit London for the first time and you still don’t know its transport system. If you want to save on transport in London, there are two cards that are the easiest methods to avoid spending a fortune to move around the largest city in Europe. Oyster or Travelcard. Which one suits you? We’ll tell you right away! If you want to keep saving, we tell you some things to do in London without spending a pound.

Buying single tickets every time we want to use the London public transport system is not profitable at all, to the point that it is more profitable to use an oyster card for a single trip on the London underground than buying a single ticket.

What will you find in this article?


Oyster card, Contactless Card and London Travelcard in general

The first thing I recommend you keep in mind is that both cards are unipersonal, that is, it is necessary to have a card (either the Oyster Card or the Travelcard) for each person. When deciding between an Oyster card or a London travelcard, the first thing we should know is what the basic differences are between the two cards:

London oyster card

The oyster card is a prepaid card. When you buy it, you must pay a £5 deposit, and recharge your balance as needed. When buying it, it is not necessary to choose which transport zones you need, but you can use it for all transport zones in London without any problem. The price of the journey is calculated according to the zones you have used. At the end of your trip you can recover the balance that you have not used.

It is definitely the best option if you are going to use the metro, the bus, the overground or the DLR a few times a day, for example to go from the hotel to the center, from the center to another place and then back to the hotel.

With an oyster card you will pay only for the transport you have used, saving a lot of money when comparing the price with simple tickets for the tube or bus.

Contactless Card

The truth is that using the contactless card is the new oyster card in London, since the same rates apply using a contactless card as an oyster card.

Travelcard in London

The Travelcard is a card that offers unlimited transport during the chosen period. For tourists they are only sold for 24 hours and 7 days, although there are one month or one year for London residents.

In short, with the Travelcard you have unlimited travel for a fixed rate. So the price you pay for your card is determined by the fare zones you want to travel in. The more areas you have to cover, the more expensive the Travelcard will be. Regardless, almost all hotels and major attractions are in Zone 1. However, Heathrow is in Zone 6.

How much does the Travelcard cost in London?

In the tables we detail the prices of the different types of Travelcard. Keep in mind that if you buy the 24-hour ticket, there are two rates depending on the time it is going to be used.

To travel before 9:30 a.m., you must buy the Peak fare, while the Off Peak fare can only be used after that time.

24-hour Travelcard rates

This card is ideal if you want to visit London in one day or as many attractions as possible that are far from your hotel and you cannot go on foot. Keep in mind that the Off Peak is cheaper, but you cannot travel from Monday to Friday before 9:30 a.m.

Zones Unlimited Use Off Peak (from 9:30 a.m.)
1-4 £13,50
1-6 £19,10 £13,50

Travelcard rates 7 days

There are many things to see in London, so staying 7 days you will not get bored. This is an ideal card for long stays.

zones Price per adult
1-2 £36,10
1-3 £42,40
1-4 £51,90
1-5 £61,70
1-6 £

Where can you buy the Travelcard in London?

There are several places to buy the Travelcard, but it is important to choose well because it has different formats. The best option for tourists is to buy it at National Rail stations, as you will receive a ticket with the trains logo.

This is very important to have 2×1 discounts in many attractions in the city, in which you will be asked for a valid ticket during the day of the visit and a voucher that you can download on the Days Out Guide website. These vouchers serve the London Eye, the Tower of London or Madame Tussauds, among many other places.

You can also buy the Travelcard at tourist information points or at tube stations, but you will not have the great advantage of the discounts offered by National Rail. In addition, if you buy a week’s Travelcard at a tube station, they will give it to you preloaded inside the Oyster magnetic card, for which they will charge you £3 and you will have to return it to recover that deposit.

Oyster card in London

The Oyster is a prepaid card that allows the use of London transport at a reduced price. It is the closest thing to the New York Pay-per-Ride Metrocard.

What does the Oyster card provide?

In addition to purchasing tickets in a more comfortable and simple way, with the Oyster card you will save on the price of single tickets in the different means of transport in the city.

How is the Oyster used?

The balance on the Oyster card can be used in two ways. As we have already told, the Oyster can contain a Travelcard with unlimited trips. This way, there’s no need to choose between Oyster or Travelcard! But you can also pay per use if you don’t need to use the transport very often.

These two forms can be combined in a single card, being able to buy a Travelcard for one day and paying for each use the rest of the days, for example.

How much does an Oyster trip cost in London? Is Oyster or Travelcard cheaper?

As with the 24-hour Travelcard, there are two hourly rates. Monday to Friday between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. is considered rush hour, so “Peak” rates will apply. During the rest of the hours and on weekends and holidays, the “Off Peak” rate will be valid.

In zones 1 and 2 of the metro, which cover the city center, there is no difference in fares. Each single tube ticket costs £2.10. On the buses each trip costs £1.40.

An advantage of the Oyster is that it has a daily limit equal to the price of a one-day Travelcard. If you make a lot of journeys one day, it will never cost you more than £8.40 per day (within zones 1 and 2) on the tube and £4.40 on the buses.

In addition to the balance you want to put into it, there is a £5 fee to get the card. This money, together with the remaining balance, will be recovered when returning the card at one of the points of sale.

Where can I buy an Oyster card in London?

The Oyster card can be found at ticket offices at Underground and National Rail stations. Also in stations that have vending machines.

How to choose between an oyster card or a London travelcard

To choose between the London oyster card or travelcard there are two things that we must take into account : The time you are going to be in London and the transport zones that interest you.

How long will you be in London?

As a general rule, after comparing prices, I usually recommend an Oyster Card if you are going to be in London for less than 6 days. For stays of more than 6 days you can buy a 7-day travelcard, but below you can see a price comparison. It will be profitable for you to buy a 7-day travelcard if you are going to use public transport a lot, if you are going to use the metro a couple of times a day, even if you are going to be there for 7 days, I would use an oyster card.

We have friends who have come to visit us for a week, and we have never bought a travelcard from them. We have always left them oyster cards, since calculating the number of trips they were going to make with the planning that we had designed for them, it was always cheaper to use an oyster card.

The transport zones that interest you

Typically, the tourist areas of London are Zones 1 and 2, and this is where most of London’s attractions are located. But in addition to what you want to visit, you will have to take into account where your hotel is located if you are going to buy a travelcard.

Oyster Card Daily Maximum Cap

I have to mention that the oyster card (like the contactless card) has a maximum daily limit (daily cap) from which the extra trips on public transport in London are free. (You still have to tap the yellow oyster on the way in and out, but you’ll be charged £0).

For 2022 the cheapest daily travelcard is £13.50. This is the price of the 1-day travelcard for zone 1, zones 1-2, zones 1-3 and zones 1-4. The maximum daily cap when using an oyster in London zones 1 and 2 is £7.20, £8.50 for zones 1-3 and £10.40 for zones 1-4. Thus, if you use an oyster card and do not leave zones 1 and 2, from £7.20 all trips you make in zones 1 and 2 are free.

So with this in mind, I think it’s important to know that if you’re going to travel only in zones 1 and 2, regardless of the number of trips you make, when you buy a daily travelcard you’ll be paying an extra £6.30 (plus the trips you make). you have paid that you have not made) than if you had used an oyster card.

Comparison Between: Daily Cap Oyster Card vs 1-day Travelcard vs 7-day Travelcard rates.

Zones Daily Cap Oyster Card 1 day travel card 7 day travel card
1 – 2 £7.40 £13.90 £37.00
1 – 3 £8.70 £13.90 £43.50
1 – 4 £10.60 £13.90 £53.20
fifteen £12.70 £19.60 peak / £13.90 off peak £63.30
1 – 6 £13.50 £19.60 peak / £13.90 off peak £67.60
Bus (any zone) £4.65 £5.20 (Bus and Tram Pass) £21.90

Peak: Peak hour. Off peak: Hour Valley (Out of rush hour).
Bus: Only using buses, the maximum daily limit using an oyster card is 4.50 pounds.

It is important to choose well between a London oyster card or travelcard, because many people who visit London buy a daily travelcard every day thinking that they are saving money but it turns out that the oyster card would have been much more profitable. It is also possible that a 7-day travelcard will be more expensive than using an oyster card during the 7 days, since if you use little public transport you may pay more than you have used.

Tips for choosing between Oyster Card and Travelcard

Comparative table: What is more profitable according to the number of days and the zones.

Zones 1 day 2 days 3 days 4 days 5 days 6 days 7 days
1 – 2 Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Weekly Travel Card Weekly Travel Card
1 – 3 Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Weekly Travel Card Weekly Travel Card
1 – 4 Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Weekly Travel Card Weekly Travel Card
1 – 5 Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Weekly Travel Card Weekly Travel Card
1 – 6 Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Oyster Card Weekly Travel Card Weekly Travel Card

What you should never do if you arrive at Heathrow airport

If you arrive at Heathrow airport, and you are going to be in London for several days, DO NOT buy a travelcard from Heathrow to use during your entire stay, since you will be buying a travelcard for zones 1 to 6 and it will be much more expensive.

If you arrive at Heathrow airport, I would advise that you buy an oyster card at Heathrow tube station, and that you use it to get to the center on the first day and the same to return to Heathrow the day you return.

You can use this same oyster card during your stay in London, if you are going to be in London for a few days and you are interested in the oyster card.

Yes instead. For the number of days you are going to be in London, you are interested in buying a zone 1-4 travelcard (which is the minimum), you have two options:

  • Buy it at a station in the center the same day you arrive. This is really if you are interested in buying the paper travelcard if you need it for the 2×1 discounts.
  • Incorporate it into the oyster card when buying it at Heathrow (choosing zones 1-4). With this option you must also add balance to the oyster card to go from heathrow to the center, since as I explained before, heathrow is zone 6. Or, you can add the travelcard to the oyster card at any self-service machine at a station. tube once you have reached central London.

Transport cards in London for children

Children under 11 travel free within London transport zones, but for those over 11 it is also possible to buy a transport card. We explain it in detail in our article Transport in London for children.

In the tables we detail the prices of the different types of Travelcard. Keep in mind that if you buy the 24-hour ticket, there are two rates depending on the time it is going to be used.

To travel before 9:30 a.m., you must buy the Peak fare, while the Off Peak fare can only be used after that time.

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