Getting around London

Getting around London – Oyster card Vs Travelcard

For those visiting London, the question of how to get around the city and which travel card to buy might seem rather confusing. Let’s start by saying that it is not worth buying a single ticket which costs £4 so the options are mainly reduced to 2: buy one Oyster card some kind of prepaid travel card or buy one Travelcard daily.

Those who live in London use the Oyster card and never a daily travelcard, but if you go to London for just a weekend considering the long distances and numerous movements I think the Travelcard could be the best choice.

Let’s try to understand the differences between the two options so we can clarify what to make your choice based on.

The Oyster card it costs £3 which can be requested back when you no longer want to use it, and can be recharged from time to time, the Travelcard instead it is purchased without a deposit and is valid for the chosen days (1 day, 3 days, 7 days). The days must be consecutive. Once the days have expired, the travelcard will no longer be valid and you will have to buy another one.

The Travelcard is not valid to get to Heathrow, Luton, Stansted and Gatwick, but with the Oyster card you can get to Heathrow by tube at a cost of £2.50.

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Read also: What to do in London for free

Both the Oyster card and the Travelcard allow you to travel by the following means of transport:

  • Metropolitan (this Tube)
  • Bus
  • Trains
  • Docklands Light Railway

Furthermore, considering that London is divided into 7 zones, zone 1 is the central one where most of the hotels are generally located and zone 7 is the most peripheral one.

Regardless of whether you have an Oyster card or a Travelcard, the more zones you travel in, the more you pay, but generally those who go to London for a weekend or even for a week generally have zones 1 and 2 and rarely 3.

Be with the Travelcard you have to say the areas when paying with the Oyster card instead the money will be deducted automatically every time you take the tube or a bus (£1.30 the price in this case never changes).

Therefore, if you plan to use the daily Travelcard, consider in advance which areas you will travel between, otherwise you will have to buy an additional ticket.

The nice thing about the Oster Card is that if you take a lot of transport in one day and spend as much as you would have spent on a travel card, you will not pay more than the established daily limit (between £6 and £10 depending on the areas and times), called price cap, but if you spend less you will pay for how much you actually used (pay as you go).
Practically in this case the Oyster pay as you go automatically becomes a daily Travelcard.

Attention: the price cap varies depending on the times you travel. In fact, if you travel from 9.30 in the morning, therefore not during peak times, then the price cap for zones 1 and 2 is £6.30, from 6.30 in the morning to 9.30 and from 4 to 7 p.m. at £8.

aerial photography of London skyline during daytime

Oyster card vs Travelcard vs Contanti

It seems clear that it’s not worth buying a single tube ticket that costs £4.
The “pay as you go” Oyster card can be topped up at all tube stations and in many off-licence shops (the little shops that sell a bit of everything), it doesn’t make you spend forever and you can use it whenever you want it seems be the best solution. The only drawback is that if you charge more money than you end up spending, it will not be refunded.
The Travel card, on the other hand, is ideal if you know which areas you want to go to and you know that you will take a lot of public transport and you know exactly how many days you will be in London and that they will be quite busy days.

To conclude and not to make things complicated, my tips for moving around London at low cost are:

Oyster card if you believe you will only take 2 subways in zone 1 and 2 or buses in one day
Travelcard if you take many subways and you are sure that this money would have been spent anyway. Remember that if you buy the travelcard for three days they must be consecutive.
If you are staying a week you could get a weekly pass. Season tickets are divided into season tickets for buses only (obviously cheaper and valid for all zones) and for buses & subway (more expensive and valid for zones).

For information on routes, connections with public transport and travel planning in the city, the official website is

If you are still confused, this diagram will clarify your ideas:


For those who want to take advantage of the convenience and practicality of the Oyster card and at the same time want to save on the cost of entry to up to 60 attractions among which I mention the Tower of London, Hop on Hop off panoramic bus tour, Thames cruise, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge Experience and London Tombs. bike tours in London, London Bicycle Tour Company, National Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and many more then the right choice is the London City pass which includes a daily Oyster card, starting from €64.
The pass, depending on which one you choose, includes up to £40 of transport, can be purchased online and collected at the offices in Charing Cross Road 11a.

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Read also: What to see in London in three days

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