I get how eager London’s visitors are to tour around the whole capital on the very first day and consume all there is to see and do. But transport around London is a huge matter for Londoners and always a rather despised expense and for tourists it could be an even worse nightmare. Let’s face it, London cabs are golden and as for the public transport – for most it is very draining too; you might sum up to paying more for getting to a venue rather than at it. If you are one of these anxious about the cost of yet excited for their trip – take a couple of minutes to read some useful advice on how to damp the price of your transitions in London.
Paying For Tickets
When using London’s public transport there are several ways of ticketing. I should start off with telling you that it is by far best to use electronic ticketing – an Oyster Card or another Contactless Payment Card rather than paper tickets.
What is an Oyster? This is a smart card which either stores your Travelcards (a one day/one week/one month, etc. ticket) or stores a credit which you pay with when issuing a ticket at a lower fare than if you pay in cash. You can use an Oyster on London’s tube, buses, trams, DLR and some river services. It does not cost much to order one, you can order it online here and you pay a £5 refundable deposit. Even if you’re staying in London for a week, an Oyster will most probably cost you less than paying for paper tickets.
What you should know when charging your Oyster with Travelcards is that it can hold up to three different ones and if you use a complex combination of zones – think carefully whether it’s cheaper to use a single, more universal Travelcard or two different. If a trip comes up that is not covered by the zones your Travelcard is valid for, it’s best to purchase an extension ticket – buying another one from the last station your current ticket covers to your destination will cost you more. And also, Travelcards are more useful when your travels are frequent and around the same areas of London.
Pay As You Go
For travels that are rather infrequent, a better option is to use Oyster’s Pay As You Go function. It means that you charge a specific amount of money into your Oyster and every single trip’s fare is calculated at a lower cost than if you use paper tickets. Even if you travel several times during the same day, these fares are made so that the maximum you pay is no more than a day Travelcard.
If you decide not to issue an Oyster, you can benefit from the Pay As You Go services with your contactless Visa, Maestro, Mastercard or American Express. With them you pay adult, non-discount fares but still use the capping feature – the calculation of fare which makes your maximum charge the cost of a day Travelcard.
Just make sure that with an Oyster, you must touch your card twice to the devices – to show what kind of a card it is and then to confirm your purchase. And each time you travel, you must also touch your cards/tickets on entering and leaving, for example, the tube so that you don’t pay a maximum fare. Don’t forget that.
For tourists the best way to travel around is with a seven day Travelcard for zones 1 and 2 where most of the attractions are and just buy an extension when going back to Heathrow Airport for example. There is also the option of buying a visitor Oyster Card – you can read more about it Here – which apart from the discounts on buses, tube, tram, DLR, Overground and most National Rale services offers many discounts at shops and attractions. Plus, if you return your regular Oyster within one month of its purchase, you will be charged a £3 fee out of your deposit. And since one week seasonal tickets are available for non-residents and in such cases Oysters are not photocards, keep in mind that if you lose your Oyster you won’t be able to get a refund or a replacement.
A quick tip is to check whether your cross London journey can be made avoiding zone 1 since with public transport, using vehicles around this zone will cost you significantly less.
If you are not a tourist in London but work here and need to use the public transport regularly, it is advisable to buy a seasonal Travelcard. The cheapest deal offered is the annual Travelcard which entitles you to unlimited journeys within the zones you’ve chosen for the price of about 10 month Travelcards. And also, if purchasing an annual ticket within the Annual Golden Area you get a Gold Card coming with additional discount – read more about it Here. A very useful trick is to renew your annual card no later than 2 January because each year annual fares rise and with purchasing a ticket before the increase, you at least postpone it. And if you would like to spread the cost of an annual Travelcard into several instalments, you could turn to the services of organisations like Commuter Club or MyCommute4Less which charge a 5-6% fee for such a scheme.
There are also many discounts or free passes for elderlies, disabled, war veterans, children and students – you can check them out Here.
Another tip is to take advantage of the off-peak discounts – after 9.30p.m. and on weekends prices of tickets are significantly cheaper, so if your journey can vary a bit, try to consider the off-peak fares.
And for groups of travellers there are other options – some rail companies in the South East offer Group Save tickets with which you 3 or 4 adults can travel for the cost of two passengers. There are also different discounts coming with rail tickets, cards and Oyster for many attractions, restaurants and historical venues, so when buying tickets you can always look around or ask for such preferential offers.
Something for the drivers
A way to ease drivers at least a bit is to save on congestion charges – driving into the Congestion Charging zone will cost you £11.50 daily (£14 if paid afterwards). For residents, blue badge holders and vehicles like electric cars there are discounts but even if you are a resident, the best choice if driving regularly would be to buy a weekly/monthly/annual ticket and pay substantially less. If you are worried you might forget when to pay, there is also the option of registering with TfL and paying monthly for the times you’ve entered these zones with a discount on each day.
Although driving is not price efficient with any tips, at least commuters and tourist can save up a bit with some careful thinking. Go trough these complicated pieces of advice once again and when it comes down to using London’s public transport – do your best to catch the deals. Hope to have been helpful.