Travelling around London

Oyster and contactless payment cards

Oyster CardFor most passengers travelling within London, the cheapest fares are available when paying by Oyster or contactless payment card. An Oyster card is a smart card you can use instead of paper tickets, available on buses, tubes, trams, rail, DLR and some river services.  Oyster can also be used on the Emirates Air Line but has higher fares than London transport generally.

When you obtain an Oyster card, you will have to pay a refundable deposit of £5.

If you are visiting London from around the country or from another country and do not have a contactless payment card, it may work out much cheaper to use an Oyster card and save you time.

Here are a few examples of how you can save money using an Oyster card or a contactless payment card:


Oyster Pay As You Go/

contactless payment card

Cash single fare 

Bus and Tram
contactless Pay
as You Go Cap

Bus* £1.50 N/A £4.50
Tram* £1.50 £2.60 £4.50
Tube:Oxford Circus to Liverpool St  £2.40 £4.90 -
Rail: East Croydon to Victoria (peak) £5.20 £6.20 -
Rail: East Croydon to Victoria (off-peak) £3.40 £6.20 -
*The Hopper Fare allows unlimited travel on Buses and Trams withing 1 hour for £1.50

Prices: Jan 2017

Contactless payment cards

You can use a contactless payment card to pay for travel on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London.

You will be charged an adult-rate Pay As You Go fare each time you make a journey. You benefit from all the features of Oyster Pay As You Go (although you can’t add railcard discounts to a contactless card) if you use a contactless payment card as well as being able to take advantage of monthly, daily and Monday to Sunday capping (which you can’t get on Oyster). This provides you with another option if you have run out of credit on your Oyster card or have lost or forgotten your Oyster card. Contactless is also a useful way for tourists and visitors to London from other parts of the UK to get the same benefits as people using Oyster Pay As You Go.

Further information on contactless payments can be found on TfL's website.

The video below from Londonist shows how contactless could work out (significantly) cheaper than Oyster on particular series of journeys.



Alternatively, you can buy a Travelcard which allows unlimited travel within specified zones. These tickets range in price according to zone. The cheapest is a day off-peak (after 9.30am Monday to Friday, all weekend), which costs £12.70 for zones 1-6 and £18.10 peak. There is no difference between the peak and off peak one day Travelcard cost in Zones 1,2,3 or 4 or across any of these Zones. It is £12.70. 

If you use Oyster Pay As You Go, the price charged is capped so you should never pay more than the Travelcard price and will often pay less. Be aware that Travelcards are not available for every combination of zones. In Zones 1 an 2 or including both zones, the cap is £6.80 at both peak and off peak times (TfL withdrew the off peak Oyster Pay As You Go price caps on zones up to zone 7). There is a complete table of caps and Travelcard prices here.

If you have a Zone 1-3 Travelcard and are making a peak journey outside this area, it is often advisable to break your journey in Zone 1 to avoid being charged the maximum peak Oyster fare for the extension part of your journey.  For example if you travelled to Farringdon from Harrow on the Hill (Zone 5) between 4-7pm you would be charged the off peak Oyster fare but if you went from Harrow on the Hill to Herne Hill via Farringdon you would be charged the peak Oyster fare.  If you wanted to travel to Herne Hill you could avoid paying peak fare by getting off at Baker Street, taking a number 2 bus from there to Victoria and then catching a Southeastern train to Herne Hill.

Travelling outside the area covered by your Travelcard

If you want to travel outside the area covered by your Travelcard make sure you either purchase an extension ticket from the ticket office, or ticket machine if there is no ticket office available. This will be cheaper than buying an individual ticket between the last station covered by your Travelcard and your destination. If your destination is still within the Oyster area, make sure you put sufficient Pay As You Go credit on your Oyster card before you travel.  Also make sure that you touch in at the start of your journey, and touch out at the end even though these parts of your journey might be covered by your Travelcard, to avoid a maximum fare, a penalty fare or prosecution.

Ticket buying tips

Please remember, when buying an Oyster product you must touch your card twice - once to show what type of card you have before you select what you want to add to your card, and once again when you have paid, to ensure that it loads the product you have purchased correctly.  If you don't touch the card for a second time you could end up losing the cash you paid or having money taken from your credit/debit card but not having your product added to you card.

You also need to make sure that you do not hit the 'back' button on your computer once you have entered your card details if you buy a ticket over the internet.

Oyster is designed for simple journeys, usually with a gap between each one. So it might be better to use a Travelcard if you want to make lots of rail journeys one after the other without a gap between each one, especially if you arrive at one station and depart from a different one nearby. This is because many nearby stations are linked by out of station interchanges which join journeys together and could mean that you exceed the maximum time allowed for a journey between two points. The maximum journey time allowed depends on the distance involved and the frequency of trains.

We have advice for both regular travellers/commuters and visitors to London.