Travelling around London
Planning your journey
You can find journey planners on the National Rail Enquiries and TfL websites. TfL’s journey planner allows you to compare different modes of transport and now includes fares information for each mode.
Oyster and contactless payment cards
For 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|
|Tube: Oxford Circus to Liverpool St||£2.40||£5.50||N/A|
|Rail: East Croydon to Victoria (peak)||£5.50||£6.70||N/A|
|Rail: East Croydon to Victoria (off-peak)||£3.70||£6.70||N/A|
*The Hopper Fare allows unlimited travel on Buses and Trams within 1 hour for £1.55
Prices: March 2021
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.
It is important to note that Contactless has recently been introduced on three routes where Oyster is not, and will not be valid. These routes are: the Crossrail route from Iver to Reading; Brookmans Park to Welwyn Garden City and St Albans City to Luton Parkway. This is signified by an orange Contactless card reader.
Further information on contactless payments can be found on TfL’s website.
Walking and cycling
TfL and Walk London offer free guided walks led by experienced guides. These can be booked on the Walk London website. The TfL website also has information about walking in London, including their Walking Tube maps.
You can hire a Santander Cycle from as little as £2. Just go to any docking station with your bank card and touch the screen to get started. If you hire a bicycle regularly you can save money by registering for Santander Cycle membership.
Benefits of membership include:
- Quicker access to the bikes with your own key (one off fee of £3).
- Save money with yearly access to the bikes for £90
- Pay as you go costs £2 for 24 hour access plus any extra ride charges for journeys over 30 minutes
You can also read about some excellent safety tips for locking your bike on the Best Bike Lock blog written by cycling enthusiast Henry Clark.
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 £13.50 for zones 1-6 and £19.10 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 £13.10.
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 and 2 or including both zones, the cap is £7.20 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). You can compare caps and Travelcard prices on a dedicated page on TfL’s website.
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.
If you see a pink card reader when changing trains, touch your card on it to pay the right fare. There are pink card readers at some Tube and London Overground stations. They show which route you’ve taken so you pay the right fare. Some routes are cheaper than others, such as those which don’t include travel in Zone 1.
If you buy a ticket over the internet you also need to make sure that you do not hit the ‘back’ button on your computer once you have entered your card details.
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.
Driving in London
The Congestion Charge is an £15.00 daily charge for driving a vehicle within the charging zone between 07:00 and 22:00, every day apart from Christmas Day. The easiest way to pay is by setting up Auto Pay. Exemptions and discounts are available too.
Remember the Congestion charge and the ULEZ charge are not the same charge. Many drivers have to pay both charges to drive into London.
Ultra Low Emission Zone
To help improve air quality, an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) now operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year within the same area of central London as the Congestion Charge. Most vehicles, including cars and vans, need to meet the ULEZ emissions standards or their drivers must pay a daily charge to drive within the zone.
- £12.50 for most vehicle types, including cars, motorcycles and vans (up to and including 3.5 tonnes)
- £100 for heavier vehicles, including lorries (over 3.5 tonnes) and buses/coaches (over 5 tonnes)