Underground between Heathrow Airport and London

Heathrow Airport to London with the Underground

Posted by & filed under London.

This post is about taking the London Underground between Heathrow Airport and Central London, including tips and tricks on fares, switching trains and handling luggage. 

 


THE UNDERGROUND VS. OTHER OPTIONS

In terms of mass transit, there are 4 ways to get from Heathrow Airport to Central London.

There is the super fast 15 min Heathrow Express to Paddington Station (most expensive). The slightly slower Heathrow Connect commuter train, also to Paddington Station, a National Express coach bus to Victoria Station, and the London Underground to just about everywhere. Read more »

The 6 Best Christmas Markets in London

Posted by & filed under London.

This post covers Christmas Markets in London, where to find them and what you will see. Also check our full guide Christmas in London, as well as our other Holiday posts listed just below:

 

 


Winter Wonderland Hyde Park

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is the biggest and most famous of all the Christmas markets in London. Originally opening in 2006, Winter Wonderland has grown to feature the UK’s largest outdoor ice-skating rink, a giant Ferris Wheel, a magical ice kingdom, several food and mhyde_park_winter_wonderland_2016_entranceerchandise stalls, and many other things. Read more »

Things to Do for Christmas in London 2018

Posted by & filed under London.

This post is a guide to things to do London during Christmas, including markets, ice skating rinks, beautiful lights, and holiday shows, just to name a few. 

 

 


Christmas Lights & Decorations

During the holiday season, nearly every street and building in London is covered in lights and decoration. A great way to really get into the Christmas spirit without spending a lot of money is simply by walking down the many colorful streets. Though there are several great places to enjoy London’s Christmas decorations, a few streets stand out above the rest. 

 

 

  • Oxford Street is probably the most famous of them all… and for good reason! 
  • Regent’s Street is a spectacular array of lights and color that is guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit! 
  • Trafalgar Square boasts one of the most impressive Christmas trees you will find in the city. 
  • For a full list, check out our post: Where to See Christmas Lights & Decorations in London

 


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Christmas Markets

If you’re visiting the UK during the holiday season, you absolutely must visit a Christmas market. Originating in Germany, these fun events can be found in many cities around Europe.

London boasts a huge variety of Christmas markets, including some that are more quaint and traditional, as well as others that are very big and modernized. You honestly can’t go wrong when it comes to choosing a Christmas market, but below are some of our favorites. 

 

 

  • Winter Wonderland is the biggest and most well known Christmas market in London. Though it can get overcrowded on the weekends, it’s absolutely worth seeing for the production value alone. 
  • Southbank Centre Christmas Market is conveniently located along the River Thames and features traditional chalets selling holiday trinkets, traditional German food, and mulled wine. 
  • The Greenwich Christmas Market isn’t quite as well known as some of the others but features an amazing array of over 100 chalets. 
  • For a full list, check out our post: The Best Christmas Markets in London

 


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Ice Skating

There is no shortage of incredible ice rinks to go skating on in London during the holiday season. With so many incredible places to choose from, the hardest part is figuring out where to go ice skating first! As with the Christmas markets, you really can’t go wrong with any of these options. Below are some of our favorites. 
 

 

  • Somerset House – Think of this as the Times Square of London in terms of ice rinks. Beautiful location set in the courtyard of a 17th-century building. 
  • Tower of London – Did you know that you can go ice skating in the shadow of London’s oldest fortress! Mulled wine and baileys are served nearby to keep you warm in between skates. 
  • Natural History Museum – This is another fantastic location set in front of the beautiful Natural History Museum. 
  • For a full list, check out our post: The Best Ice Skating Rinks in London

 


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Christmas at Kew Gardens

This year Kew Gardens is putting on a fabulous show of seasonal illuminations. Visitors walk a “one-mile sparkling path” lit up especially for Christmas. There will also be food, music and vintage fairground rides so there is something for every one!

 

 

 

Charles Dickens Museum

No visit to London during the month of December is complete without a visit to the Charles Dickens Museum! As stated on their website, this museum holds the “world’s most important collection of paintings, rare editions, manuscripts, original furniture, and other items relating to the life and work of Dickens.” This impressive collection is carefully arranged and displayed over the three floors of the house. 

 


 Learn more about visiting in our post on the Charles Dickens Museum

 


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London Eye Frostival

If you love to ice skate, then you definitely shouldn’t leave London before visiting the London Eye Frostival. This winter wonderland features the largest ice skating rink the London Eye has ever seen! Lines can be long, so be sure to get there early. Learn more by checking out our full post on the London Eye Frostival. 

 


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Beatles Tour London

Tour of The Beatles’ London

Posted by & filed under London.

This post is a self-guided tour of Beatles London sights as well as a list of guided tour options. From recording studios to concert venues, shops to roof-top performances, London is filled with hot-spots for fans of the Fab Four. 

 

 


SELF GUIDED BEATLES LONDON TOUR

We recommend doing this tour during daylight hours, although it’s not necessary. Overall, it should take around half a day depending on how much time you’d like to spend and how you wish to travel.

There will be at least one trip on the Underground, as well as potential bus journeys if you’d prefer not to walk between some of the locations that are spread out from one another.

Read our guide on using the London Underground and choosing an Oyster Card.

Read more »

Ice skating in the city

Where to See Christmas Lights and Decorations in London

Posted by & filed under London.

Like any capital city, London lights up for the Christmas season. There are plenty of bright lights to see – so many that you may have trouble trying to decide where to go! This helpful list will highlight the best spot to take in some glittering Christmas Lights and decorations in London.

Also check our full guide Christmas in London, as well as our other posts on the holidays in London: 


Oxford Street 

Perhaps the most famous place to view Christmas lights in London is Oxford Street. This year, 1,178 twinkling globes have be strung up along the entire street, creating the illusion of strolling underneath glittering balls of snow.

Nearest Underground Station: Oxford Circus (map)

Read more »

Things to Do in London in November

Posted by & filed under London.

This post covers things to do in November in London, including a top 10 list, nighttime activities, free things to do and family friendly options. Be sure to read our master post on things to do in London any time.

 

 


TOP 10 THINGS TO DO 

In this section, we will give you our own top 10 list of entertaining activities available in London during the month of November. Whenever possible, we will make sure to mention when one of these attractions is either free, family-friendly or a great idea after the sun goes down.

If you’re looking for tips on the most popular activities in London, make sure to check our list of pay-what-you-like walking tours, bus tours, and boat cruises.

Some of the attractions we will mention below are included for free with several of the many tourist attraction discount passes.

Read more »

How to Use the London Underground

How to Use the London Underground

Posted by & filed under London.

This post is a quick and easy tutorial on how to navigate the London Underground (a.k.a. the Tube), including hours of operation as well as info on tickets, transfers, and other helpful tips.

 

 


LONDON UNDERGROUND TICKETS AND OYSTER CARDS

Buying a ticket for the London Underground is pretty straightforward, but for most visitors, getting an Oyster Card is the way to go. So, for a more in-depth explanation, check out our previous post about ticket prices and options here in London.

There are 4 ways to pay for your rides on the Tube.

  • Paper tickets 
  • Visitor Oyster Card
  • Travelcard
  • Contactless Credit Cards

 

 

We normally recommend avoiding paper tickets and to buy yourself an Oyster Card. You can wait until you arrive in London, however, you can order it in advance (called a Visitor Oyster Card), have it mailed to your home, and it comes with some additional discounts of interest to tourists.

Secondly, the rides are much cheaper than paper tickets. You can add as much money to these as you wish and there is a daily limit that you will spend, so the rides get cheaper the more you use them.

 

Regular Oyster Card

 

You can use the Oyster Card the next time you come back to London or you can get up to £10 plus the £5 deposit back when you leave London (except for Gatwick Airport where you only can retrieve the deposit). 

Travelcards, particularly the 7-day Travelcard also has benefits for the traveler.

Read our post on which London Oyster Card or Travelcard to buy


London Underground Fares

While there are 6 travel zones for the London Underground, most visitors to London will travel largely within Zones 1 + 2.

How much you pay depends on when you travel, whether during peak hours (06:30 – 09:30 and 16:00 – 19:00 Mon-Fri) vs. off-peak (all other times), where you travel to and from, and whether you are using a paper ticket vs. an Oyster, Travelcard, or contact credit card.

 

Zones Traveled Single Ticket Adult Single Ticket Child (11-15) Oyster and Contactless Cards (Peak) Oyster and Contactless Cards (Off-Peak)
1 £4.90 £2.40 £2.40 £2.40
1-2 £4.90 £2.40 £2.90 £2.40
1-3 £4.90 £2.40 £3.30 £2.80
1-4 £5.90 £2.90 £3.90 £2.80
1-5 £5.90 £2.90 £4.70 £2.80
1-6 £6.00 £3.00 £5.10 £3.10

 

If you have one of the latter, then you will pay somewhere between £2.40 and £2.90 per ride within Zones 1 + 2. The most expensive ride (Central London to Heathrow) will cost either £3.10 (off-peak) or £5.10 (peak).

Oyster and Travelcards can be used on all of London’s public transportation options, including buses, DLR, the Overground, suburban trains (within London), a water taxi, and even a gondola. 

Daily Limits

If you use an Oyster Card or a Contactless Card, then there are daily limits to what you will spend. These caps are dependent on where you are traveling within.

So, for example, if you stay within Zones 1 and 2, the cap for an adult is just £6.80 for the Underground and £4.50 for buses. So, the more you ride, the cheaper each ride is. 

Child Discounts

Children under 11 travel for free and there is a 50% discount on Oyster Card fares for children 11-15 years of age. To receive this discount, you need to grab a Tube staff member at any Underground station, including Heathrow.

We help you determine which type of card or ticket you need in our in-depth post on Oyster Cards.

 


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UNDERSTANDING THE TUBE MAP

Picking up a Tube map is easy! They are available for free at most stations on the Underground network. The maps on offer at the stations are small – perfect for carrying around in your pocket. 

Below is a map of the London Underground. You could also download a PDF version.

 

Map of the London Underground

 

Don’t be embarrassed to consult your map as you travel through London, even Londoners themselves occasionally need to check where it is they are heading to!

Some people will actually have an app on their phone sporting the London Underground tube map – though we think Google Maps App is very good. 

Zones

If you look closely at the map, you will notice that the center part is shaded white (zone 1) with a ring of gray shade (zone 2) which is also surrounded by white again (zone 3).

Again, most visitors to London will spend much, if not all, of their time in Zones 1-2. 


Focus on Colours

Every line on the London Underground has a different name and colour. The names and colours will appear on your Tube Map, and also all over the various stations on the network.

For some, memorising the names is easier, but in general, colours can be the simplest way to learn your way around, and also to use when asking for/receiving directions.

 

Colours-of-the-Tube-Lines

Generally speaking, any one particular line will either head north-south or east-west.

FREE TOURS BY FOOT TIP:

Start your holiday in London with our All-in-One London Tour, which takes in most of London’s legendary tourist sites and utilizes the London Underground.  Get a tutorial directly from us.

 


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OPERATING HOURS AND THE NIGHT TUBE

It’s important to remember that the London Underground system doesn’t run 24 hours a day every day and that timings may be different on weekdays vs. weekends.

 

How to Use the London Underground

 

General Hours

Although each station has different timings, in general, the first tube trains start running around 5:00 am – 5:15 am and finish around 12:00 am – 12:30 am from Mondays through Fridays.

On Sundays, the Tube begins a bit later, around 6:00 am – 6:15 am and the final trains depart around 11:30 pm – 12:30 am. Sundays also carry a reduced service which means there are not as many trains running as on Mondays to Saturdays.

Rush Hours

Weekdays: 7:00 am – 9:30 am and 16:00 (4pm) – 19:00 (7 pm).

Like any major city, London has a very busy rush hour in the mornings and in the evenings when the majority of people are travelling to and from work.

If possible, try to avoid travelling on the tube during these times, particularly if you have any large baggage/luggage with you as space is an absolute premium which means you may have to wait as multiple trains pass you, until there’s one with enough space to fit you in. 


The Night Tube

As of 2018, some London Underground lines are now operating as The Night Tube, a 24-hour Underground service which operates on Fridays and Saturdays.

Really, this service should be called the “Overnight Tube” as the regular operating hours reach midnight every day of the week.

Click here for a downloadable pdf.

London Night Tube Map

 

There are 5 lines making up the Night Tube and there are fewer trains operating, which means wait times are more than the standard 2 – 5 minutes. The lines and approximate timings are:

  • Victoria Line – Trains every 10 minutes
  • Jubilee Line – Trains every 10 minutes
  • Piccadilly Line (Cockfosters to Heathrow Terminal 5 ONLY) – Trains every 10 minutes
  • Northern Line (Camden Town to Morden) – Trains every 8 minutes
  • Northern Line (Camden Town to High Barnet) – Trains every 15 minutes (No Night Tube on the Bank and Mill Hill East Branches)
  • Central Line (White City to Leytonstone) – Trains every 10 minutes
  • Central Line (Leytonstone to Loughton/Hainault) – Trains every 20 minutes
  • Central Line (Ealing Broadway to White City) – Trains every 20 minutes (No Night Tube on other branches of the line)

NOTE: The Night Tube operates with standard fare prices. Your daily travel card will be valid until 4:29 am the morning after you have purchased it.

 


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TIPS ON NAVIGATING THE UNDERGROUND

Now that you know how to pay and how to use the Underground map, we now will provide you with our top 7 tips for navigating your way through the system, from how to enter a system, how to board the correct train, how to change lines, and when to walk instead of taking the Tube.


Underground Tutorial Tours

Let us, Free Tours by Foot, show you how to utilize the London Underground to get around the city – like our London in a Day or our  Harry Potter Tour. While these are not specifically Underground tours, your tour guide will assist you in learning how to master the system and to offer you some tips and tricks for riding the Tube.


Entering and Exiting Stations

All Underground stations have ticket barriers – large grey machines where travellers either insert their paper travel cards into or tap their Oyster cards on top of. At first glance, most barriers all seem the same but they are actually divided into three different purposes; Enter, Do Not Enter, Bags/Buggies.

 

London Underground Turnstiles

 

Some of the barriers will have a green arrow displayed – this means this is a barrier that you can travel through. Insert your paper ticket, or tap your Oystercard on the yellow pad right next to the sign displaying the green arrow. The barriers in front of you (just left from the arrow) will open and allow you to walk through.

Other barriers will have a red X displayed – this means this barrier will not open for you and is either closed or being used for visitors traveling in the opposite direction.

Lastly, some barriers are quite large, with signs displaying buggies, luggage, and wheelchairs. These barriers are much larger than the regular grey ones and are there for people travelling with added items/persons.

They will not close as quickly as the others, giving travellers time to get themselves and all possessions through to the other side. 

Read our post on taking the Tube from Heathrow Airport to Central London for tips on navigating with luggage.


Find Your Correct Direction

IWillsdenGreenSignn general, the Underground lines operate going north–south or east–west and vice versa. Checking on your map will help you determine which direction you are travelling in, which will help you find the correct platform and train for your journey.

At every station, there will be maps like these showing the two directions that the trains will be travelling in, and under each direction will be a list of all the stations the train will stop at – in order!

This makes it easy not only to see which platform you need to be on but also how many stops it will take you to get to your destination. 


Don’t Board the Wrong Train

Sometimes, multiple Underground lines share the same track at a station. If you aren’t paying attention, you could board the wrong train.

As the trains pull into the platform, you can take a glance at the front of the train. Here will be displayed the final destination of that particular train.

 

London Underground Signs

 

Also, on every platform there will be an electronic sign displaying the time until the next train arrives, and which station will be its’ final stop.


Lines that Split

Another potential mixup is lines that split. Some lines can have 2 or 3 different ending tracks, so you need to be aware of this. Take the image below as an example.

 

Split Lines London Underground

 

For example, suppose you plan on boarding a District Line (green) train at South Kensington Station (the black square) with a final destination Wimbledon (the bottom-most black arrow). You would be taking a westbound train. 

However, you can see from the map that there are two additional tracks with different ending points (Richmond and Ealing Broadway), all a part of the District Line heading westbound. As you probably can tell, you could end up missing the first tennis match.


Changing Lines

The Tube map can often be misleading in that many tube lines crisscross over each other on the map, but do not actually connect to one another in reality.

 

Changing Trains London Underground

 

If you want to know where you can change from one Tube line to the other, you need to look for the white circle on the line on your map. Any time you see one of these, it means you can change from one line to another or to British Rail.

Check out our tips on using the Underground with luggage and kids


Sometimes You Should Just Walk

The London Underground Map is definitely NOT geographically accurate. Oftentimes it is easier to walk instead of getting on the tube to travel just a stop or two. There is a map that gives the walking times between stations (pdf).

 

Map of Walking Distances between London Underground Stations

 

A good example of this is Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line. On the map, they appear a fair distance apart, but in reality, it would take you just 4 minutes to walk the journey yourself.

Another good example is Charing Cross and Embankment – it’s just a 2-minute walk from each station! 


Step-Free (Handicap) Access

For those with limited mobility, there are clues on the Underground map that will let you know if there is step-free access. This is also useful if you are travelling with exceptionally heavy suitcases.

 

London Underground Step-free Handicap Accessibility

 

Simply look at the map, and on some stations, you will see a blue circle with a white figure in a wheelchair. This means it is possible to get from the street into the train without any stairs or escalators. 

 

Handicap Symbols London Underground

 

The white circle and a blue figure in a wheelchair denote stations with step-free access from the street to the platform. At these stations, you will need assistance to get into and out of the train, either with a ramp or the help of fellow passengers. 

Note that in larger stations, such as Waterloo, the blue circle appears on one line only, which means the other two lines do not have step-free access. Transport for London has this helpful video.

A final note – Although London is generally a safe and welcoming city for visitors, pickpockets and thieves operate throughout the entire London Underground network.

Please be aware of your surroundings, keep hold of all of your possessions, and avoid the habit of simply putting your ticket/credit cards/keys/mobile phones into your pockets – this will make you an incredibly easy target! Also, never leave your belongings unattended on a train or in an Underground Station.

 


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TUBE ETTIQUITE

To avoid a faux pas and keep from being marked out as a typical tourist, here are a few tips for Tube etiquette when travelling along the Tube.

1. Have Your Ticket Ready

Do not approach the ticket barriers until you have your Oystercard – or paper ticket – ready. If you walk to the barrier and then fumble through your pockets/bags for your ticket, it will delay other travellers and oftentimes can mess with the barrier censors, potentially causing the barriers to lock.

[Remember you need a ticket both to BEGIN/ENTER and also to FINISH/LEAVE your journey!]  Be sure to read our blog post on the Oystercard and Travel Card.


2. Stand on the Right

When riding escalators up and down in Underground Stations, please remember to stand on the RIGHT. Travellers who wish to move up/down whilst on the escalators will be doing so on the left-hand side. If you stand on the left you may find yourself politely asked to move to the right, or simply shoved past by a multitude of commuters.

This also includes your belongings/suitcases – they must be on the right of the escalators as well. It is poor form and bad manners to take up the left side of the escalator with your belongings.


3. Stand Behind the Yellow Line

Please Stand Behind the Yellow LineOn every Tube platform, you will find a yellow line painted along the edge. This line marks the boundary between where it is safe to stand, and where it is dangerous. Stand BEHIND the line (not on top of!) in order to avoid any risk of death or injury.

You may occasionally see passengers swiftly walking down the platform directly on top of the yellow line – but do not follow their lead!

4. Move Down the Platform

As soon as you get onto the platform, move either right or left. You will find many people gathered at the entrance to the platform, meaning people cannot get past them and move onto the platform to get their train.

TIP: Besides just being courteous, the rear and front of the trains tend to be less crowded so moving down the platform means you’re more likely to get a seat!

5. Let Other Passengers Off First

Move Down CarriageAs soon as the Tube doors open, step to either side of the opening doors and let customers off the train before you attempt to board. Failure to follow this rule may lead to verbal chastisement.

6. Move Down Inside the Carriage

Once you are inside the Tube – move away from the door! Standing in place will impede others who are trying to board.

Also (especially during peak times) it is important to move as far down into the carriage as possible in order for the maximum amount of people to fit onto the train. You will see Londoners standing in between the benches on busy Tube carriages, and you should follow their lead.

7. Keep Feet and Bags Off the Seats

Particularly on crowded trains, it is unacceptable to take up an entire seat solely for your possessions – or your feet!

8. Do Not Lean on the Poles

The poles that are placed throughout the Underground train carriages are meant for people to hold on to. Leaning against one of the poles means blocking the pole for those that may need it to hold balance whilst the train is moving.

9. Mind Your Earphones and Your Meals

Music you are listening to should not be loud enough for anybody else on the Tube to hear. Also, it is best to avoid eating hot/smelly food on the Underground.

10. Get Out of the Way of Those Getting Off the Train

When you are on the Tube and at a stop that is not yours, make sure you are not in the way of those who are trying to exit the train. Occasionally, you may need to step outside of the train to let passengers off if the carriage is very crowded – this is expected behaviour, and you will be able to step right back on once the departing have left.

11. Stand Up for the Elderly and Pregnant

BabyOnBoardThis is one even some Underground regulars need reminding of! It’s just good manners in the UK to offer up your seat to the elderly, pregnant, or those who are less able to stand. Be aware of who comes on the Tube at each stop and do not be afraid to offer your seat.

Occasionally you may see women with a small ‘Baby on Board’ badge with the London Underground logo pinned onto their coats. Some men even take it upon themselves to stand up for any woman who comes onto the train so chivalry is not completely dead in London!

12. Take Your Rubbish Home With You

Rubbish left behind on the Tube is unsightly and can be quite disgusting. There are no bins on Underground trains or at most Underground Stations which means it is expected that you will take any rubbish of yours off the train and home/back to your hotel with you when you leave.

On the London Underground, a little bit of courtesy and kindness can go a long way. Commuting and travelling in the city can be quite stressful so try to remain courteous to others as you go about their business, and hopefully, they will do the same as you go about yours!
 


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HOP-ON-HOP-OFF BUS VS. LONDON UNDERGROUND

If you’re visiting London and aren’t sure about riding the London Underground, then we hope our tips above have made you more confident and willing to use the tube to get around town.

However, we understand that some people may still be a little anxious or unsure about the benefits of taking the tube, as opposed to riding one of London’s hop-on-hop-off tour buses. To help you make up your mind, we’ve listed a few pros and cons of each below.

Hop-on-hop-off buses can be useful in getting an overview of the city or learning your way around town. They are also quite useful for people who aren’t physically fit enough to walk through London day in and day out.

However, whenever possible, we strongly believe that the best – and quickest – way to get around town is by taking the London Underground or to walk.

[Note that if you wish to take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, we have a handy page HERE to help you choose which one to ride]

Pros of a Bus Tour

  • easy to understand routes
  • convenient stops at the most popular tourist attractions
  • climate controlled all year (on the inside)
  • tickets often include night tours, boat cruises or free attractions.
  • commentary along the routes

Cons of a Bus Tour

  • more expensive than riding the subway
  • routes are only one-direction
  • wait times can be very long due to seasonal or even daily traffic
  • buses can be crowded
  • bad weather is always a risk

Pros of Riding the Underground

  • (relatively) inexpensive
  • flexible routing
  • very warm in the winter
  • you get to travel like a real Londoner
  • Almost always faster than a bus

Cons of Riding the Underground

  • not all stations are accessible for wheelchairs and strollers
  • can be really hot and sweaty in summer
  • can be really crowded during rush hours
  • no commentary

Related Content

 

Oyster Card or Travel Card

Which Oyster Card to Buy

Posted by & filed under London.

This post compares the different Oyster Cards, as well as the Travelcard, to help you decide which one is best for you, including a breakdown based on the number of days you will be in London.

 

 


WHAT IS AN OYSTER CARD

An Oyster Card is a plastic smart card, which you can use to store money for rides on the London Underground and throughout the London public transport system, this also includes buses, tram, DLR, London Overground, TFL Rail, most National Rail services in London, Emirates Air Line cable car and River Bus services (MBNA Thames Clippers).

Essentially, they replace paper tickets and allow you to avoid buying a ticket each time you ride.

There are 2 different types of Oyster Cards: a Visitor Oyster Card and a Regular Oyster Card. They function in essentially the same way, but with a few key differences.

For example, both cards operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, but only the Regular Oyster Card can also load travelcards, which are 1 or 7 day passes. We explain more of these differences in the following sections.

Children under the age of 11 can travel on all London transport networks for free (including the Underground, TfL Rail, and buses), provided they are with an adult who has a valid Oyster Card, Travelcard or single-ride ticket.

Only one person can use one card. If you have 2 or more travelers, you will need 2 or more Oyster Cards.

Contactless cards are now accepted across all London transport networks and ask in the same manner as an Oyster Card. See if yours is valid HERE.

Learn how to use the cards and other tips on using the underground, read our post on navigating the London Underground.


Benefits of Using an Oyster Cards

Below we list the general benefits of an Oyster Card, whether it’s a Visitor or Regular Oyster Card.

Cheaper Thank Single Paper Tickets

Actually, they are much cheaper. As you can see below, most visitors traveling in Zones 1 and 2 can save between £2 and £2.50 per ride. 

 

Zones Traveled Single Ticket Adult Single Ticket Child (11-15) Oyster and Contactless Cards (Peak) Oyster and Contactless Cards (Off-Peak)
1 £4.90 £2.40 £2.40 £2.40
1-2 £4.90 £2.40 £2.90 £2.40
1-3 £4.90 £2.40 £3.30 £2.80
1-4 £5.90 £2.90 £3.90 £2.80
1-5 £5.90 £2.90 £4.70 £2.80
1-6 £6.00 £3.00 £5.10 £3.10

 

Most visitors to London stay within the Zones 1-2, though some have hotels or guesthouses outside of the city centre. If you are flying in and/or out of Heathrow Airport, then your fare would be from Zone 1-6 to wherever your final destination is. 

Children under 11 travel for free and there is a 50% discount on Oyster Card fares for children 11-15 years of age. To receive this discount, you need to grab a Tube staff member at any Underground station, including Heathrow.


Daily Limit

In addition to cheaper individual rides, when traveling with an Oyster Card, a ‘cap’ is automatically applied once you reach a certain amount each day.

For example, the most you will ever spend in one day when traveling within zones 1 & 2 with an Oyster Card is £6.80. There are different caps for each zone as the cost of travel depends on the distance you go and the time of day.

We recommend how much to put on your card per day, but you can see the price and cap table here.

Buses also cap out at £4.50 per day (with each ride costing £1.50). 


Hopper Fare on Buses

The London mayor recently introduced the ‘hopper’ fare, which means that you will be able to switch between as many buses as you like within 1 hour without being charged more than the initial £1.50 fare.

London is huge and many journeys require that you take 2 or more buses to get there. With the hopper fare, you will only need to pay £1.50 total for all of those rides as long as the total time does not exceed 1 hour. 


Valid to get to and from Heathrow and Gatwick Airports

Heathrow Airport is at the very end of the Piccadilly Line and therefore can be reached via the Underground with an Oyster Card or Travel Card. Unfortunately, Oyster Cards do not work on the Heathrow Express – yet! 

Gatwick Airport, which is not on an Underground Line, can only be reached by bus or train. Oyster Cards can be used on the Gatwick Express, which is the fastest train to that airport. 


Oyster Cards Never Expire

If you plan to visit London again in the future, then you can simply hold onto the card and it, as well as the money on it, will never expire.

Otherwise, you could get back any unused money that you added to it. Holders of the Regular Oyster Card can also get their £5 deposit back when they leave.

NOTE: There is a limit of £10 on refunds.

 


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VISITOR OYSTER CARD

The Visitor Oyster Card can be purchased in advance and mailed to you anywhere in the world. This is great for those of you feel stressed out about the idea of buying an Oyster Card while in London, and therefore would prefer to just have it sorted prior to arrival. 

 

Visitor Oyster Card

 

Adding money to your card is easy and we explain this process in the next section.

However, there are a few drawbacks to the Visitor Oyster Card. Firstly, it costs £5 plus postage for the card to be sent, and unlike the Regular Oystercard, you won’t get the £5 back.

Secondly, you can’t register a Visitor Oyster Card, something you can do with a Regular Oyster Card. So, if you have a tendency to lose things, then this might be a consideration for you.

The larger drawback is that you can’t apply any of the Travelcards (these are explained later) to the Visitor Oyster Card, so if you were planning on using those, or put another way, you plan to be in London for 6 or more days, then maybe don’t buy a Visitor Oyster Card. 

There are also some discounts that can be applied to certain restaurants and tourist attractions with the Visitor Oyster Card. None of the deals are that spectacular and you generally get much better discounts with a tourist attraction discount pass but check out their list in case any appeal to you. 

Ultimately, if you want to have your card before arriving in the UK, or are not likely to benefit from a travelcard, then buy a Visitor Oyster Card.

Regular Oyster Cards can only be purchased in the UK. They are very simple to buy and can be purchased all over the city, including the airports, but if you don’t want to bother with that, then opt for a Visitor Oyster Card. 

 


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REGULAR OYSTER CARD

This is the choice for Londoners themselves – just about everybody who lives in London has an Oyster Card! The most common way to use Oyster Cards is to ‘pay as you go.’

 

Regular Oyster Card

 

You simply add money onto your card at either a Tube station (all stations have kiosks where you can add money via cash or card), online or at a random shop where you see an Oyster Card sign. It is very simple to do and we walk you through this process in the next section.

The other options are to load your Oyster Card with a 1-Day-Travel Card, 7-Day-Travel Card, Monthly Travelcard, or even a Yearly Travelcard.

If you are planning on travel around the city a lot over a certain period, then likely the 7-Day Travel Card might be your preferred option over ‘pay as you go’. We explain more about Travelcards and when you should choose them later in this post. 

Oyster Cards are reusable so you can load and reload your card as many times as you need to while you’re here. Visitors can even take their Oyster Cards back home with them and either keep them as souvenirs or hold onto them until their next trip to London! 


How to Buy a Regular Oyster Card

To get yourself an Oyster Card you can simply go to the window at any London Underground Station, including Heathrow Airport, and request one, or use some of the many self-service ticket machines at busier Underground Stations.

You will need to pay a £5.00 deposit, which is held by Transport for London – but can be reimbursed to you whenever you return your Oyster Card back to any London Underground Station at the end of your visit or return it on your journey home at Heathrow Airport.

In addition to collecting your deposit at, you can also retrieve any extra money you put onto the card that you have not yet spent, up to a £10 limit. NOTE: Those leaving from Gatwick Airport can only get their deposit. No extra money can be refunded.

oysterHowever! The money you have loaded onto your Oyster Card does not expire, which means if you don’t spend it all before you leave, it will remain on your card until your next visit. So if you plan to come back, simply hold onto your card.

For those who like to plan in advance, and don’t mind a non-refundable deposit of £5.00, it is possible to order a pre-loaded Visitor Oyster Card to be sent to you before you even leave the house!

 


How to ‘Top Up’ an Oyster Card

Topping up an Oyster Card is simple. You simply go to a kiosk inside any Underground station and tap your Oyster Card to the yellow button. Select how much money you want to add to the card. Pay that amount either by credit/debit card or cash. Then tap the yellow button again to close the deal. Watch the video below for a visual guide. 

 

 

Alternatively, as mentioned above, you can also add money to your Oyster Card at any shop that has the blue “Oyster Card” sign in its window. These are literally EVERYWHERE, so don’t worry about not being able to find a place to top up. 

The one thing you should be mindful of is that you cannot top up your Oyster Card on a bus or at a bus stop. If you board the bus and it flashes red for insufficient funds, the driver will tell you to leave.

Luckily, there is usually a business savvy shop nearby that offers top-ups, but this is something to watch out for if you are planning to travel by bus. 


How Much Money Should You Add?

Because of the daily caps, you can have some certainty as to how much you need to add to your card. Below is an example that assumes that you will be flying into and out of Heathrow Airport (during peak hours), will otherwise travel exclusively in Zones 1-2, and also assumes that you will reach the cap each day.

These prices could be slightly higher or lower, so do check out the fare table to make your calculations.

  • 1-Day – £11.90 (see note below)
  • 2 Days -£23.80
  • 3 Days – £30.60
  • 4 Days – £37.40
  • 5 Days – £44.20
  • 6 Days – Get the 7-Day Travelcard
  • 7 Days – Get the 7-Day Travelcard

A 1-Day Travelcard is cheaper than a Visitor Oyster Card if you are only in town for the day as you won’t get the £5 fee back. Though, this does not take into account any discounts that you might use with the Visitor Oyster Card.

 


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TRAVELCARDS

Travelcards are prepaid cards that give you unlimited access to specific zones within London. You can choose to either order these in advance (in which case you will be given a paper Travelcard) or you can buy them upon arrival (in which case you will be using a plastic Oyster Card with the Travel Card loaded onto it).

They work in the same way and can both be used on the Underground and buses, and also give you a 3rd-off discount on KPMG Thames Clipper rides.

The only difference is that you must pay shipping and handling fees to receive the paper card, and in our opinion, these are much easier to lose!

As mentioned above, there are many different lengths of Travelcards, but the 2 most pertinent to visitors are the 1-Day Travelcard and the 7-Day Travelcard. (There’s also a 1 Month and 1-year travelcard)

There’s little reason you would ever need the 1-Day Travelcard as there is already a cap on Oyster Cards which limits the amount you can be charged per day. In fact, you will likely lose money if you choose the 1-Day Travelcard over a regular Oyster.

However, the 7-Day Travelcard can save you quite a bit if you’re traveling around the city often, as we demonstrated in the previous section. 


Cost of a 7 Day Travel Card 

The cost of a 7-Day Travelcard varies quite a bit depending on which zones you want to be able to access on it. Generally speaking, unless your accommodation is out in Zone 3 or higher, the Zones 1-2 are probably all you will visit as a tourist.

Plus, buses don’t operate in “zones” and therefore any type of Travelcard will work on them, despite your zone limitations. 

But what happens if you need to travel somewhere like Heathrow Airport, which is in zone 6? No problem! You just have to pay the difference for that particular journey. You can do this by topping up an Oyster Card or buying a single fare ticket.

If this sounds confusing, just ask an attendant at any station and they can show you how it’s done! 

 


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WHICH ONE SHOULD I BUY?

This depends on what it is you want to do and where you want to go! Note that the London Underground Map is divided into 9 different zones. Zones 1 and 2 are in the centre, where most of the popular visitor attractions are.

When traveling across London, it’s worth remembering that the further outside of Zones 1 and 2 you need to go, the more expensive your journey can become. 

As a general rule of thumb, you can determine which ticket will be best for you depending on the length of time you are in town. 


In London for 4 Days or Fewer:

Pay-As-You-Go: The best part of Oyster Card Pay-As-You-Go is that you will never be charged more than it would cost to purchase a 1-Day-Travelcard.

Once you have spent the equivalent amount on your Oyster Card, that you would have spent for a 1-Day-Travelcard, your Oyster Card will stop deducting money from your Pay-As-You-Go balance.

Note: Oyster Card Pay-As-You-Go can also be used on KPMG Thames Clipper River services! 


In London for 5 Days or More:

If you are in London for more than 5 days and you know you will be traveling extensively throughout the capital then a 7-Day-Travelcard is the most sensible choice by far. This Travelcard is good on both London Underground as well as London buses and can also net you a discount on some boat journeys.

You may choose to put your 7-Day-Travelcard onto an Oyster Card, or you may wish to use a 7-Day-Travelcard paper ticket – the choice is yours. 


What are the Ticket Rates for 1-Day-Travelcards and 7-Day-Travelcards?

Rates vary depending on the time you wish to travel and how many zones you want to cover. 4

Zones: Most London attractions are within Zones 1 – 2 but a Zone 1 – 6 covers absolutely all of them, as well as Heathrow airport!

Time: 1-Day-Travelcards and single fare paper tickets come in two different formats: Peak and Off-Peak. Peak means that you can use your ticket or 1-Day-Travelcard any time to travel on the Underground.

Off-Peak means your ticket is not valid on weekdays between 6:30 – 9:30 am or from 16:00 – 19:00 (4 pm till 7 pm) Mondays through Fridays.

Peak and Off-Peak do not apply on 7-Day-Travelcards, Single Cash fares, or bus journeys.

 

Ticket Type Peak Off-Peak
     
1-Day-Travelcard, Zones 1 – 6 £18.10 £12.70
7-Day-Travelcard, Zones 1 – 2 £34.10 N/A
7-Day-Travelcard, Zones 1 – 6 £62.30 N/A
Single Fare in Zones 1 – 2(Cash) £4.90  £4.70
Single Fare in Zones 1 – 2 (Oyster Pay-As-You-Go) £2.40 £2.40
     
Bus Journey (Oyster Pay-As-You-Go) £1.50  
       

 


Anything Else?

We have some more interesting facts on our blog. This guide is only an overview of the most popular, cheapest, and easiest tickets you may need while you are in London. However, for more information, including tickets for children, travel beyond Zone 6, or bus and tube maps please see the Transport for London Website: www.tfl.gov.uk.

If you found this post helpful, please share this with friends and family.  Also, be sure to check out our pay-what-you-like London walking tours.

 


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London Churchill War rooms

Visiting the Churchill War Rooms

Posted by & filed under London.

This post explains how to visit the Churchill War Rooms in London, with tips on tickets, discounts, what you will see and how to plan your visit.  

 

 


Overview

Preserved and looked after by the Imperial War Museum, the Churchill War Rooms are a must-see for lovers of history or those who are interested in learning more about our military past or the life and times of Mr. Churchill himself.

The War Rooms were initially created in the basement of the New Public Offices to be used in the event of war or aerial bombing. Conversion of the basement into the War Rooms began in June 1938. Work on the War Rooms was completed in 1939 and they became operational on the 27th of August in that year – literally days before Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on September 3rd, 1939. Read more »