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Oyster Card vs Oyster Card Tourist version

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My son will be studying in London starting in January 2015. He will need an Oyster Card. After some research, there is the Oyster Card (blue ish in color) and the Oyster Card Tourist version (Flag motif). He can purchase the tourist version prior to leaving the USA. Is there any difference between the two cards? If he doesn't get a tourist version would he have to apply for an Oyster Card once he gets to London and how long would it take for him to have it in his hands (is this something for which he applies and waits for it to arrive via mail or is it an instant in-hand card once he leaves a kisosk)?

Other than the steep shipping cost ($19) in the USA (I believe it is generated in Canada) both cards seem to do the same thing -- at the same transit price. Is the tourist Oyster just as easy to top up as the regular Oyster card?

Please advise --- time is ticking he leaves mid January. Thanks!

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