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Racer042 Aug 28th, 2009 11:47 AM

Oyster card?
My wife and I will be in London for four days at the end of October. We are renting a furnished apartment near the Vauxhall tube stop and plan on using the tube and trains for our stay. We will probably take the First Capital Connect to St. Pancras and then the tube to Vauxhall. We are planning a trip to Windsor Castle and will take the train.

At the end of our stay, we are taking the Chunnel to Paris and will take the tube to St. Pancras.

This is our first trip to London. Would you recommend the Oyster card or just buying tickets each day? In Paris, we just bought a batch of tickets and then bought more when we needed to.

Any other advice is appreciated, this forum is great!

Thanks in advance.

Bob T

PatrickLondon Aug 28th, 2009 12:19 PM

There is no equivalent of the Paris carnet, and Transport for London are trying to encourage people not to give them small quantities of cash. Travelcards or Oyster PAYG are the simplest and most cost-effective option for you.

jent103 Aug 28th, 2009 12:27 PM

Definitely an Oyster, either loaded with a 3-day travelcard plus a little extra cash, or a 7-day travelcard (often just buying a 7-day can be as good or a better deal than putting on enough cash for a extra couple of days). Which you need depends on your exact schedule - for example, if you'll be there three full days and your fourth day is basically just going to St Pancras, a three-day plus a few pounds is probably fine. But if you'll have four full days plus a couple of partial days on either end, a 7-day might be a better deal. In my experience, the ticket agents have always been very helpful in helping me decide what suits my trip best.

The only time I would not recommend an Oyster is if you want to take advantage of the 2-for-1 deals listed on, in which case you need a paper travelcard from a rail (not tube) station. There is TONS of information about that on these boards.

Racer042 Aug 28th, 2009 12:54 PM

I was looking at the Travelcard and the option of off peak travel for 21.20 good for travel after 9:30am. This might work for us since we aren't early birds. Do you know if this is good for national rail service like the southwest train to Windsor Castle? It isn't clear from their website.

BigRuss Aug 28th, 2009 02:36 PM

NEVER BUY TICKETS EACH DAY OR BUY SINGLE RIDES -- with a possible exception related to the days out offer.

Here's what you need to do.

FIRST, figure out what you want to see.

Second, go to the days out guide that jent mentioned. If there are a lot of places you want to visit that are listed there, then you need to do some card tricks (I'll explain). If not, you get the Oyster and load about 25 quid on the thing.

If there are a number of days out guide activities you want to do (and that can be as little as two, depending on the price) you do this:

(1) Register with days out guide.

(2) Print every dang voucher you conceive of -- there's no limit.

(3) Go to the Vauxhall or St. Pancras NATIONAL RAIL ticket booth and buy a 3 or seven day Travelcard. This should be a FLIMSY orange-ish card and have the old BritRail (now National Rail) symbol on the bottom left.

(4) Present said flimsy card with voucher at all attractions that you have 2-for-1 admissions.

When we went, the vouchers would save on Cabinet War Rooms (12+ quid) and Tower of London (17 GBP) and Hampton Ct. Palace (13 GBP), among other attractions.

Even if you pay one retail (4 GBP) ticket to St. Pancras on the fourth day, you'll save money.

Or you can get an Oyster card on pay-as-you-go funding for the fourth day trips. The deposit is refundable.

As for Windsor Castle -- because you'll be at Vauxhall, the station should be able to sell you a voucher for the Castle. The voucher we bought at Waterloo was 12 quid each, we skipped the ticket line and went straight to the ticket holder line (much shorter) and exchanged the vouchers. The vouchers cost 3.50 gbp less than at the Castle.

The Travelcard is NOT valid on the train from Waterloo to Windsor Castle.

janisj Aug 28th, 2009 07:07 PM

In your first post you mention going to St Pancras by train and then tube to Vauxhall. Where are you traveling FROM? Are you landing at one of the airports?

PatrickLondon Aug 29th, 2009 01:01 AM

Yes, I was wondering about that, but from Luton or Gatwick, changing to the tube at St Pancras would be the option with fewest changes to get to Vauxhall, even if it looks a bit circuitous on the map.

janisj Aug 29th, 2009 08:18 AM

"<i> . . . Gatwick, changing to the tube at St Pancras would be the option with fewest changes to get to Vauxhall</i>"

From Gatwick to Victoria to Vauxhall would be much shorter/faster and easier - which is why I asked.

From elsewhere, St Pancras might make more sense . . .

PatrickLondon Aug 29th, 2009 08:51 AM

So it would. I wonder why I missed that.

khunwilko Aug 30th, 2009 05:48 PM

Oyster card without a doubt - get on the net and sort one out!

Racer042 Sep 3rd, 2009 05:37 AM


Thanks for the insights. We are planning on a visit to Windsor Castle. It just so happens that we are renting an apartment near the Vauxhall tube and rail station.

janisj Sep 3rd, 2009 10:00 AM

"<i>It just so happens that we are renting an apartment near the Vauxhall tube and rail station.</i>"

That was our assumption (no other reason really to go to Vauxhall). Our question was about your starting point - St Pancras. Where are you coming from in the first place to get to St Pancras? You say you are using the First Capital Connect - OK, from <u>where</u>?

If you are coming in from Gatwick for instance -- 1st Capital Connect/St Pancras makes no sense for Vauxhall.

Racer042 Oct 14th, 2009 08:00 AM

Janisj, sorry for the delay. We are flying to Gatwick airport and planned on using either Gatwick Express or Southern to Vauxhall.

Racer042 Oct 31st, 2009 11:26 PM

I purchased oyster cards for us before we left and that is the way to go! Along with a London tube app for my iphone,we just flew through the Metro.

The train system is about half converted to the Oyster card. The train to Windsor did not accept the card, so we just bought passes.

We used the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station partially beause you can buy tickets on the train without penalty. On the other trains, you are fined if you board without a ticket. We just didn't want to stand in line at Gatwick and we had our Oyster cards to take the tube from Victoria to Vauxhall.

Thanks for the recommendations.


janisj Nov 1st, 2009 09:19 AM

"<i>The train system is about half converted to the Oyster card. The train to Windsor did not accept the card, so we just bought passes.</i>"

The trains to Windsor would not accept Oyster in any case. Windsor is outside of London and tfl/Oyster don't cover it.

johnstoi Nov 10th, 2009 06:28 PM

Returning an Oyster card and getting back the money left on it and the deposit for the card can present problems. If you're going to try to cash in the card at the tube station in Heathrow just before you head for the plane, you go to the ticket office before you leave the station. But it will almost certainly be crowded and you will have to wait (up to half an hour). It might be better to cash the card in the day before at some station in the city and purchase a ticket to Heathrow on the tube. Also, keep track of how much you have left on the card (most big stations have a machine where you can do this, or a ticket agent will tell you). If it's more than a few pounds, they will not give you the money for what's left on the card, nor will they refund the deposit on the card. So make sure the amount is under five pounds when you go to cash in the card. And don't hang onto the card thinking you can use it on your next trip to London. If the card is more than a year old, you won't get your deposit back.

jent103 Nov 10th, 2009 07:41 PM

I returned my Oyster at Heathrow (terminal 4) in June and walked right up to the ticket window. Actually I was the only person in the station besides the ticket agents. I imagine the experience varies based on the terminal and time of day (I was in there around 10:30am).

Bottom line: If you plan to get a deposit back at Heathrow, allow plenty of time. But you should be allowing plenty of time anyway.

alanRow Nov 10th, 2009 10:40 PM

As there are two of you then buying a paper Travelcard each at Victoria train station (not Tube staton) would be the best option as that gives you the chance to use the offers on

Nancy_W Nov 13th, 2009 11:27 AM

Just a question/clarification on the train tickets/oyster card. DH and I will be traveling by train from York to London then spending five nights in London. I had planned to get oyster cards. Would the train tickets from York to London qualify for the 2 for 1 offers on the Days Out Guide or would I have to buy a few days worth of the paper tickets instead of the oyster card in order to qualify? Which would be the better option?

janisj Nov 13th, 2009 12:07 PM

Nancy_W: Unless your tickets are round trip, they'll work for your arrival day but won't work for the duration of your time in London.

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