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Tears of Frustration over London Transit Options

Tears of Frustration over London Transit Options

May 8th, 2008, 04:31 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 59
Tears of Frustration over London Transit Options

I'm sorry. I've been reading websites and posts (here) for 3 days now and I still don't understand how to pay for transit in London - and I'm leaving in less than 48 hours. I'm in tears and totally frustrated.

I've read about paper travelcards. But what would you have if you had a non-paper one (and how do you know which one you need)?

I've read about the oyster card, and still can't understand how it relates to a travelcard. Some posts say you need it, some say you don't.

How do you know for sure if you need it? And does it do anything other than charge you for transit? (and if it doesn't then how come the two aren't combined)?

Then there's the post where someone said they needed a travelcard to get a 2for1 entry. But when I go to the 2for1 website, it talks about only needing a rail ticket receipt to get 2 for 1 entry. But is that for all the rail companies - will my Southern train from Gatwick qualify? And is the 2for1 offer only good on the exact day you travel on rail?

We 3 adults will be staying near the Putney East tube station, which I understand is in zone 2. We want to be able to travel around for our 8 days and see the sights, mostly within London, but also a couple of day trips to places like Oxford.

It seems some rail is also covered by the travelcard (or is it the oyster card)? So then does that also have to have a bearing on which rail company we choose to use?

And what about the buses - are they covered by the travelcard and the oyster card - both in city, and inter-city buses?

Can somebody please help me understand all this?
succeed is offline  
May 8th, 2008, 06:44 PM
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1) Oyster Card is just a plastic card. You can either choose to
a) Load it with money and then do Pay As You Go (PAYG). PAYG- bascially you tap the card everytime you take the tube or the bus, and the fare will be deducted from the stored value. There is a daily maximum cap for PAYG, which is 50 pence cheaper than the value of a Day Travelcard.

2) One can also choose NOT to do PAYG, but instead "load" the value of a travelcard (eg, 7-day travelcard) onto the Oyster Card. In that case, all you have is just the plastic Oyster Card.

3) A PAPER travelcard comes into play when you need to use to for the 2-for-1 discount. You can only buy a 7-day PAPER travelcard at RAIL stations, not tube stations. However, you can buy 1-day PAPER travelcard at tube stations. You cannot use an Oyster card (despite loaded with a 7-day travelcard on it) for the 2-for-1 discount.

4) If you have the Souther Rail ticket from Gatwick, it is valid for 2-for-1 for that day ONLY. But if you have a 7 day PAPER travelcard, you can use it during the 7 days it's valid.

5) Travelcard covers tubes, buses, DLR. I do not believe it covers rail.

6) In your case, your best bet would be get a 7-day PAPER travelcard from a RAIL station. For the 8th day, depends on how much traveling you will do/need.

Single fares (pay with $, not travelcard or Oyster PAYG) are very expensive. I believe single fare for tube is £4 per ride, whereas Oyster PAYG fare is like £2.
yk is offline  
May 8th, 2008, 06:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Go up to the window at the nearest tube station, tell them you are confused and would they please advise you, then tell them how many days you'll be in London and where you wish to travel (outside of zones 1 and 2) and ask them for the most efficient, inexpensive way. They will most likely sell you an Oyster card. All you need to know about it is to swipe it when you pass through the turnstiles (sometimes both entering and exiting, sometimes only entering).

Take your extra passport photo, or get a close up of your face taken on a digital camera, print it out and make sure it's at least as small as your passport photo. You'll place this on the Oyster card.

DO NOT stress out about this! The tube workers are used to foreigners asking for guidance. Just one recommendation: Don't do this during rush hour when the lines are long with people purchasing.

Have a wonderful trip!

MelJ is offline  
May 8th, 2008, 07:06 PM
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AFAIK, you need the actual PAPER travelcard for the 2-for-1 offers, not just the receipt.

This has been reported by various folks here on this site.

If you ask the agent for a 7-day travelcard, he/she will sell you a Oyster card loaded with the 7-day travelcard. My understanding is that will not suffice for the 2-for-1 entries.

Therefore, you need to buy a PAPER 7-day travelcard from a RAIL station.

Anyway, in your case, you should buy a 7-day PAPER travelcard plus a 1-day PAPER travelcard for your 8 days in London.
yk is offline  
May 8th, 2008, 07:28 PM
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What is this about a photo? First I've heard/read about that! I thought children might need one, but adults? For Oyster?
texasbookworm is offline  
May 8th, 2008, 08:07 PM
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I'm pretty sure that if you have a round trip/return ticket for the Southern then you will qualify for the 2-for-1 for all the time between the two train rides. That's how it worked for us last year.
noe847 is offline  
May 8th, 2008, 08:10 PM
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...it is of course the ignorance of some who pass themselves off as experts....5 or so years ago tfl did away with the need for photocards for one week travelcards covering zones 1 & 2 for adults.
xyz123 is offline  
May 8th, 2008, 08:25 PM
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That is one big problem - someone who has only been long ago, will give advice that is 100% totally incorrect and then the whole thread can go off in a ditch.


Also - If you "Go up to the window at the nearest tube station" you will be getting an oyster card and not the 7-day paper travel card you need if you want to get 2 for 1's. 7-day Paper travel cards are ONLY sold at mainline train stations.

Travel cards ARE valid on trains - but only within the London zones/extensions. For instance you can add an extension on to a zone 1-2 paper travel card to take the train you to Hampton Court Palace in zone 6.

Oxford is not in/near London so is not covered by any London travelcard/oyster (neither is Windsor)
janisj is offline  
May 8th, 2008, 08:29 PM
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succeed, are you leaving London via train? If so, your train tickets, taken together, will qualify you for the 2-for-1 deals for all the days in between your arrival and your departure. Then you don't need a paper travelcard.
noe847 is offline  
May 8th, 2008, 09:56 PM
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<<< If so, your train tickets, taken together, will qualify you for the 2-for-1 deals for all the days in between your arrival and your departure. >>>

No they won't - unless it's a return train ticket in which case the train ticket is valid for 2-for-1 on all the days between the outward travel date & return date.
alanRow is offline  
May 8th, 2008, 10:21 PM
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succeed, if you want to go up to Oxford for a day, I encourage you to take the Oxford Tube coach (bus). Look up their website. I boarded at Marble Arch. It will take you about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Oxford, and the service runs 24 hours. Oxford itself is small, so you can just stroll over to the main coach (bus) station when you want to return to London.

Despite being called the Oxford Tube, this coach service is *not* covered by the Oystercard/Travelcard. It's separate. You may also want to take the train from Paddington Rail Station.

Have a fun trip! You'll be fine!

Merseyheart is offline  
May 9th, 2008, 03:16 AM
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Travelcards, whether they're on Oyster or on paper, cover rail (as well as tube, bus, tram and DLR) services within the London zones you pay for. So if you have a zones 1-2 card, you can get a suburban train between Putney and Waterloo if that's more convenient than the tube to and from East Putney.

Travelcards for any zone also cover buses in all zones within the Greater London area and get you one-third off riverboat fares.

Travelcards do not cover travel out of London to other cities.

There are different sets of 2for1 offers:

One is set up by the suburban/regional rail companies to get commuters and their families to use their off-peak services, and it's tied to the paper travelcards because (for the moment) that's what those companies issue as an add-on to the primary ticket into London. This is the scheme at www.daysout.co.uk

The other is for people who hold Oystercards, and details of what that covers is at

If the choice between those is the clincher for you, then you can get a paper travelcard at any national rail station such as Putney (top of Putney High St), or you can get a travelcard on Oyster at any tube station or many local convenience stores.
PatrickLondon is offline  
May 9th, 2008, 05:54 AM
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succeed, don't worry, it will all work out! enjoy your trip.

I just have a question about purchasing travelcards: a few years ago I purchased a paper travelcard online from home; received it in the mail before I left for the trip. Do they not do this any more?

nancy161 is offline  
May 9th, 2008, 06:00 AM
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Looks as though TfL still do so:http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/faresandtickets/1067.aspx
PatrickLondon is offline  
May 10th, 2008, 10:31 AM
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Thanks so much for all your help.
From what I understand:

a) as soon as we arrive at Gatwick, we'll get a return train ticket (via Southern Rail), to get us into London Victoria.

b) purchasing this will give us the 2for1 deals (but only if I hurry up and download the vouchers before I leave home in an hour).

c) then, I assume Southern Rail is an acceptable train service to qualify for the 2 for 1?

d) and then it sounds as if it really won't matter whether we get just a travelcard or get the travelcard loaded on to an oyster card - do both methods cost the same? are there any advantages of one over the other?

e) also, I guess because we are staying in zone 2, we should get a 7-day and then a 1-day travelcard good for zones 1 and 2. then if there happens to come a day when we want to travel (say to zone 4) - could we just top up our travelcards on that one day?

f) if we needed to buy the paper travelcards, I'm assuming we could buy them while we were at Victoria station.

g) I've read on another post that some tube stations are not easy to maneuver with luggage. does it sound reasonable to take a taxi from victoria station to the hotel in east putney?

h) finally, it would look like we could save a bit of time and money and take the train to West Brompton station instead of all the way into Victoria station. However, I was thinking that early on a Sunday morning, there wouldn't be as many taxis around (or even people to ask questions of) in a smaller train station. am I wrong? or would getting off the train at West Brompton be fine?

Thanks for all your help !
succeed is offline  
May 10th, 2008, 10:52 AM
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The advantage of getting your travelcard on Oyster, apart from the Oyster-only 2for1 offers, is that you can add top-up money for pay-as-you-go for your last day, and/or if you ever come back to London. But that's probably marginal.

You can buy add-on tickets for cash if you want to go out of the zones your travelcard is valid for. If your travel to other zones is on the tube, the add-on will be cheaper if you hold your travelcard on Oyster and add the add-on to the Oyster. If your travel on other zones is on national rail, you'll have to buy the add-on ticket the train company in question offers.

Stations and stairs:

at Victoria, a couple of dozen down into the tube station, some corridors and again down to the District Line platform

at East Putney, at least a couple of dozen stairs down to street level

at West Brompton, though it would be a much less crowded and confusing interchange (and I can't imagine you wouldn't be able to follow the signs), you'd have to go up stairs from the Gatwick train and down a couple of dozen stairs to the District Line.

A taxi all the way from Victoria to East Putney would be pretty expensive (maybe about £25?).
PatrickLondon is offline  
May 10th, 2008, 12:13 PM
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Hi Suceed,

I had the same questions a week before I left. I thought I needed a paper 7 day travel card so I would qualify for the 2for1 entry. Anyways, I finally got to a station (Ealing Broadway, I think) where they actually sold the paper travel card (all the rest wanted to put them on an oyster), and the guy at the counter was very helpful. He said the 2for1 was valid even if your 7 day travel card was on the oyster. Which is what I did, since I would need the oyster card later in my trip when I was back in london.

Anyways, long story short, I printed out the coupons, and using the Oyster card loaded with a 7 day travel card, I've now used it for Tower of London, Shakespeares Globe, Westminister Abbey, Hampton Court in the last 3 days...

Hope that helps...
sharon1306 is offline  
May 10th, 2008, 01:17 PM
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I too have been getting more and more cofused about this. For my 9-day stay, if I want to use PAYG on the first and last day (including to and from Heathrow) and a 7-day Travelcard for the 7 days in between, will I need 2 separate oystercards, or can everything be loaded onto one card?

Although many websites have detailed lists of prices for various zones, I haven't been able to find much information about extension fares. With a 7-day travelcard for zones 1-2, how much more will I have to add on to make one round-trip to Zone 3 (William Morris Gallery)? And would it cost more or less to do that on my first day, with the PAYG oyster?

For the 2-for-1 discounts, do BOTH persons need a rail ticket, or would one roundtrip Southern rail ticket from Gatwick suffice?
MademoiselleFifi is offline  
May 10th, 2008, 01:31 PM
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The whole point about an Oystercard is that you keep the card, and whatever values you pay for are loaded on to it.

Add-on fares for travelling outside your travelcard zones vary, but for one zone would be £1. What the difference is between adding that on to a travelcard day or making the journey on a PAYG day is probably far less (if anything at all) than the value of time spent to calculate all the possibilities.
PatrickLondon is offline  
May 10th, 2008, 01:42 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
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<<The whole point about an Oystercard is that you keep the card, and whatever values you pay for are loaded on to it.>>

So in my case, do I have to go back the second day to add on the 7-day travelcard? What I meant was, if it's all loaded onto one card at the same time, how would the card know to do PAYG on the first day and start the 7-day after?
MademoiselleFifi is offline  

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