London Underground is the most practical way to get around the city center. The underground network connects in the east with the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) which from the tourist’s point of view can be considered the same metro network. There are small differences, which will be discussed in a greater detail in the section regarding the DLR.

Those travelling to London are probably mostly interested in how to travel by the underground, where to buy tickets and how much do they cost. Let’s talk about these issues first.

What kind of underground tickets are available?

Oystercard, lontoon maanalaisen metrokortti

Oystercard is an electronic smartcard ticket that can be loaded with money or travel time.

In general, one hears about the Travelcard and the Oyster card. In reality, it’s the same underground ticket. Difference lies in how the trips are charged. Travelcard entitles you to unlimited trips. It’s bought for a certain time and for specific Zones. What you load, are travel days or time. Oyster card, “pay as you go“, is a card to which you load money. Each journey is charged separately. As you begin your journey, touch the card on the electronic yellow reader and the maximum fare is charged (= the most expensive underground journey possible). You must remember to touch your card on the yellow circular reader at the end of the journey as well. That is when the journey’s true fare is calculated and the extra charge is returned to your card.

In addition to the two cards mentioned, there are One Day paper tickets. Their use is relatively low. It might be the right choice if you are only staying in London for a day or two. These paper cards are also called Travelcards.

Which card should I buy?

Travelcard and Oyster card is often physically one and the same card. The difference lies in what you load to the card. If you are staying in the center and will be in London only for a short period of time, Oyster card will be cheaper. The further away from the center you stay, the more likely you will have to travel each day. In that case, the Travelcard is cheaper, or at least it’s more convenient. You can load both travel days and money to it. Should you stay in London, say, for 10 days, you can load your card with travel time for one week (= Travelcard) and then money for individual journeys for the last three days (= Oyster card). Or, you can use the “oyster” in the beginning of your stay and then buy travel days (min 7 days), should you have many separate journeys.

Where can I buy tickets?

You can buy tickets from almost all stations and ticket offices. If you arrive by plane, you can buy it at the airport. You can also order the ticket online and have it delivered at your home address. Shipping the ticket cots £3.5 (about €4), and it will reach you in about a week.

How much do the tickets cost?

The tickets are priced according to the zones. For up-to-date prices, please refer to the Transport for London pages. As you can see from the price list, a 7-Day Travelcard for Zones 1-4 costs £43.60. The “Off Peak” price column under the Oyster card means travel that is done outside the busiest hours.

Where is the ticket valid?

The ticket is valid on the underground within the Zones it was purchased for, but also on DLR connections, trams, trains within the London area and on buses. In addition, certain river connections are entitled to a discount with the Travelcard, whilst the “pay as you go” Oyster card is valid as a payment method on the river boats.

Can I buy a student or a children’s card for the underground?

Both groups need a separate Oyster photocard. Getting them just for a tourist trip is both time-consuming and burdensome. They are worth considering if you stay in London for a longer period. Students get the application from their education establishment, and it is also available from London and nearby regions’ post offices. Children under five travel free when they are accompanied by a person who has a valid ticket.

There is remaining pay on my card, can I get it back?

Any remaining pay on your card and your deposit (£3) can be redeemed at ticket agents and even at Heathrow airport. Thus, it’s worth returning your ticket. Or, you can also keep your ticket for your next trip to London and load money to it online before you return.


Underground — 3 Comments

  1. I consider the London underground as the most convenient way to move around in London, especially during the peak hours. They are guaranteed to be on time, with the famous British precision, never get stuck on the traffic lights and cover the whole city. It’s safe as well, especially around the city centre, although you might want to hold on tight to you bags. The only limitation is that, unlike the New York tube, the underground in London does not work 24/7. With Travelcard you can use the underground as much as you want, but Oyster card is indeed a wiser choice if you plan to travel only occasionally.

  2. I was in London during the latest underground strike on 6 August and I have to admit that during that specific day I really understood why the “tube” is the best mode of transportation in the city. Londoners are, no doubt, always calm and patient whilst waiting in lines, but it ended up rather frustrating waiting for your bus just to find out it was already full and just passed you by. Getting to the Tower of London from Hampstead was a real pain, and instead of taking half an hour it took us well over an hour to reach our destination.

  3. Can someone tell me with certainty if the Oyster card can be used by a couple traveling together? Since it has money loaded on it, maybe it can be used for the same journey by two people as long as the card is wiped twice at the gates?

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