London Hotels Articles

March 23, 2010

The London Oyster Card explained

After taking my seventy-year old mother (who panics at the slightest sign of difficulty) to London in October 2008 I can heartily and personally recommend the Blue Oyster Card!

The Oyster card is a prepaid electronic smartcard that is used to travel mainly by bus, tram and the Underground in London and limited surrounds. It can also be used on some of the National Rail services. It is extremely convenient for a tourist that wants to cram as much traveling as possible in the time available – instead of poring over the maps trying to figure out what kind of ticket you should buy and how much it is going to cost, all you have to do is figure out your route, then swipe your card and off you go! It is also apparently the cheapest way to go but the convenience far outstrips the monetary advantage. Apparently whenever you swipe the card it automatically subtracts less than the usual fare from the credit that is stored on the card. However, I must admit this did not work when we went to Kew Gardens we actually had to pay a pound extra each.

There are options for UK residents such as student cards and cards for the elderly, which can be purchased by locals who travel regularly and which would reportedly cost them a lot less than other offers of the same kind.

The Oyster Card is the same shape and size as a credit card and is therefore easily carried with your other cards in your wallet or purse. What is quite amazing is that generally you do not even need to remove it from your wallet to swipe it as long as you can touch it’s face to the big yellow square reader it will register the card and let you through. Be warned though, try to keep the card as close to the outside of your wallet as possible. Some guys with stuffed wallets have been embarrassed when the card was so deeply embedded between the other cards that the reader failed to “see” it. Also, don’t push up against the turnstile before you touch your card touch first, wait for the green light then step forward resolutely and march through (thanks to the helpful official at Paddington Station for teaching us this!).

It is very easy to purchase and Oyster Card:

At Oyster Online

At most Tube station ticket offices

At Oyster Ticket Stops across London

At London Overground station ticket offices

At some National Rail ticket offices

At London Travel Information Centres

By phoning 0845 330 9876 (in the UK).

Do not spend your holiday staring in confusion at maps and embarrassing yourself by buying the wrong tickets get an Oyster Card!

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