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London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

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London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Old 04-30-16, 05:36 PM
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London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

I am heading to London this fall with my 15 y/o son for the Bengals-Redskins game at Wembley. We're going to be staying 5 nights, at a downtown hotel, and are planning to use public transportation 100% of the time so we don't have to fuck around with rental cars, parking, congestion charges, etc.

As I understand it, the best way to go is to buy a pair of Visitor Oyster cards BEFORE we leave and to have them preloaded with at least SOME value - enough to get through a couple of days of tube/bus/DLR rides until we learn the system enough to know how to top-off the cards when necessary. We don't want to put a TON of money on the cards, because once we leave the UK it sounds like it's a royal hassle to get the unused prepaid amount back from TfL.

The question I have is this: My kid, since he's only 15, qualifies for discounted fares. But I have to show up in London with my kid before TfL can put the "he's a kid" endorsement on his Oyster card. I *think* I can get this done at a TfL Service Center (oops, "Centre"), but since we're likely to be arriving at London City Airport (not Heathrow or Gatwick), and since TfL's website doesn't show a Service Centre there, I'm at a loss.

I'm hoping that some other Otter has flown to London, with kid(s) and with Visitor Oyster cards to know how to do this.

Also, is the Visitor Oyster card the /right/ way to do this, or should we just buy a standard Oyster card from a kiosk when we arrive? My understanding is that travel fares are the same regardless of the type of plastic used to "bleep" into and out of the network, the only advantage to having the Visitor card (besides having it in advance before arrival) is that it gets us discounts on things we may or may not do. Here's a link to the "perks" that are linked to having a Visitor card:

http://content.tfl.gov.uk/explore-mo...card-sep15.pdf

Any help/insight appreciated.
Old 04-30-16, 05:59 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

I visited London in 1999, but I was by myself and don't remember anything about Oyster cards. I think they were called something else back then. Wish I could help. Enjoy London! It's my favorite city in the world.
Old 04-30-16, 06:58 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Oyster is the most flexible option especially with the capped pricing. I'm not sure why you think it will be difficult to get back any unused fare. If it's under 10 you can get that back at any kiosk.

Is Wembley the furthest you are traveling from central London? And will it be only that one day? If so five days of unlimited (tube, bus, train, etc) travel in Zone 1 & 2 will be around 35. The trip to Wembley will be around 5 extra. The kid will be about half that.

If you don't care about the discounts just get the regular Oyster Card on arrival. If you want it in advance but don't want the hassle of getting the child endorsement, get a visitor's Oyster card for you and a 7 day Travel card for your son. Yes it's a paper ticket but can be cheaper depending on how far you travel.
Old 04-30-16, 09:50 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Visitor Oyster plus a 7-day Child Travel card. I'll look into that. Thanks!

If we had been flying through Heathrow, we would have two days of Zone 6, one day of Zone 4 (Wembley) and the rest Zones 1+2. With LCY our airport now, all but one day will be Zones 1+2, with only the Sunday trip to Wembley taking us away from city center (oops, centre). I'll go to the TfL site now and try to estimate everything.
Old 05-01-16, 05:52 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by kenbuzz View Post
Visitor Oyster plus a 7-day Child Travel card. I'll look into that. Thanks!

If we had been flying through Heathrow, we would have two days of Zone 6, one day of Zone 4 (Wembley) and the rest Zones 1+2. With LCY our airport now, all but one day will be Zones 1+2, with only the Sunday trip to Wembley taking us away from city center (oops, centre). I'll go to the TfL site now and try to estimate everything.
Please post updates of your travel.

I'm planning on taking my 13-year old to London for a week the summer of '17 and could use some help/advice at some point. Too early to plan, but your post has already led to some note-taking on the transit options.
Old 05-01-16, 08:49 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Arriving on a Thursday morning at LCY (Zone 3)
Departing the following Tuesday (also LCY, Zone 3)
All other travel exclusively in Zones 1-2 EXCEPT the Sunday trip to Wembley (Zone 4)

Maximum daily charge via Oyster
Z1-4 = 9.30 (Sunday only)
Z1-3 = 7.60 (Arrival + Departure days)
Z1-2 = 6.50 (Other three days)
TOTAL = GBP44.00

Actual cost would not exceed this and could be less if we don't ride everywhere all the time everyday.

Maximum cost for a Visitor Child Oyster card would be GBP22.00, assuming I can get the Kiddie endorsement applied before first use. Otherwise it would be 6.50 for the first day, then half of the adult price on the remaining 5 days, for a total of GBP 25.25. A 7-day Child Travelpass for Zones 1-4 is GBP23.30. Seems like getting the Travelpass would be slightly less expensive, and slightly less inconvenient too.... assuming we ride the HELL out of the Tube, Overground, Trams, Light Rail, and Busses. If we try to visit all of the stations referenced in Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere", that would be easy.

Thanks for the lead, Kdogg.
Old 05-01-16, 11:08 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by kenbuzz View Post
I am heading to London this fall with my 15 y/o son for the Bengals-Redskins game at Wembley. We're going to be staying 5 nights, at a downtown hotel


As I understand it, the best way to go is to buy a pair of Visitor Oyster cards BEFORE we leave and to have them preloaded with at least SOME value - enough to get through a couple of days of tube/bus/DLR rides until we learn the system enough to know how to top-off the cards when necessary.
What's a "downtown" hotel? Where in London? The City? (which isn't central to where you want to be) Elsewhere?

If you have ever used a mass transit system, topping up Oyster will be easy. It takes maybe 2 minutes to learn.
Old 05-02-16, 10:34 AM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Sorry... by "Downtown" I meant on the Thames, adjacent to Westminster Bridge and next to the Eye. It's the Marriott County Hall. Every morning I plan to open the window and say, "Hey kid, look! Big Ben! Parliament!"



Victoria Station is a couple of blocks to the east, Westminster Station is right across the bridge to the west.

Last edited by kenbuzz; 05-02-16 at 02:47 PM.
Old 05-02-16, 02:05 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Here's a tip: don't change trains at Bank station.

The first lines of the Underground were built and operated by different, unrelated companies. Because the City of London is a major financial area (it's where the Bank of England is, hence "Bank station"), each of these unrelated lines built their own station in the City. When London Underground became a single entity, there was some talk about moving the lines to make a single, unified station. But it was determined that it would be too difficult to move the existing rail lines, so pedestrian tunnels were dug between stations so that people could walk to the different lines. But the tunnels had to go over (or under) existing rail and sewer lines, so there are multiple stairs and the walk seems to take forever. If you need to switch lines at Bank, it's usually shorter (and easier on the knees) to exit the station and walk on the street to (for example) the Northern Line entrance of the same station than it is to exit a Circle Line train and follow the signs to the Northern Line.

Last edited by Rex Fenestrarum; 05-03-16 at 06:05 PM. Reason: Clarity
Old 05-02-16, 02:31 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

^ Thank you! !!
Old 05-02-16, 03:17 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by kenbuzz View Post
"Hey kid, look! Big Ben! Parliament!"
Is that a reference your kid is even going to get?
Old 05-03-16, 03:57 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by Me007gold View Post
Is that a reference your kid is even going to get?
Probably not until after I force him to watch that movie.
Old 05-03-16, 04:19 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Also - when in Central London, don't be afraid to walk. A lot of the touristy stuff is very close together. Sometimes it's actually a lot quicker to walk than take the Tube. Plus you'll see more.
The longest distance between stations is less than 4 miles. The shortest is less than 300 yards.
Old 05-03-16, 04:32 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

A co-worker just came back from London and brought back a bunch of candies and some chocolate bars called "Flakes."
Old 05-03-16, 04:54 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by kenbuzz View Post
It's the Marriott County Hall.
That's a great location.
Old 05-03-16, 07:04 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

If you have time take the train from King's Cross to York. It's a 2 hour ride but totally worth it.
Old 05-03-16, 09:27 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Looks like you've had most of your questions answered.

I've spent a bit of time in London over the last few years, even had a lorrie driver shoot a penny at my face 2 blocks away from the Tower Bridge last August giving me a black eye while I was cycling.

If you have any questions let me know...I don't spend much time on this forum these days, but just shoot me a PM as it's most likely I'll see it there.



Originally Posted by mrhan View Post
If you have time take the train from King's Cross to York. It's a 2 hour ride but totally worth it.
Really? York is one of the handful of larger cities/towns I haven't yet been to in the UK. If I go back this year...which is quite likely if I can get a ticket to Ricky Gervais' announced stand up gigs, York is on my short list. Along with Macclesfield, as I just discovered Joy Division.

If you are looking for places within a couple hours of London, I would suggest Cardiff. I have visited each of the last 3 years and love it. You'll especially want to go if you, or your son, are fans of Dr. Who (there's a Dr. Who Experience - kinda museum) there. In fact, I have gopro video of me cycling around Cardiff and the bay last August I have yet to upload to youtube. Maybe I'll make a point of it this coming weekend and I could post here if anyone cares.

I would also suggest not relying so much on the underground. Last year when I was running around London, I didn't bother with the underground at all and just walked around everywhere I needed to go from the train stations and saw more of London than I had the previous 2 years combined. However, the previous years I did the 3 and 7 day travel cards and it was nice not having to worry about reloading a card somewhere.

Another consideration might be the "London Pass" It essentially prepays for visits to some of the highlights of tourist attractions. However, you will find yourself trying to rush about to fit in as much as possible, and you might find it isn't a value for you. I liked that I didn't have to worry about paying for each individual attraction. Speaking of which...get to the Tower of London early, like just when it opens, as it fills up with tourists somewhat quickly and I would suggest getting in line to see the Crown Jewels - if that's your thing first. If you opt for the London Pass you can purchase the Travel Card at the same time.

Originally Posted by Rex Fenestrarum View Post
Here's a tip: don't change trains at Bank station.

The first lines of the Underground were built and operated by different, unrelated companies. Because the City of London is a major financial area (it's where the Bank of England is, hence "Bank station"), each of these unrelated lines built their own station in the City. When London Underground became a single entity, there was some talk about moving the lines to make a single, unified station. But it was determined that it would be too difficult to move the existing rail lines, so pedestrian tunnels were dug between stations so that people could walk to the different lines. But the tunnels had to go over (or under) existing rail and sewer lines, so there are multiple stairs and the walk seems to take forever. If you need to switch lines at Bank, it's usually shorter (and easier on the knees) to exit the station and walk on the street to (for example) the Northern Line entrance of the same station than it is to exit a Circle Line train and follow the signs to the Northern Line.
This is quite true, however I feel it is slightly exaggerated. I really wouldn't worry about it unless for some reason you find yourself switching at Bank quite frequently.

Last edited by dan30oly; 05-03-16 at 09:40 PM.
Old 05-04-16, 10:30 AM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by Why So Blu? View Post
A co-worker just came back from London and brought back a bunch of candies and some chocolate bars called "Flakes."
Flakes are fantastic. In fact all the chocolate they sell in England are better than the shitty Hershey chocolate in the US. If they also brought you Yorkie, Milky Bar, Caramel or Lion Bars then they are a god send. I always stock up on English food products when i am back and used to use a place in Philly that imports stuff, but super expensive.

I was over in England last Christmas visiting my family and i have been to London many times in my life. Probably a lot of tips already given, but my thoughts.

1. Get an Oyster card. Its much more efficient than anything else, and you can get money back when you leave if you have anything on it.

2. Don't rely on the tube too much. Many people catch it simply because they think there are huge distances between places, when i fact you may only just be traveling a short distance above ground.

3. If you are going to see the changing of the guard (starts around 11am) get there much earlier if you want a good view outside Buckingham Palace. The crowds get seriously big. You might be better seeing the changing of the guard on horseback which happens at the Guard House (?...can't recall the exact name....place i have been to a few times, but never actually picked up its name). Its about a solid 5-10 mins walk from Buckingham Palace at the top end of the Mall.

4. Go to Covent Garden. Many times there are a lot of street entertainers, and lots of good places to eat and shop around here.

5. Check out whats free. There are literally tonnes of museums, art galleries and other exhibits and activities going on around the city that will cost you zero and will be worth going to. We went to the British Museum, Tate Modern and a load of other places all for free and it was great.

6. I agree with the person about York. I come from Leeds, which is about 25 miles away and i was in York as well at Christmas. Its a beautiful city with so much history to see. It was actually seriously flooded at Christmas, but still an amazing place. You can walk along the Roman wall that goes around the city, and York Minster is spectacular. You can go to the roof which is also fantastic. Lots of stairs though, and a small winding stone spiral staircase. Also the stores and buildings make it look like something out of Harry Potter. The Shambles especially. Lots of great coffee shops as well.

7. In place of York i would suggest catching he train to Windsor or Oxford. I went to Windsor at Christmas for the first time and seeing the Castle is just incredible. Its only about a 30 minutes train ride from Paddington (one quick change at Slough....you literally get off and jump into the train 15 feet away....only 5 mins from there). The place is breath taking in its majesty. Alternatively Oxford is not too far and again is a place steeped in history and well worth the visit.

8. If you ever see a place on the street called Gregs.....go in and buy something to eat on the go. Its cheap, fast and the food is generally pretty great.

9. I would not worry too much about the underground and crowds. Sure in rush hour expect the trains to be full and people to move fast (but i actually love this at times). The best thing is to plan where you are going before you head out. Worst thing to do is be stood around in a tube station with a map in rush hour. You will piss people off, and get pissed off as well.

10. I looked at getting the London Pass during my last travel, and its certainly worth the money. But calculate how long you have, what you want to see and how able the people with you are. I took my wife and step daughter and they were exhausted pretty quickly from going one place to another. Hence the reason i did not buy the tickets. On my own i would have seen a hell of a lot more, but with people going at a different pace, not as easy and would not have saved me any money at all...in fact would probably have cost me money.

11. Oh, and if you need to get money changed whilst you are there, my advice is get it done at the Post Office. They tend to give the better rates of exchange, especially compared to banks and travel agents.

12. You have a short stay, so probably cant do much major traveling (and to be honest you can spend 5 days in London easy and see a fraction of the things), but Liverpool is also a wonderful city and lots of things to see and do. Especially for Beatles fans. Manchester is a great city, but more for shopping. I love the music scene from Manchester, so that always gives me things to check out when i am there.

13. Go on the London Eye. Its well worth it.

Last edited by james2025a; 05-04-16 at 10:44 AM.
Old 05-04-16, 10:35 AM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by dan30oly View Post
Really? York is one of the handful of larger cities/towns I haven't yet been to in the UK. If I go back this year...which is quite likely if I can get a ticket to Ricky Gervais' announced stand up gigs, York is on my short list. Along with Macclesfield, as I just discovered Joy Division.
York is very nice. There is nothing in Macclesfield. I'm from the North West of England, about 50 miles from Macclesfield. Dreadful place.
Old 05-04-16, 10:36 AM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by james2025a View Post
8. If you ever see a place on the street called Gregs.....go in and buy something to eat on the go. Its cheap, fast and the food is generally pretty great.
It's hard NOT to find a Gregg's. They're everywhere. But yeah - cheap and decent pies, pasties etc.
Old 05-04-16, 11:59 AM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by Phodg View Post
York is very nice. There is nothing in Macclesfield. I'm from the North West of England, about 50 miles from Macclesfield. Dreadful place.
We stay up in Harrogate at my brother's flat when we are in the U.K. I think York is still busy with a lot of tourists but so much less crowded than London. My kids thinks it looks like the Harry Potter set when we walk down the streets in York.

We also take the train up to Edinburgh. Really nice place to visit.
Old 05-04-16, 12:55 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by james2025a View Post
Flakes are fantastic. In fact all the chocolate they sell in England are better than the shitty Hershey chocolate in the US. If they also brought you Yorkie, Milky Bar, Caramel or Lion Bars then they are a god send. I always stock up on English food products when i am back and used to use a place in Philly that imports stuff, but super expensive.
Plus, they still sell Bounty bars there. Bounty > Mounds

4. Go to Covent Garden. Many times there are a lot of street entertainers, and lots of good places to eat and shop around here.
100%. I spent a few days at a hotel near there where the easiest way for us to get to and from there was to get off the CG tube and walk through CG and we always found something to distract/entertain us walking through there.

5. Check out whats free. There are literally tonnes of museums, art galleries and other exhibits and activities going on around the city that will cost you zero and will be worth going to. We went to the British Museum, Tate Modern and a load of other places all for free and it was great.
Agreed. If nothing else, you have to go to the British Museum. The Treasures Room at the British Library is another great free one that I feel is well worth the ride up there. Another pretty good one (that is also free as I recall) is the Imperial War Museum, which is a short walk from Lambeth North. St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey are also totally worth seeing, obviously.

7. In place of York i would suggest catching he train to Windsor or Oxford. I went to Windsor at Christmas for the first time and seeing the Castle is just incredible. Its only about a 30 minutes train ride from Paddington (one quick change at Slough....you literally get off and jump into the train 15 feet away....only 5 mins from there). The place is breath taking in its majesty. Alternatively Oxford is not too far and again is a place steeped in history and well worth the visit.
Agree on adding Oxford to the list of day trip locations to consider. It is a reasonably short train ride and there are lots of walking tour options, including "free" ones where you just tip at the end if you want to. We did one of those on one London trip and it was fantastic. And instead of seeing something that looks like it is out of Harry Potter, you will see several locations where they actually filmed Harry Potter.
Old 05-04-16, 01:15 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by jfoobar View Post
And instead of seeing something that looks like it is out of Harry Potter, you will see several locations where they actually filmed Harry Potter.
I remember the time before they actually marked the spot with a store at King's Cross I saw kids searching for the secret platform entrance.
Old 05-04-16, 06:44 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by james2025a View Post
Flakes are fantastic. In fact all the chocolate they sell in England are better than the shitty Hershey chocolate in the US. If they also brought you Yorkie, Milky Bar, Caramel or Lion Bars then they are a god send. I always stock up on English food products when i am back and used to use a place in Philly that imports stuff, but super expensive.

11. Oh, and if you need to get money changed whilst you are there, my advice is get it done at the Post Office. They tend to give the better rates of exchange, especially compared to banks and travel agents.
The grocery story Publix has a limited selection of English chocolate and other products. It's a bit expensive by US standards but the same price that it would cost you in the UK.

I've found ATMs give the best rate as long as your bank doesn't charge a fee or percentage. If you don't have one now, apply for a credit card that has no transaction fees. Most charge 3% but Chase, Capital One and Penfed offer ones without the fee.

You probably want to do as much as you can but don't forget to take your time and enjoy the city. It's the city of my birth but everytime I go back I discover something new.

Last edited by Kdogg; 05-04-16 at 08:54 PM.
Old 05-04-16, 06:58 PM
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Re: London Travel: Question about Oyster Cards, Transportation, etc.

Originally Posted by james2025a View Post

8. If you ever see a place on the street called Gregs.....go in and buy something to eat on the go. Its cheap, fast and the food is generally pretty great.


12. You have a short stay, so probably cant do much major traveling (and to be honest you can spend 5 days in London easy and see a fraction of the things), but Liverpool is also a wonderful city and lots of things to see and do. Especially for Beatles fans. Manchester is a great city, but more for shopping. I love the music scene from Manchester, so that always gives me things to check out when i am there.
I found HH Greggs to be hit or miss. I think it really depends on the time of day you go. I really liked Pret A Manger for something quick to eat. Although, I would really just hit up any random curry joint as I really miss a good curry. Tescos is great if you want a grocery store to take stuff back to the hotel.

I will absolutely second the Liverpool suggestion. It's an amazing city. It is about a 1.5 to 2 mile walk from the train station to the where the Beatles Tour is located, but it's a really great walk.

Originally Posted by Phodg View Post
York is very nice. There is nothing in Macclesfield. I'm from the North West of England, about 50 miles from Macclesfield. Dreadful place.
Middlesbrough or Newcastle?

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