London travelcards come in two different versions. The first type just covers the buses and trams, whilst the second type includes the trains as well.
Travelcards last for a set period of time: either one day, one week, one month, or one year; and you can travel as many times as you like during that period.
You always have to choose a date when you buy it. It is not possible to buy a dateless travelcard. It will then be valid on that date only if it’s a 1-day card, or run consecutively from that date if it’s a weekly, monthly or annual travelcard.
You will then have to decide how many zones you want it to cover. If you want to buy a 1-day travelcard then you’ll only have a choice of two: a zone 1-4 card, or a zone 1-6 card (which also comes in peak, and off-peak versions). If you want to buy a weekly travelcard then you can choose individual zones or a combination of zones. You can’t buy zone 1 on its own, though – the lowest they go is zones 1-2.
95% of tourists will just require zone 1, or possibly zones 1-2 (which encompasses the touristy bit), but some tourists might prefer to buy a zone 1-6 travelcard if they’re flying into Heathrow airport. The more zones you want it to cover, the higher the price. [Note: Buses don’t have zones, only the trains. So if you’re buying a bus pass then don’t worry about the zones.]
Depending on which duration you choose and where you buy it from, a travelcard will either come as a paper ticket or be put onto a plastic blue Oyster card (see below for details).
Anytime Travelcards: These are the standard travelcards. They are valid on the date (or dates) printed on the ticket, and up to 4.30 AM the following morning as well. (So if it expires on the 10th, you can actually travel up to 4.30 AM on the 11th.)
Off-Peak Travelcard: If you want to save a bit of money then you can limit yourself to an Off-Peak Travelcard. You still have to choose a date, but you are also restricted to travelling after 9:30 AM on a weekday (Monday to Friday). You can travel at any time during the weekend.
Note: Off-peak travelcards are not available for zones 1-4, only for zones 1-6.
The following links contain the travelcard prices for each zone on London’s buses and trains:
Here are the prices for child travelcards:
One day travelcards: It is not possible to buy a 1-day travelcard for the bus/tram network in advance. You can only purchase it on the day of travel from a train station, a London Visitor Centre, or an Oyster Ticket Stop. These ones will always be put onto a blue Oyster card. (Note: The usual £5 deposit will apply if you require a new Oyster card – which comes on top of the travelcard cost.)
Oyster Ticket Stops are just high-street shops – usually newsagents – which have the blue Oyster symbol in their window.
One day travelcards for the bus/tram/train network can also be ordered directly from the Transport for London (TFL) website: https://visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk. These ones will be issued as a paper ticket.
1-day travelcards do not require a photocard.
Weekly travelcards: If you buy a weekly pass from a train station, a London Travel Information Centre, or an Oyster Ticket Stop, then it will be put onto a blue Oyster card. If you buy one from the TFL website then it will come as a paper ticket.
You do not need a photocard to buy a weekly travelcard – unless you buy it from a National Rail station. If you need to buy it from a train station then try and find an underground tube station instead, because you don’t need a photocard for those.
Monthly and annual travelcards: Monthly and yearly travelcards can only be bought from a train station, a London Travel Information Centre, or an Oyster Ticket Stop. They cannot be ordered from the TFL website because you need to provide them with a passport-style photograph as well. They will always be issued on a blue Oyster card.
Yes, they can. A weekly travelcard and monthly pass can be loaded straight onto an existing pay-as-you-go Oyster card.
This can come in quite handy if you are spending most of your time in zones 1&4, but need to make an occasional trip into zone 6 or beyond. Buying a zone 1-6 travelcard for the entire duration would be a waste of money, so now you can just buy a zone 1-4 travelcard instead, and then load a bit of extra pay-as-you-go credit on to cover those extra journeys. The computer will recognise that your travelcard already cover zones 1-4, and will only charge you for zone 6.
Buy a London Pass online:
Buy a London Pass + Oyster card
Before you buy a London travelcard, you might want to look at buying a London Pass instead.
The London Pass gives you free or discounted entry into lots of popular London attractions. But you can also buy them with an Oyster card included, which you can use on the London buses and trains, saving you the hassle of buying one separately.
Using your London travelcard on the bus couldn’t be simpler. If you have a paper travelcard then just show it to the driver or the conductor.
If you have an Oyster travelcard then touch it against the big round yellow reader by the bus door. There is no need to touch the travel pass down again when you leave the bus – you only have to do that for trains.
Using your travelcard on the London Underground is easy. If you have a paper travelcard then just insert it face-up into the slot at the front of the barrier. The same ticket will then pop out of a slot at the top. The gate won’t open until you remove your travelcard from this slot.
Important: Do not throw the paper travelcard away after you’ve passed through the barrier – even if it’s your final journey! Because you’ll need it to open the gate at the other end of your tube journey.
If you have an Oyster travelcard, then just touch it against the big round yellow reader at the front of the gate. The gate will then open automatically to let you through.
Most tourists assume that travelcards are the cheapest way to travel on the London Underground, but that is not always the case.
1-day passes are always more expensive than the daily cap on Oyster and contactless cards.
Weekly travel passes usually work out cheaper – but it all depends on how many journeys you make. If you are planning on making two or more bus or train journeys on each of the seven days, or three or more journeys on five or six days, then a weekly travelcard is probably cheaper. Unfortunately there is no easy way to work it out. You just need to sit down and work out how many journeys you’ll be making, and then get your calculator out (sorry!).
You can compare the Oyster and contactless prices with the travelcard prices here: London travelcard prices.
Unfortunately there is no such thing as a Family travelcard anymore. There used to be something called a ‘London Family Travelcard’ in the distant past, but everybody requires their own individual travel pass now.
It is not possible for two people to share one travelcard.
If you are travelling in a group of ten or more then you might benefit from buying a Group Day Travelcard. See https://visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk.
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