London Oyster Card Explained
The Oyster card is a piece of plastic that's the same size and shape as a credit card and is used as a form of electronic ticketing for the Underground, buses, trams, Docklands Light Railway and some National Rail routes. You gain entry to stations or onto buses by swiping the card within about 3 inches of a yellow circular reader. When swiped successfully the thing beeps and the gates open or the bus driver waves you on.
The cards can be purchased at Underground ticket windows, some National Rail stations, online, or at certain convenience stores around London. The card can be topped up at these places or it can be set to top up automatically.
You have to pay a £3 deposit for the Oyster card but if you buy a weekly or longer pass at the same time then there's no fee. If you want to buy a monthly or annual pass you have to fill in a registration form.
You can still travel without an Oyster card with paper tickets but you will be charged a much higher fare. For example, a single bus journey costs £1 with an Oyster card but it costs £2 to buy a paper ticket. A one-way tube journey within zone 1 costs a ridiculously high £4 but is only £1.50 with Oyster.
The system is very easy to use but some of the pricing can be confusing due to fares changing during peak and off-peak travel times and the availability of daily, weekly, monthly, annual and pay as you go type fares. For a list of up to date fares and for more information, check out the Transport for London website.
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