Travelling in London: Your Oyster Card Guide

Travelling around London is simple when you have an Oyster Card. You can use it on tubes, buses, trains, trams and even selected riverboat services! The Oyster Card is a flexible travel card that you can pre-load with money according to your length of stay and the amount you think you’ll be using it.
If you’re studying at Hampstead School of English, we’ve created this guide to give you everything you need to know about Oyster Cards, including where you can top them up, how much you should budget, how price varies from zone to zone, and advice that will help ease your journeys across London. So much so that you’ll soon be feeling like a Londoner!

How do Oyster Cards work?

1. You can get your Oyster Card at any Tube Station counter.  If you choose the Pay As You Go option, or the weekly travel card, you will be required to pay a £5 deposit for the card. You can get this money back if you give your card back in at the end of your visit!  If you select the monthly or yearly travel card, you do not have to pay a deposit.

2. To use your card, simply ‘touch in’ or ‘swipe’ it across the yellow card reader when you enter the tube or bus.

3. Then when you finish your journey, you just have to ‘touch out’ or ‘swipe’ it across the card reader to exit.

Tips for Using Your Oyster Card

Always Touch In and Out! At some larger stations, you can leave the station without passing through the barrier. But be careful! If you’ve swiped your card to enter the tube, you must swipe it again to exit, otherwise you will be charged for a maximum fare. At these stations, there are PINK card readers – make sure you swipe your card on these before you leave. The only times you don’t have to ‘touch out’, is when you are travelling by bus or tram.

You don’t actually need an Oyster card! You can swipe your contactless bank card over the yellow and pink card readers instead, and you will still benefit from the same discounts as you do with an Oyster card.

Card Clash. Watch out, if you swipe your wallet the machine might get confused and take money from your contactless bank card instead of your Oyster Card. Never swipe them both at the same time!

You can buy your Oyster Card before you arrive in London. On the TFL website (Transport for London), you can select the ‘Visitor Oyster Card’ with your choice of credit. This will be sent to your address in 8-14 working days so you can start using it as soon as you arrive.


Always wanted to learn English in London? Contact us to find out more about our London school, Hampstead School of English.

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