If were staying only 5 days, is it worth it buying a travel card? We would go on a tour bus and would all the museums be free? (I'm with 2 teens). Thanks
Yes! For convenience factor alone it is 100% worth it for such a short trip. I agree with Veronkia that zone 1 will most likely be the most important for museums but I would encourage you to explore further out as well.
If you step out of zone 1 the Horniman Museum & Gardens can give you a great view of the city. Spitalfields Market will entice you with inexpensive knick knacks, clothes, and accessories. Along with the market there are lots of cute shops about and you are in walking distance to Brick Lane for wonderful Indian and Pakistani food and the Old Truman Brewery for a pint.
As for the museums, the very famous (and free) ones include:
The British Museum - the ancient Egypt exhibit is always a favorite of mine.
National Portrait Gallery - they usually have really interesting traveling shows. I was lucky enough to experience "From Manet to Picasso" when I went.
National Gallery - my tip is to stand in line for any special exhibits first and then explore the rest of the gallery. You may want to focus on a few rooms rather than trying to take in the whole thing.
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I recommend getting an oyster card which is cheaper to use each day. They are just 5 gbp and I believe you can get return them and get your money back when you leave. Also if you use the public buses in London, any journey is under 2 gbp no matter how far you go.
There are two sorts of Oyster Card: The visitor Oystercard which must be bought in advance and the standard Oystercard which can only be bought once you get here.
The standard Oystercard only gives you savings on London transport (buses, underground and a few ferries) whereas the Visitor Oystercard gives you discounts on a few shops and restaurants too.
Both cards need to be bought (£3 "deposit") but for the standard one, if you hand it in at the end of your stay then you get that money back. On both cards you can get any outstanding balance out.
You can also get a travelcard (they do still exist!!) and they can be of good value but they only come in 1 or 7 day varieties so in your case you would be paying for 2 days you don't use.
Take a look at the special offers and if they are of specific use, get the Visitor Oystercard before you get here - if not then just get the standard one on arrival. Because of the extra days I wouldn't get a Travelcard for the adults (see about the kids below). You may find that it might have saved you a little, if you go crazy, but the diference will be negligable and the likelihood is that it will be more expensive because, whilst you might travel around a lot on one or two days, you may not on the others and, on the Oystercard, anything you don't use you will get back - not so for the Travel Card.
For your kids, however, if they are under 16, get a child travelcard - even with buying 7 days, the half price travel should be worth it... Over 16s treat as an adult.
Just a note on the museums. Most of the big famous ones in London are free whatever plastic you are packing. It's only the more touristy attraction type places (Madam T's or London Dungeon etc) that charge - same with the tour buses.
A cheap version of the tour bus is using either the Number 15 or Number 11 bus routes as a "normal" passenger. They are normal bus routes (although some of the 15s are old style 1960's routemaster) but their routes are brilliant as you get to see all the sights (although you don't get the commentary!) The number 9 is good too... take a picnic and spend all day on the top of a bus... that will make really good use of your oystercard as it automatically caps when you've taken a certain amount of journeys!
Get an Oyster card as travel cards no longer exist. They are good for buses, underground and overground trains. Guided tour buses need to be paid for separately, most of them have stops adjacent to normal bus stops in popular tourist areas. Moovit is an excellent app for your smartphone that includes directions and maps, works well in London and also covers cities throughout the world! Most major museums are free but can get awfully crowded during school holidays, especially the natural history,science and Victoria & Albert museums which are all within 5 minutes walk of each other.
I travel to London 2 or 3 times a year, most recently in December 2014, and I do one of two things. If I'm traveling with someone else who has never been to London, I usually get a travelcard (yes, they do still exist) in paper form by going to a rail station (NOT a tube station) so that it has the British Rail crows foot logo on it. I do this so I can use the 2 for 1 offers that you can only get with a rail issued ticket or travelcard, the Tower of London is included on this most of the year and that alone is worth the extra effort. For the weekly travelcard you need a photo card but all this requires is a passport size photo and they issue it on the spot.
If I'm not doing that, then I use my Oyster Card. You can get this when you arrive, you have to pay postage to get the visitor card. The regular Oyster requires a £5 deposit, I understand that they are now charging £3 of the £5 if you return it after a short visit but you do get £2 back. Oyster cards are nice because they top out on a daily basis and TFL has raised the prices on the travelcards (or lowered the Oyster daily cap) so that you now have to visit London for 6 or more days in order for the weekly travelcard to make sense. The daily cap zone 1-2 is 6.40, the weekly travelcard is 32.10, 5*6.40=32. You can see all the different fares here
You do not get the Oyster for any particular zone, you put pay as you go money on it and the card covers whatever zones you are traveling in.
Perhaps you are actually asking about something like the London Pass? Very few people get full value out of that, especially since so many of the museums are free for not only kids, but also adults.
The convenience of the Travelcard is not overrated! I worked in London for 3 weeks back in 2006 and I still recharge my Oyster card whenever I am back in London so I can ride the tube. I am hoping to go back in a few weeks for work...
Yes, you should buy a travel card as the buses sometimes get stuck in the crazy London traffic whilst the tube is fast! Make sure to buy Oyster cards to use in the London transport system and you can either buy a weekly travelcard or top up (put in £20). London transport is expensive so at £32 for a week, the weekly travelcard usually works out the best option.
Yes, Yes, and YES. The amount of time you'll save constantly buying tickets and paying the machine, waiting for a slow person who can't figure out the machine, getting to one that's out of order, fumbling for change etc. etc. far outweighs the five pounds it costs to buy an Oyster card for the Tube. And you can keep it for next time and just reload it. The Tube and public transit are a big part of the experience in London, and while you should walk as much as you can, there are times where being able to jump on the tube saves you precious vacation time. I recommend buying the unlimited passes for off peak. You can jump on and off as much as you like and since your'e not beholden to office hours, the off peak restriction won't affect you a big. Tip - search the net for tube closures and make sure you know about them. They, unfortunately will close certain lines and certain stations for repairs and have been doing it regularly forever. It's a fact of life there, but you don't want to be surprised so do your homework ahead of time.
Yes, get an oyster card at least for zone 1 and explore. I would use tube more often than bus because of traffic. Museums are free in most cases
Museums are usually free but London is a huge city. I would get a travelcard. It seems the prepaid Visitor Oyster Card is your best option.