a VirtualTourist member from Edmonton
Yes, I know there's lots of answers on this forum about this question but unfortunately you cannot filter the search by 'most recent' to get the best answer. So here's another question about the Oyster Card. Ma and I arrive at Heathrow early a.m. and plan to take the Tube to King's Cross to get to our hotel. After stowing our bags, we'll Tube over to Russell Square to catch a double decker and get the bird's eye view of London (24 hour pass) as we try to unwind from our flight. Tube back to hotel in the evening. Off and on we'll use the Tube over the next 4 days, but not the double decker. Do I understand correctly that I put a 5pound deposit on the card, then add funds (say, 8pounds), and EACH DAY there is a limit of 4pounds worth of travel and then I can swipe the card merrily at any machine and it won't deduct any more funds since I've already paid 4pounds? Is that how it works? So I should have 4pounds sitting on the card at the end of the day? Proly won't use any regular buses, just the Tube. This 'capping' thing that's discussed is bonkers to me, not sure what is meant. And I wan't sure if the Travelcard was the thing for me either.
The Capping thing basically means that as soon as you reach the "Cap" no more charges are made. The Cap is equal to a day pass, so the advantage to you is that you don't have to think in advance whether your planned travel justifies buying a day pass or not.
The cap for zone 1 is 7 UKP off peak, and 8.40 if you travel during the peak as well.
Because of this cap there is no need to buy a travelcard anymore. The Oyster will in most cases turn out cheaper.
When you buy the card you have to give a 5 UKP deposit. This is for the card, and you get it back if you bring the card back. It does not go "on" the card. You then "charge" the card with money. If you're going to be there for 5 days I'd put about 20 pounds on it. Don't worry about putting to much on it. When you hand the card back you get your deposit back, and any remaining credit on the card. (Try not to have more than 5 UKP on your card...)
Another advantage of Oyster is that if you decide to go to a place outside of zone 1 you don't have to worry about getting the right ticket either. The system will always calculate the most advantageous tariff for you.
On last hint: Do consider the double deck buses as a means of getting around. Don't just default to using the tube. The buses are cheaper, and give you a good way of seeing the city. Just head for the top deck...
There are a lot of bus lines passing through the Kings Cross area, going to all corners of the city.
I agree, put more than £ 8 on the card. It's annoying when you cannot go through the gate because there isn't enough money left on your card. You have to get out of line there, get into another line to add more money and lose valuable holiday time. I usually put £ 20 or 30 on it. You get it back when you return the card.
Some tube stations tell you at the gates how much money there is left on your card.
Just to add, it's rarely worth taking the tube for journeys of just one stop (such as King's Cross to Russell Square) in central London. By the time you have got to and from the right platform, you could have walked to your destination. If walking isn't your thing, hop on a bus instead.
This 'double decker' that you are catching at Russell Square - is this the hop on/hop off?
Also, I gather you are not checking in to your hotel, just leaving the luggage in a safe place within the hotel?
Just to make life a little more complicated re the Oyster, I think you are travelling around the UK quite a bit - have you investigated the Senior Rail Card for your mother? Or even for yourself? If so and you are planning on getting one, you can also have it loaded onto the Oyster Card so that any trips within the London transport system that are eligible will also count for the Senior Rail Fare. For example, we go out to Teddington from central London and that would be a journey that would use the SRC discount. Don't worry too much about the whys and wherefores - just if you are going to get a SRC, then have it loaded onto your Oyster and the card will take care of the rest.
The UK is trying to deter migrants from moving in (esp. from Bulgaria and Romania when the quota system ends at in 2014) and I strongly suspect that the complexity of Oyster, travelcards and generally travelling while trying not to get totally ripped off is part of a machiavelic plan to confuse poor foreigners!
I get a travelcard under two different scenarios a)if I'm going to be in London using transport for 4-5 days, it then makes sense to look at a weekly travelcard as it's cheaper than using PAYG on the Oyster because the Oyster caps daily but not weekly. or b)if I want to use the 2 for 1 discounts at places like the Tower of London or Kensington Palace, you can't do that with an Oyster but you can with a travelcard purchased at a rail station. You can always purchase a daily travel card on the day you plan to go to the Tower if it makes sense and not use the Oyster that day.
If neither of those scenarios fit you and it doesn't sound like they do, get an Oyster. The 5£ deposit is just that, you don't use it for travel and it is refunded if you turn the card in. So in addition to the 5£ you need to put funds on the card for use. If you stay in zones 1-2 the most you can use in a day is 8.40£ as that is the peak cap (I'm not sure where the 4£ number is coming from, maybe at one point the daily cap was £4 but it's currently 7£ off peak/8.40£ peak).
Each ride in central London will deduct 2.10 to 2.80 from the card (off peak/peak). When you hit the cap (7 or 8.40), it will stop deducting from your card for the day. The ride from Heathrow will cost £5 with the Oyster if it's before 9:30am and it's a weekday.
I would probably start out with putting 20£ plus the deposit on your card, Heathrow to and from plus daily travel will likely eat that up and you'll have to top up at some point. But if you put on a little too much you can get it refunded along with the deposit when you leave.
Everything but the two points I've mentioned at the top of my post :-) I almost always get a travelcard, the Tower of London for example is 18 (online)-20.90£ (at booth), if I can save 18£ by getting a 2 for 1 by buying a daily travelcard, the only inconvenience is having to go to a train station rather than a tube station to get it. I think you can buy the next day's travelcard the night before BTW, I know I have done that in the past to avoid lines so if you are at a rail station the day before (and are using on Oyster for your other days), you can buy in advance. To use the 2 for 1 offers you have to have the crows foot rail logo on the bottom.