The London transport system is one of the busiest in the world. Its Tube lines, buses, trains, trams and boats carry millions of passengers each year. It allows Londoners to get to wherever they need to be, from work in the City to home in the outer suburbs, as well as allowing travellers easy access to all the major tourist attractions that this global city has to offer. For the last 10 years or so, the London transport system has operated the Oyster card system, and it is the most convenient and economical option for anyone travelling on the system.
What is Oyster?
The Oyster card is an electronic smartcard. Passengers charge it with credit, in the form of a monetary amount or a pass for a certain number of days and zones. It is then swiped over electronic readers either at station entrances or on vehicles that deduct the relevant fare.
You can buy an Oyster card from outlets at Gatwick Airport and Victoria Station. They are also available on-board to passengers arriving from the continent on the Eurostar. However, it may be more convenient to purchase your card before arrival in London. See the Transport for London website for more information.
Oyster cards can be used on all means of public transport in the capital, such as the Tube, buses, overland trains and Thames clipper passenger boats. Touch your card onto the yellow reader at the gate or on the vehicle and wait for it to beep. This means you have sufficient funds to travel and you can proceed. If you make a lot of journeys in a day, don’t worry, your card will stop charging you when you reach the daily pass limit.
Topping up Oyster
You can top up your Oyster card at most Underground and Overground stations, either with a credit,debit card or cash. You can top-up at a machine or at a manned service window. You can also top-up online – the credit is activated the next time you touch your card on a reader. Be aware that there are no means to top up at bus stops, so you will need to ensure you have sufficient funds on your Oyster before using the bus.
Attractions with Oyster
So, once you have a charged-up Oyster card, where can you go with it? The names of some of the Tube stations indicate the attractions they will deliver you to – such as Covent Garden with its street performers, London Bridge, from where you can walk to the famous river crossing and the Tower of London, and Notting Hill, for the infamous clothing market.
Waterloo, which is an Underground and Overground terminus, is within walking distance of the South Bank where travellers will find the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe and Tate Modern. Alternatively, jump on the number 11 bus. This route takes you past many famous landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Courts of Justice and the Gherkin.