Are you thinking of visiting London? Are you wondering what is the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to move in London?

The answer is the travelcards, cards that allow access to all London transports, using a simple electronic card. They can be grouped into 3 types:

      1. Oyster Card
      2. Contactless
      3. Travelcard

Are you wondering which is the cheapest solution among the 3? The answer is in the article…

Before the battle between these three tools begins, it is necessary to ask: how much the metro in London cost?

The answer is “it depends”! It depends on the area, the time and the number of trips we make.

ZONES

Imagine London as a section of an onion, composed of nine concentric rings called “zones”. The central areas, 1 and 2, represent the heart of the city and the tourist center, while zones 6-7-8-9, the most external, represent the suburb.

This representation is very useful for understanding the payment system adopted for transportation. In fact, the prices change according to the areas where you move and takes into consideration the departure and arrival stations.

The most economical areas regarding the transportation are the central zones (1-2), the heart of the onion, where a single ticket costs about £ 2.40. If you move to the suburbs, the last rings, the costs go up to about £ 5.10.

HOURS

As already mentioned, the time slot is also a factor that affects travel prices.

If you move during peak hours (PEAK) the costs of single routes will certainly be higher. Surely for a tourist it is convenient to avoid these time slots, saving on the costs of the tickets and earning on the comfort (OFF-PEAK).

Here is a summary table that shows you I’m not lying:

ZONEOFF-PEAKPEAK
Zone 1£2,40£2,40
Zone 1-2£2,40£2,90
Zone 1-3£2,80£3,30
Zone 1-4£2,80£3,90
Zone 1-5£3,10£4,70
Zone 1-6£3,10£5,10

1. OYSTER CARD

Those colors (light blue, white and blue) are unmistakable for anyone who lives in London, or has passed from there, as he certainly met this particular electronic card. Like a magic wand, it allows you to open each gate and access every London vehicle: bus, subway, train, DLR (light rail), London Cable Car and even on the boat. The Oyster Card has a cost of £ 5, which are a deposit and which are returned when the card, which is no longer needed, is given back. To recharge it is necessary to go to any ticket machine located in every subway station, or, for the lazy ones, through a downloadable app on your smartphone. To use it, simply touch the card / smartphone on the yellow card readers located near the gates (they are yellow circles, you can’t go wrong).

It uses the payment mechanism called “pay as you go” (pay as much as you consume), which is a system that allows you to spend based on how much you use the service. It is certainly a cheaper tool than the classic paper ticket, both from an economic and an ecological point of view.

Thanks to the maximum daily cap it is possible to save even more, since it allows you to spend a maximum daily / monthly amount which will give the possibility of making subsequent trips for free. The area 1-2 daily cap is around £ 7, while the monthly one is around £ 35.10 (you can find the correct information in the chart at the bottom of the article).

2. CONTACLESS (credit / debit card or mobile device)

Since 2014, TFL has introduced a new payment method, the Contactless, which has given the possibility to use your credit / debit card as if it were an Oyster Card. The way it works is identical to that of Oyster Card, as are the rates that are the same.

 

What are the differences between Contactless and Oyster?

Apparently there are none… but… actually there is a small difference, and it was explained by two guys (Geoff Marshall and his friend Matt), you can find the video here, it’s from a few years ago, but the mechanism doesn’t change (SPOILER: Contactless is worth it!).

For the lazy who do not want to see the whole video, here is the summary: doing the same traits and using the two different payment method, the Contactless methods charge less than the Oyster (£ 9.50 vs £ 11.80).

The reason?

It is the different way in which technologies recognise the daily maximum cap (daily cap), which is the maximum amount that can be spent using the same instrument over and over again during the same day.

Oyster considers and calculates the three trips individually at full price and reduces the cost only on the last trip they made, while the Contactless recognises the daily cap already in previous trips, so it allows to save not only on the last trip, but also in the previous ones.

It may seem complicated, it’s true, to get rid of all doubt just put aside laziness and take a look at the video.

Shocking isn’t it?

Have you noticed that the boy does not use a contactless, but his own smartphone? Well it is simply using applications like Google Pay or Apple Pay, thus avoiding to pull out your Contactless every time from your wallet (or from behind the cover, be honest, you do too!)

3. TRAVELCARD

This third option is a season ticket, available in various versions: daily, weekly, monthly and annual. The Travelcard can be used at any time on all London public means of transport, within the area and period of validity, without any kind of restriction.

DAILY

The daily ticket is a paper ticket that can be purchased at London’s stations and ticket machines, at the Tramidink Shop in Croydon, in the various visitor centers and online on different sites.

It can be purchased in 3 versions:

    1. Day Anytime: valid all day until 4:30 am the following day;
    2. Day Off-Peak: usable only after 9:30 am from Monday to Friday, while it is valid for all hours of the weekend;
    3. Group Day Travelcard: valid for groups of at least 10 people, valid after 9:30 am.

The minimum coverage is zone 1-4 and currently has a minimum cost of £ 13.10 (Day Anytime and Off-Peak).

WEEKLY, MONTHLY AND ANNUAL

Each one is valid until the day after 4:30 am of the normal deadline, so for the weekly it is valid for 7 days, for the monthly 30 days and for the annual (guess what?) for 12 months.

Prices also vary here, from the area, in fact it will cost less than a monthly Travelcard subscription for zone 1-2 rather than for zones 4-5.

If not booked in advance online, these subscriptions are loaded directly onto the Oyster Card, comfortably via the ticket machines at each London underground station.

To get you an idea, a weekly Zone 1-2 Travelcard has a cost of £ 35.10, a monthly one around £ 134.80 while the annual one is £ 1404 (more detailed information in the chart at the bottom of the article).

Other advantages?

Well thanks to Travelcard you can get significant discounts on many London attractions by taking advantage of 2×1 offers, saving on tickets (exclusive for Travelcard).

WHO WINS?

Well… it depends. If you prefer flexibility, Contactless is the best option for you, otherwise, the Travelcard is the best way to deal with frequent daily trips and to take advantage of the 2×1 offers.

Here is a summary of what are the CAPS and the costs of the Travelcard, compared they give a clear idea of what are the advantages of one tool rather than another (the standard rates are for an adult, obviously the prices vary depending on the type of passenger).

Pay as you go (Oyster/Contactless) CAP – MAXIMUM CAP

Daily AnytimeValid for zone 1-4£13.10
Daily Off-peakValid for zone 1-6£13.10
Weekly (7 gg)Valid for zone 1-2£35.10
Monthly (30 gg)Valid for zone 1-2£134.80
Annual (12 months)Valid for zone 1-2£1404.00

Travelcards

Daily AnytimeValid for zone 1-2£7.00
Daily Off-peakValid for zone 1-2£7.00
Weekly (Mon – Sun)Valid for zone 1-2£35.10
Daily AnytimeValid for zone 1-4£13.10
Daily Off-peakValid for zone 1-6£13.10
Weekly (7 gg)Valid for zone 1-2£35.10
Monthly (30 gg)Valid for zone 1-2£134.80
Annual (12 months)Valid for zone 1-2£1404.00

The chart is related to zone 1-2, the one of most interest, but you can easily check even for different areas, you can take a look here.

As much as Oyster and Contactless are similar, it is interesting to see how 2 similar systems, as they have different reading mechanisms of the daily cap and which may differ by 2/3 pounds (Contactless is more convenient!). There are not many, but if you add up day after day, in “only” 99 years you can afford a Ferrari… (economic, second-hand).