Oyster - The card that takes you everywhere

Article reviewed: 2013/01/13 | Next review due: 2014/08/01

The Oyster Card gives you carte blanche for travel around London, allowing you to travel by underground, bus, trams, river boat and even mainline railways within the Greater London area.

It highly likely that upon your arrival you will take the London Underground, or the ‘Tube’. The oldest subway system in the world, the Underground serves nearly 274 stations on eleven lines in Greater London, with a clear and concise map with each line representing a different colour.

For unlimited travel on the bus, tube, tram and train within zones 1and 2, a one-month oyster season ticket will cost around £100, with a one-week ticket costing closer to £25.80.

This travel card can also be used on a basic pay-as-you-go system, with top-ups of credit as and when required. The card automatically limits any daily spend to a maximum of £6.60 off peak (weekdays if travelling after 09:30, and weekends) and £8.00 if also used during peak times (starting your journey before 09:30 on weekdays).

It is also possible to recharge the card with ‘Auto top-up’, which automatically tops-up your card once the credit limit dips below £5.00. To do this, simply register our oyster card on the website (TFL) and follow the instructions. Your card will be charged automatically with each automatic top-up.

Additionally, you can top-up your card online, in oyster-approved newsagents (see shop windows for the oyster logo), or in any underground station.


For further information and journey advice, the Transport for London website (TFL) holds everything you need to know, including live service updates and a detailed search function for A to B directions and guidance on the easiest or fastest routes. You can even select your walking speed and request disabled or step-free access routes.

The website also details any planned underground closures for repairs. It is quite common for underground lines are being repaired during the weekends, so it is best to check for line closures in advance.

Additionally, the Oyster-tube-and-rail-map and the London-tube-map provide detailed information on London train and overground connections.


Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the London ‘tube map’. You can find free tube maps in any underground stations, or you can ask for one from any underground ticket desk.

There are 11 underground lines in London, each identifiable by a different colour;

  • Bakerloo line = brown
  • Victoria line = light blue
  • Central line = red
  • District line = green
  • Northern line = black
  • Hammersmith and City line = pink
  • Jubilee line = grey
  • Metropolitan line = purple
  • Piccadilly line = dark blue
  • Waterloo and City Line = turquoise
  • Overground line = orange outline
  • Docklands Light Railway (DLR) = blue outline


Whilst the tube can often be the fastest way of getting around London, taking the bus also has it’s advantages.

To start with, it’s cheaper than taking the tube (standard bus fare for any journey: £1.30, versus single tube journey: £1.90(zone 1 to zone 1) or £2.50 (zone 1 to zone 2).

Additionally, however, the bus gives you the added benefit of being able to see the city at street level as you travel through it. It can be wonderful experience to observe the capital’s monuments from the top of a London double-decker bus!

On foot

Remember that the centre of London is a relatively small place, and you will often find that tube stops are only a 5-10 minute walk apart. Typical examples of close tube stops include:

  • Bond Street – Oxford Circus – Tottenham Court Road
  • Leicester Square – Covent Garden – Holborn
  • Piccadilly Circus – Green Park

So why not by a map of London (the London A-Z is best) and stretch those legs!?

Tooltip information:

  • Tube: Underground

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