You have a lot of options for getting around London from the Underground, Overground, TFL rail, to buses, taxis, uber, bicycle rentals, and even via the Thames river! Avoiding taxis will obviously save you a ton and if you plan to use the Underground during your stay, you can easily obtain an Oyster card at Heathrow airport.
After picking up a SIM card for our phone (cheaper than our international plan), we sauntered down a few steps down the hall to get our Oyster cards.
Be mindful that pricing for the Underground is relative to which zones you are traveling to and from. Knowing what zone your accommodation is in and where your destination is will be key. Sometimes by a short 5 minute walk to the next station you will have crossed into a new zone, making your trip cheaper than if you had hopped on at the closest station. Whether the effort is worth the savings is up to you, of course!
Check the cost of fares on many modes of travel on the Transport For London site here.
The system was easy to use, provided you knew what type of pass or how much you wanted loaded. Using an Oyster Card is an incredible value compared to paying cash for each ride. Definitely get yourself a card.
The option we went for was pay as you go. We had no specific plan of where all we wanted to go and when, so it was difficult to figure out which was the best value for us. Also, as this was our first time to London, we didn't know how much we would be just meandering around checking out neighborhoods at street level versus taking public transport.
We soon realized it would have been better to get the 7 day pass. 7 day passes start from your first use, regardless of the days of the week.
Pay as you go passes have a nice feature of a daily and weekly cap. This means that once you hit a certain threshold on each day, you won't be charged anymore. You ride free for the rest of that day. This is an awesome system!!! Also, the weekly cap tends to be the same amount as if you had bought a 7 day pass. The key difference to note is that for the purpose of weekly capping, the week is from Monday to Sunday!
Remember that when you buy a 7 day pass, it starts when you first use it regardless of what day of the week it is. But if you do pay as you go, the weekly cap goes strictly from Monday to Sunday. Had I realized that tidbit, I definitely would have gotten the 7 day pass. I erroneously assumed the weekly cap started from when we first began to use our loaded Oyster card. (In our case that was a Saturday) Fortunately, it only ended up being a difference of a few pounds when it was all said and done. And a good lesson learned! Learn from my mistake!! Save those pounds for a pint. ;-)
Be sure to download the Oyster App so you can register your card. This helps you to track balances, keep track of your rides each day, and gives some protection if something happens to your card. It's free and only takes a minute but is useful and provides peace of mind.
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