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London: Oyster cards reduce transit costs

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London Tube

We’d like to take this opportunity to extol the virtues of London’s Oyster. Oyster card, that is.

In a city fit for a queen, it often seems that prices for everything can be a royal pain. However, with the little blue and white Oyster card, visitors and locals alike benefit from drastically reduced rates on mass transit. (You can use the card on the Tube, trams, buses, DLR, London Overground and some National Rail services.)

Take a single fare on the Tube, for example:

A trip from within Zones 1-4 (say Kew Gardens to Oxford Street) would normally cost £4. With the Oyster, the price fluctuates—depending on time of day, day of week, and zone—from £1.50-2.50. In some cases, that’s more than half the cost! And, since we last checked, with the money you save on public transport, you can buy more cups of coffee.

So, why doesn’t everyone opt for oyster?

Well, we’re not sure. It does initially take a few minutes to buy the card. There’s a small application to fill out (either online or in the station) so that the Transport of London knows where to find you or how to help if your card goes missing. Additionally, a £3 deposit is required to issue the card, although you can reclaim your deposit (and any unused credits) by turning in your Oyster when leaving town. But those are really small inconveniences.

You can “top up” the card (Brit lingo for adding on the pounds) on-line, at various kiosks across London, and by phone. Plus, Oyster offers fun specials. Recently, they were giving away free iTunes songs with the purchase of rides.

The cards are easy to use, but try not to lose them. At the moment, there’s no definitive insurance policy for Oysters that are misplaced or lost along the way, although we know of cases in which replacement cards were offered. Bad news, though, if you’ve just “topped up” with the maximum £90 allowed on the card.

For lots more info on how to get a card and more, visit London’s Transport site.

About the author

Meredith Franco Meyers

About the author: Meredith earned an MFA in fiction writing at The New School in New York City. Her feature stories and articles have appeared in Ladies' Home Journal, American Baby, Self, Bridal Guide, Time Out New York, Fitness and more. She joined EuroCheapo in summer 2007.

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