Sunday, June 22, 2008

Travel Tips: London Underground

In London, the underground or “tube” (as it’s popularly known) is a very efficient and cost effective means of getting around. To save money and hassle, I have a few words of advice: Oyster Card. Oyster Card. Oyster Card. What’s an “Oyster Card”? It’s a smart card (like a credit card with an RFID-like chip) that allows you to pre-pay for fairs (and save a lot 50% or more over regular tickets) or store a weeklong travel card on it. You can read all about it at the Transport for London website. I’d never travel around London on the underground without one again. And the only way I think it’s probably not worth getting is if you’re only going to be in London for a day or two and don’t intend to return in the near term. In those cases, I’d suggest buying a one-day or three-day travel card (which I believe you can still do without an Oyster card). But, Oyster has the advantage of giving you reduced fairs and will not charge you more than the single-day travel card rate, even if you travel more in a given day. The advantage of a travelcard rate (which allows you to travel without limits for its period of validity) is that you can freely use the Tube to save energy and time between points of interest, which you might not be willing to do if you were paying $3 or $6 per person to go a short, walk-able distance. When we’re in London, Libby and I use the underground extensively (multiple trips) on most days. The only time we tend to avoid it (if possible) is during rush hours (mornings between 8:30-10:00 and evenings from 4:30-6:00). It’s not that rush hour travel is impossible (though it could be overwhelming at first for the uninitiated on certain lines / routes)… but it’s generally more crowded and less pleasant. Thus, we generally avoid it because our schedule is flexible and usually allows us to do so.


Amy said...

Should we buy our Oyster Card once we get there or buy it now online? Also for the train to Southhampton is it okay to buy the tickets the day before or should we get them sooner? Did you buy round trip with a set time coming back? Thanks again for all your info.

Paul said...

Amy, buying both in London is fine. You don't have to reserve a time for the train going or returning... just get the tickets. I would recommend buying the "return" (roundtrip). Also, we found it cheaper to buy them at the station than online -- though, I'm honestly not sure why. It was much cheaper (about $60 /pp roundtrip) than NCL's transfers ($79 per person each way), which seem to drop you off at either the airport or London Victoria station.