London can be a very expensive place in terms of travel – as well as everything else (rent, drinks, meals out – the list goes on) – wipes tears from face.

Visiting Kyiv really opened my eyes to how expensive travel in London is. A single journey costs up to £4.90 in London compared to the 6p I paid during my visit to the Ukrainian capital!

There are a few ways that you can save money on public transport in London whether you are just visiting for a weekend or a regular commuter.

Walk

It may come as a surprise, but I find London a very walkable city and walking provides a few benefits:

  • Better than being stuck in a hot, crowded tube
  • You may walk past sites that you may miss if you took public transport
  • It may in fact take you longer to use public transport instead of walking – time to wait for your tube, bus and walking up/down escalators and steps
  • Get your step count in!
  • Transport for London (TfL) are the organisation who run the Underground. They have provided a very handy map here which shows your the walking times between stations. If you plan your visit out well you can keep your public transport and tube use down to a minimum.
River Thames Walk London
Iconic Views on a River Thames Walk

Buses

Buses are relatively cheap in London compared to the tube.

If you use a contactless or Oyster card you will benefit from a Hopper fare. A Hopper fare will allow two bus journeys to be made within one hour of the start of the first bus journey for just the price of one bus trip. For adults this will cost you £1.55, check out the other fares here.

Bus in London Transport Museum

Railcard

Railcards provides you a third of selected Rail journeys. For 16 -25 year olds a Railcard costs £30 and like all Railcards, lasts for 12 months. There are a range of other Railcards available as well including 26 – 30, 16 – 17 years old and Two Together. Be sure to check out the special offers they provide such as on hotels and app subscriptions.

Adding your Railcard to your Oyster Card means that you can save a third on all off peak travel, including on the Underground.

Oyster Card / Contactless Card

The trusty blue card!

An Oyster Card deposit is £5, which you can refunded if you return your card after your visit – or you can keep it for when you next visit London. You are able to get an Oyster Card from any Tube or Train station in London with a ticket office, some ticket machines also offer new Oyster Cards too.

I also recommend registering your Contactless card onto the Oyster Card website. This will allow you to check your journey history, and if there is any issue or delay during your journey you can claim for a delayed journey via your account.

To find out the latest tube fares and how to go about making an Oyster or Contactless Card account, follow the link to the Transport for London fare webpage here.

If you are frequent commuter buying a Season Ticket may work out cheaper than paying for a ticket everyday. Weekly, monthly and annual season tickets are available and price varies depending on what Zone you travel in between.

London Underground Train

Off Peak

If you need to use the tube – aim to travel off-peak. Peak hour fare occur Monday – Friday between 6:30 – 9:30am and 4 – 7pm and cost 50% more than an off-peak journey. If you add your Railcard to your Oyster Card you will receive a further 30% discount!

Zone One Travel

Tube and rail costs are based on what Zone you start your journey, with Zone 1 being Central London and extending out to fare Zone 9. The further you travel, the more your journey will cost, for example a journey between Zone 1 – 4 costs more than between Zones 1 – 2.

Where possible, you should aim to avoid travelling through Zone 1 if you are going between outer zones. In order to ensure that TfL recognise that you do this, there are Pink card readers that you will need to tap your contactless card or Oyster Card on. A list of pink card reader locations and a handy explanation is provided on the TfL website here.

London Underground Tube Sun rise
Tube Carriage

Discount for Children

Children under 11 can travel on buses and trams for free at all times. Children can travel for free on the Underground, DLR, Overground, TFL Rail and National Rail as long as they are accompanied by an adult.

Children aged 11 – 15 can apply for a Zip Oyster Card which allows for free travel on buses and trams. This also allows for children rates on Tube, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail including 50% of Adult Tube fares.

16 to 17-year-olds can apply for a 16+ Oyster Card to travel at half the adult pay as you go rate on bus, Tube, Tram, DLR, London Overground and some National Rail services. If a children does not have one, they will have to pay the full adult fare.

Trainline

Trainline is a UK and Europe based website / app, that works with 270 train / coach operators to provide you support when booking in over 45 countries. It helps you to plan your rail journey as well as providing live train running times, accessibility, and facility infomation.


There are a range of ways to reduce the costs of travelling within one of the worlds most expensive city, from using your Contactless Card, never buying a paper ticket and adding a Railcard to your Oyster Card. However the idea I find most useful is to plan your journey and see the alternatives you can make to reduce your public transport cost – especially walking.

Tower Bridge Shard Sun set
Shard and City Hall. Taken from Tower Bridge

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