The Oyster card allows travel on buses, underground, trains (including services from Gatwick Airport) and Docklands Light Railway.
Validity and duration
The Oyster card is a pay-as-you-go card, has no expiry date and is not nominative. You can purchase it with a pre-loaded credit of between £15 and £50, plus £5 issue/deposit.
Using the credit
London, for public transport purposes, is divided into 6 concentric zones. Zones 1 and 2 roughly correspond to the urban area, while zones 3 to 6 could be called 'Greater London'. A gigantic area that comes to include London City (zone 3) and London Heathrow (zone 6) airports.
When you travel, the Oyster 'sees' the route you have covered and scales the amount. The very important thing to keep in mind is that if you make several trips during the day, the Oyster will scale your trips up to a set amount. This depends on the areas you have touched. Once this amount is reached, Oyster will no longer charge you for the trips, which will then be free and unlimited.
Let's take a closer look at these costs and how they are modulated according to the zones of use:
Let's take a practical example:
you have purchased a £25 Oyster Visitor card (+ the usual £5 issuing fee).
You start with your first trip on a weekday morning, before 9.30am (Peak) and stay within zones 1 and 2.
The Oyster will charge you £3.20, then make another trip, after 9.30am (off-Peak) it will charge you £2.60. Total £5.80. Then make another trip, you will only be charged £1.90 because you will have reached the "Maximum Daily Charge" or "Price Cap" which for zones 1 and 2 is £7.70 (see table).
All subsequent trips made on the same day will be free of charge!
Weekly Price Cap - Maximum weekly charge
The Card can also handle a maximum weekly charge, calculated for trips from Monday to Sunday. The individual daily Price Cap of £7.70 (for zones 1 and 2) is added together and up to £38.40, until Sunday, no further charges are made regardless of which journeys are made.
Off-peak fares are valid on weekdays before 06:30, between 09:30 and 15:59, and after 19:00, plus all weekends and bank holidays.
So if you stay within zones 1 and 2, using the 'Maximum Daily Charge' £7.70 per day, you can travel freely and completely unlimited for 3 days!
You can get a 'cash' refund of any remaining credit (up to a maximum of £10) by simply bringing your Visitor Oyster Card to the yellow reader on the self-service machines in all underground stations.
Press the 'Oyster refund' button. The Oyster will be cancelled and the machine will dispense the cash credit.
How to use the Oyster Visitor card
Every time you need to take a metro, train or bus, you have to 'swipe' your Oyster on the yellow readers. Here's what the readers look like, for subways and trains and for buses:
Only for subways and trains must you repeat the operation on the way out. For buses, after 'swiping' the Oyster on the way up, you can get off freely, wherever you want. There is no need to swipe the Oyster when getting off.
When you swipe the Card in the yellow reader, an acoustic signal will notify you that you have successfully checked in and your available credit will appear. NEVER swipe twice on entry. If you have any doubts: the gate won't open, you can't get through in time or anything else, contact the station staff, who are always present at the turnstiles, IMMEDIATELY; they will gladly help you and you will avoid incorrect and expensive charges!