I am planning to visit London for 2 days. I am arriving at Heathrow Airport and will be spending time around Thames (e.g. Big Ben, London Eye, Tower Bridge etc). I am not interested in going to any museums but will be sightseeing lot of famous buildings. I am confused about my expenses during this travel. Some suggested me Oyster Card while other suggested 'Pay as you go' with my contact less 'Transfer Wise' card. I guess there will be some 'cap' on both of them. However, I am not able to find how much that cap will be. Another option is to buy Heathrow Express ticket and walk around Thames. In that case should I buy online ticket? If yes, where should I 'validate' it?

Can anyone suggest me economical way to travel from Airport to the city center and roam around Thames.

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    As an aside, Elizabeth Tower (often called Big Ben) is under renovation at present, and is covered in scaffolding and tarpaulins.
    – CSM
    Commented Jun 1, 2019 at 16:06
  • Related: How to get from Heathrow Airport to King's Cross, London? Commented Jun 1, 2019 at 17:21
  • Oyster card has a 5 Pound deposit you can save when you user your credit card. The risk is, you may lose your card at the tube station with so many people around. I'd rather lose the Oyster card than my credit card. Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 13:14

1 Answer 1


You can get the same "Pay As You Go" fares either with an Oyster card, or with a contactless debit/credit card. Both options are subject to the same caps -- that is, after you've reached a certain total price in the same day (and on the same card), travel in the same zones is free for the rest of the day.

If you already have a contactless card and your card issuer doesn't charge fixed per-transaction fees for international purchases, using that will be much more convenient than Oyster.

On the other hand, you might be able to benefit from Oyster if your card has high fixed fees. But for a two day-visit, that will most likely not be worth it. Transport For London will combine all your travel in a single charge each day, so you'd save at most two transactions, and unless you plan for extra time to get the card deposit and leftover charge on the Oyster refunded when you leave (at have something to spend the refund on!), that can easily eat up whatever you save on bank charges.

The precise fare caps depend on which zones you travel in. You can find the caps at https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/find-fares/tube-and-rail-fares -- ignore the big "Caps and Travelcard prices" link that leads to a clunky one-by-one query form, and instead scroll down to the "Adult caps and Travelcard prices" PDF link further down. The daily cap for zones 1-6 (which covers the center of the city and all the way to/from Heathrow) is £12.80.

PAYG is the only way to pay for bus travel, and is also the cheapest way to travel on the Underground.

You can now pay for Heathrow Express with the same Oyster/contactless options, but it uses special fares that are very expensive and not included in the caps. Unless you're in a particular hurry, just take the Piccadilly Line from the airport into the West End.

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    This is a good answer. Note that you must always use the same card for all trips, otherwise the caps won't work. If you use a credit card (or Apple Pay), the system will typically make one transaction per day, not per trip.
    – averell
    Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 13:56
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    "Both options are subject to the same caps" probably true enough for the questioner, but not generally true - Oyster still lacks weekly caps that contactless has (that is, contactless is more beneficial as you'll save money if you are regularly hitting the daily cap over the period of a week, as there's a weekly cap that is less than seven daily caps)
    – Muzer
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 9:04
  • To add to what @averell says - if you try to use the "same" card both as an actual card and as Apple Pay, the system thinks these are two different cards. So only use one card, and one way of using that card.
    – AndyT
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 12:43
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    @AndyT: This is also useful to know in the opposite direction if you have a single contractless card with low issuer fees, but you are two persons who both need to travel ... Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 12:59

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