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I know there are already plenty of Oyster card questions here, but I can't find any recent information on travelling with children to London. My situation is this:

There will be 5 of us travelling, 2 adults (we will probably just use our contactless credit cards instead of Oyster cards) and 3 children aged 17, 15, and 10. I beleive the 10 year old can travel for free, and my understanding is that the 10 year old will not need any card at all, and can just go through the gate (let me know if that's wrong!). The 15 and 17 year old children can travel for substantial discounts... but only if they use the Oyster card. I found some information about a youth discount on the Visitor's Oyster card (details found here: https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/visiting-london/visitor-oyster-card#on-this-page-7). Can this also be applied to Oyster cards that we buy when we arrive?

To sum up, my questions are: 1: Does the 10 year-old need any kind of Oyster card to travel (with adults) for free? 2: Is it possible (or even preferred) to just buy Oyster cards when we arrive in Heathrow, and ask the staff to apply the Youth Visitor discount to the Oyster card when we arrive? Or do we need to buy the Visitor Oyster Cards ahead of time, and add the youth discount when we arrive?

If more details are needed, here is our itinerary:

Day 1: We're arriving in Heathrow in the afternoon on the first day of our trip, and taking the tube to our hotel in Zone 1. This will be our only travel on the day of arrival.

Day 2: Sightseeing around London, this will be our most Tube-heavy day, it might be preferable to just buy a 1-day travel card on this day.

Day 3: Taking the tube back to Heathrow to pick up a rental car, and driving west to Wales for the most of the rest of our trip.

Day 8: After spending several days in Wales, we're returning the rental car at Heathrow, taking the tube back to London for one more day.

Day 9: Finally, one more trip to Heathrow to fly home.

Thanks very much!

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  • Do not forget to calculate the cost of the oyster card against the reduction in fare, if you use the youth cards only for airport to hotel travel it might be cheaper not to buy oyster youth cards. (I do not know, I just guess here.)
    – Willeke
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 20:56
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    Why are you going all the way out to Heathrow to rent a car if you'll be downtown on both ends of the rental? There are rental agencies around downtown London, which will save you the hour long tube ride back to the airport. Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 20:59
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    @Andrew Ray: Since we'll be driving west, I thought it would easier to get the car at Heathrow to avoid London traffic, and not hassle with London congestion charges. I'm nervous about driving in heavy traffic when I'm not used to driving on the left (or British driving laws and customs in general).
    – CarneSeca
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 21:05
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    @CarneSeca Consider requesting an automatic as the default here is manual (stick shift). Even if you know how to drive a manual, changing gear with the "wrong" hand will be an extra hassle. Also, read up on the rules, there any many important differences e,g. never turn on red not even left and certainly not right.
    – badjohn
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 22:13
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    And if you really don't want to drive in London, consider taking a train from London to your destination in Wales (or some city in the general direction of your destination) and renting a car there. Taking the tube all the way from central London to Heathrow and back to rent a car just doesn't make sense.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 12:59

1 Answer 1

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Does the 10 year-old need any kind of Oyster card to travel (with adults) for free?

Yes on the tube, bus and tram. Though children aged 5 to 10 require a zip oyster photo card if traveling on their own or - more information on this is at: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/free-and-discounted-travel/5-10-zip-oyster-photocard?intcmp=55572

The application process is detailed in section 6 of https://content.tfl.gov.uk/5-10-zip-oyster-photocard-scheme-terms-and-conditions.pdf - there is no requirment to live in London or the UK. But if you do not you have to apply at least 28 days in advance and collect from a visitor center where you will need to provide proof of the child's age. This applies to all TFL services.

On some national rail services (shown in blue) children always need a ZIP card for tree travel even when traveling with an adult: https://content.tfl.gov.uk/free-travel-areas-without-oyster-adult-accompanying-map.pdf

Is it possible (or even preferred) to just buy Oyster cards when we arrive in Heathrow, and ask the staff to apply the Youth Visitor discount to the Oyster card when we arrive? Or do we need to buy the Visitor Oyster Cards ahead of time, and add the youth discount when we arrive?

It's possible to do that. With some recent rule changes there is now very little difference between them. With the visitor oyster card you'll need to pay a postage fee but it saves the hassle of collecting them at the station.

Visitor oyster cards cost £5 whereas a standard one costs £7. Until recently with the standard oyster card this used to be refundable or redeemable as credit in the future but it is no longer the case.

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  • Thanks very much for your answer -- I don't want to second-guess you, but I've re-read the information several times now, and as far as I can tell, it looks like the photo card is only required if the child is travelling without an adult. At your first link, there is a line that reads: "When you don't need a 5-10 Zip Oyster photocard: Up to four children under 11 travel free with a fare-paying adult." Does this apply to the Tube as well as buses and trams?
    – CarneSeca
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 19:24
  • Sorry yes my mistake, it's fine on the tube without one if they are accompanied. But only some national rail services. Not completely sure on overground or Elizabeth Line but I think same there as well.
    – skifans
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 10:02
  • I've had a response from TFL confirming it does apply to the Overground and Elizabeth line as well. > Yes, up to four children under 11 travel free with a fare-paying adult on all TfL network, including Elizabeth Line and London Overground.
    – skifans
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 10:22

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