In about 20 hours I will be leaving for a trip that will take me to London. My plan for getting around while there had been to get an Oyster card, but at the last moment I discover that they have to be bought in advance. https://www.tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/visiting-london/visitor-oyster-card says:

It is not possible to buy a Visitor Oyster card when you are in London.

Apparently as a non-resident I was supposed to have planned ahead and bought the ticket by mail order before leaving home.

Do I have any option left for avoiding paying single-ticket fares for everything? Are one-day travelcards are still available without having Oyster?

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    You're completely OK to buy a "normal" Oyster card.
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 6:30

3 Answers 3


You can buy Oyster cards at lots of places. I usually do so at the Heathrow tube station myself. What you can't buy are the Visitor Oyster cards.

Quoting http://www.tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/buying-tickets you can "get and top up Oyster cards from"

  • London Travel Information Centres
  • Oyster Ticket Stops
  • Stations & tram stops
  • Emirates Air Line terminals (top-up only)
  • The Tramlink Shop (in Croydon)

There only real differences between a Visitor Oyster card vs a regular Oyster card is that they look different, the Visitor Oyster has a £3.00 card fee vs. the £5.00 refundable card fee that the regular Oyster has, and that the Visitor Oyster entitles you to select discounts

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    No. Registration is optional per tfl.gov.uk/corporate/privacy-and-cookies/oyster-card and you can "top up" (ie. add more funds) at any kiosk (which pretty much all the tube stations have). I always top up with cash (GBP) but they accept credit cards as well (Visa and MasterCard would be your safest bets)
    – neubert
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 16:19
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    Hmm, I hadn't expected to need to go to a "privacy and cookies" page to find that out. The TFL website seems to be trying really hard to hide that from tourists. (I wonder whether the £3 fee that locals don't pay has something to do with that ...) Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 16:30
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    Could be lol. When I was first in London I did day passes via travelcards but then I met up with a friend and they showed me how Oyster worked and I've been doing that ever since!
    – neubert
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 16:32
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    Speaking as a Londoner the "benefits" of the visitors card look pretty horrifying... I wouldn't want to enter those places. Maybe the only one you'd want is 10% of at Liberty's but you can get VAT refunded if you're not from the UK anyway, which is a a higher percentage anyway.
    – Ben
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 14:54
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    @Ben The V&A caff is really nice, but I agree that those are mostly discounts from things you'd have to pay me to go to / eat at. Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 13:25

you can buy a visitor oyster card at stansted airport train station but why the heck should you. well only cause the card cost 3 pound instead of 5?! but then you waste money to get to stansted airport so the cheapest method is to get the national rail to london and then go to the tube ticket machine and buy one there for 5 pound. if you want a visitor oyster online it will cost 5.25 with postage and fee plus the PAYG credit.


I made some research (transport for London website and their Facebook page) and I'm going to use my contactless American Express credit card, issued in Chile, for my first trip. My friend who lives in London has some spare Oyster cards, so I'll use one of them later.

American Express cards are always accepted. Mastercard and Maestro cards are almost always accepted; and Visa cards aren't accepted sometimes (weird, huh?). If my Amex doesn't work I'll try with one of my Mastercard cards.

Source: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/contactless/what-are-contactless-payment-cards?intcmp=8610

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