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I will be visiting London soon for two nights. Arriving at LGW on a Friday, travelling in to Victoria on Gatwick Express, using tube and bus over the weekend and then reversing the journey to LGW on Sunday.

What is the best ticket option for this? Is there a single ticket I can buy at Gatwick that would cover the whole shebang? Or do I get a Gatwick Express - Victoria return and then an Oyster card when I get into London? Or something else?

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    Gatwick Express is expensive, and only saves a few minutes... Are you sure you need to take it? – Gagravarr Sep 14 '15 at 15:04
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    @Gagravarr.. Well, I'm meeting friends then hitting the town - so I'm trading £10 extra cost against 20 minutes extra pub time. For me, there's only one winner here :-) – Oscar Bravo Sep 14 '15 at 15:29
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    You want separate tickets. You likely want an Oyster card. (See this question. In short, you do, unless you have a contactless card which your bank won't charge you for using.) Get whatever train ticket is cheapest for you, for the trains you want, from Gatwick to Victoria. – gsnedders Sep 15 '15 at 1:24
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    @MarkMayo - Actually, I don't mean cheapest. At the scale of train fares, money is no object (i.e., I don't care about £20 or £30, but I'm not hiring a helicopter). By best, I mean least inconvenient. Ideally, I would buy a single ticket that covered the train, the tube and bus in London and the train back again, without any restrictions about zones or time-of-day or special trains or whatever. – Oscar Bravo Sep 16 '15 at 11:22
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    Why have you edited this back to a less specific title? Especially as you've said that convenience is the biggest factor - to me "best" would mean either best service (ie first class etc) or lowest price combination. – CMaster Sep 17 '15 at 9:48
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If you have a suitable contactless debit or credit card, the easiest would be to buy a return ticket from Gatwick to London, then use your contactless card for bus and tube travel. You can either opt for the expensive Gatwick Express service into London Victoria, or save a few quid and take the Southern service from Gatwick to Victoria. The Southern service is only a few minutes slower, but you'd have to wait on the platform for it, while the Gatwick express normally has a train waiting to board.

Using contactless, as with Oyster, there's a daily price cap applied. If your journeys that day go over the cost of a travelcard, the price will be capped at that. Using contactless, TFL count up all your uses, and make a single charge at the end of the day, so if your card has a per-transaction overseas fee you'd be charged this once. (If staying several days, using an Oyster card might be better on that front, as you could top it up once, vs the contactless total going out daily, but that all depends on your card's overseas fees)

With no contactless card, I'd normally suggest getting an Oyster card, loading it up with 15 to 20 quid, then using that within London.

If you want an easy time, and don't mind paying more, when you get to Gatwick buy a Gatwick to London with One Day Travelcard for your day going in, and your day coming back. That will cover you for the train journeys, and all buses / tubes / trams / etc in London on those days. Costs more, but is easy. Get it from a ticket office, as the machines generally don't sell tickets for future days. Probably an off-peak one will do you, but ask. Ticket prices and restrictions listed here, but there are lots so best ask in the ticket office. You're looking at between £15 and £40 per day, depending on trains taken and time used. For the extra days, easiest (assuming no oyster or contactless) would to also buy a Clapham Junction to Victoria One Day Travelcard from the ticket office. Same price as buying a One Day Travelcard paper from TFL, but you can get it all at the same time

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    "so if your card has a per-transaction overseas fee you'll pay that several times each day. " - no. You're only actually charged at the end of the day, although there may be multiple authorisations during the day. – AakashM Sep 16 '15 at 13:58
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    @AakashM Do you have a reference for that? If so, I can update my answer with it + correct it! – Gagravarr Sep 16 '15 at 14:48
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    When do we charge you? – AakashM Sep 17 '15 at 8:02
  • Do you want to update this answer with the exciting news, or shall I? – AakashM Jan 12 '16 at 8:44
  • @AakashM I haven't had a chance to read up on the fine print of the new offering, if you have please go right ahead and edit the details in! – Gagravarr Jan 12 '16 at 11:14
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Is there a single ticket I can buy at Gatwick that would cover the whole shebang?

Yes. When you arrive at Gatwick, for £105.70 you can get a Gatwick Airport to London Travelcard Zones 1-6 Standard Class Adult 7 day Season Tickets (Travel is allowed via any permitted route.)

This allows you unlimited travel on any train (including Gatwick Express), between Gatwick and London AND on all modes (rail, tube, DLR, bus) within zones 1-6 for seven days.

Note that if you are prepared to restrict your choice of train between Gatwick and London, you can reduce this price to £92.60 (Southern only, NOT Gatwick Express) or £81.00 (Thameslink only, slightly slower trains but not much less frequent. Note that once your Thameslink train has taken you into the London zones, you can then use any trains).

Irritatingly, however, these days even a 7 day season requires a photocard - there will be photo booths at Gatwick if you don't have spare passport-sized photos with you. There's a form to fill in which the ticket office can provide.

  • This is good to know - it fulfills my single ticket criterion but, since I'm only coming in for a weekend, the 7-day aspect is a bit of an overkill. Would be useful for someone who's staying longer, though. – Oscar Bravo Sep 18 '15 at 8:15
  • Even if someone was staying 7 days, that's still very expensive. It'd only really make sense if you were staying somewhere near Gatwick and commuting into town from there each day – user568458 Jan 14 '16 at 22:19
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In addition to the answers above, you can now use Oyster cards, contactless credit or debit cards, or Apple Pay from Gatwick Airport on Gatwick Express and other regional lines into London.

From January [2016], passengers travelling between Gatwick Airport and London will be able to pay as you go using contactless payments and Oyster. The new payment methods will be available for travel between London and Gatwick Airport on Southern, Gatwick Express and Thameslink services. Five other stations along the route - Horley, Salfords, Earlswood, Redhill and Merstham - will also benefit from the up-to-the-minute pay as you go ticket technology.

This will mean more convenience and flexibility for commuters and visitors, with improved value for money in many cases, and reduced crowding at stations. It will also allow seamless onward connections to London's transport network and National Rail services.

More info on TfL's website.

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