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My 10 year old daughter and I will be in London 4-7 May, landing at Gatwick in the evening from Stockholm, then staying at a hotel near Acton railway station. I have found a route from the airport to the hotel. When traveling around London during these days to and from zone 3, we shall also visit the Harry Potter studio.

Would it be best to get an Oyster Visitor pass or an Oyster pass?

And in the queue to get the Oyster card at the airport, are many details needed when buying the different cards?

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Oyster and Visitor Oyster are more alike than they are different. They are both stored-value cards that deduct the price of trips as you make them, up to a daily cap. Journey prices and coverage are the same for both variants. Each kind of card can be topped up with cash or credit at machines found all over the system, if you find yourself using more than you loaded onto it from the beginning.

The differences are:

  • A Visitor Oyster costs £3 in addition to the balance you put on it, whereas an ordinary Oyster requires a £5 deposit. You can get the £5 -- and the outstanding balance on the card -- back if you take the time to queue up for a refund when leaving London; the £3 purchase price of a Visitor Oyster card is not refundable.

  • Visitor Oyster comes with colorful "look at me, I'm a tourist" branding on the outside, rather than the stylish blue of ordinary cards.

  • Visitor Oyster entitles you to some special offers. Unless you had planned to go to one of the participating places anyway, that may not be worth a lot for you.

  • Visitor Oyster is not for sale within London itself; it can be bought at Stansted and Gatwick airports, though.

  • Regular Oyster cards can be topped up online, or registered in your name and set up to top up automatically from a UK bank account. This is mostly irrelevant for tourists.

Buying an Oyster card is simple -- just queue up at one of the Oyster-issuing machines, give it money (cash or credit, at least if you have a credit card that supports PIN transactions), and it spits out a card. No details need to be provided.

  • You may want to split the list into two: what is the same, what is different? – jcaron Apr 22 '16 at 14:41
  • @jcaron: Yeah -- or the similarities shouldn't even be in the list. Edited. – Henning Makholm Apr 22 '16 at 14:47
  • say @HenningMakholm, can you top-up the visitor type? – Fattie Apr 22 '16 at 16:24
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    Cool. I was wondering, is it actually cheaper than just "buying a ticket each time you want to get on", or is it purely a matter of convenience? CHeers – Fattie Apr 22 '16 at 16:44
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    @JoeBlow: Oyster PAYG fares are consistently cheaper than paper tickets, sometimes dramatically so. – Henning Makholm Apr 22 '16 at 16:50
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For these short stays usually the best option is pay as you go ticket, as these have daily caps - so you will never pay more than you would for a few daily tickets. If you have a compatible contactless card, you don't even need to buy the oyster card: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/contactless?intcmp=8257

Note that I am not sure if oyster/contactless works outside of London. It should now cover the route from Gatwick to London, but I am not sure about Harry Potter studio. You might need to buy separate ticket for this one.

Regarding your daughter, I believe children up to 10 years old can travel for free on the Tube if accompanied by an adult (and legally in the UK they need to accompanied by an adult anyhow): https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/travel-for-under-18s/travelling-with-children#on-this-page-2

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    It covers Harry Potter studio, or rather Watford station near the studio (shuttle busses go directly to studio, oyster doesn't work on them). I think it's zone W or something strange like that. Source: been there with oyster card. – domen Apr 22 '16 at 15:18
  • the fact that children are free would appear to be key information. – Fattie Apr 22 '16 at 16:24
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    note that children only travel free on TFL operated lines. Oyster is also accepted on national rail inside London (and some neighbouring stations, including Gatwick Airport), and on most NR lines children need to get a ticket separately! – SztupY Apr 22 '16 at 16:33

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