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School Me: London Tube; Oyster card; Senior Railcard; and more


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#21 willem

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 11:50 AM

You can check out the credit on your Oyster at Oyster machines located at stations, and load extra credit at any time.

 
Thank you, cirdan, for the primer on using the Oyster card. For at least part of our visit, Vauxhall will be the nearest station. I understand it is in zone 1 or zone 2, whichever is more advantageous to the rider. Can you (or someone else) confirm that?
 
Will I have any problem reloading the Oyster card with a US Visa card (chip enabled, but contact only, and signature rather than PIN)? Does the answer change if I use Mastercard (same features)? More generally, should I be shopping for a contactless credit card or a PIN-enabled card?
 

If you see a pink oyster reader (the normal ones are orange/yellow) when changing trains tap on it to be charged the right fare.
 
TfL fares are done based on what zones you travel thru not your start/stop locations. So it may save you money to take a moment to find a route to where you want to go that avoids passing thru multiple zones.


Thank you, PerRock, for the tip on tapping the pink Oyster reader, if any, when changing trains. Am I likely to see any of these in zone 1? What is the rationale for tapping a reader during a journey? If I fail to tap the pink Oyster reader, might the Oyster software decide that I had traveled through a different zone?

 



#22 willem

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 11:55 AM

An IDP is not necessary for driving in the U.K. -- your U.S. driver's license and passport will be sufficient for anything you need.

 
Thank you, trainman74, for the info that an International Driver's Permit is not required in the UK. It would be a small expense, but every dollar saved can be spent somewhere else. Do you have citation? I don't doubt you, but I would like to have something more definitive than "someone on the internet said so."
 



#23 jis

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 12:06 PM

If you are using a wallet in a Smartphone, AFAIR you don't have to do anything special. Just use it like you would at any POS at the tap in and tap out gates or devices.

 

The Visa and MC discussion was regarding what worked or not through your Smartphone wallet I think. Using Credit Cards at TVMs is a bit of a pain since most American Credit Cards are Chip and Signature. Only way to use them at a TVM is through the Smartphone wallet if the TVM is wallet enabled. But there is always a ticket office at most major Underground stations that can handle Signature cards. That is why I tend to simply use cash at TVMs. I have successfully used American Chip and Signature cards at any ticket office (that I went to) in both in London and Paris.

 

I believe if you have a registered Oyster Card you can load it over the web too, but I have never done it, since I do not have a registered Oyster Card. Been that way for the ten or so years I have had it.

 

As for getting service in the UK, it depends on your carrier. For example, if AT&T is your carrier you can get the $10 per day Daypass which essentially allows you to use whatever service you have in the US, in the UK for the day. So for example if you have unlimited, text messaging and data in the US, you can just use it in UK and pay $10 for each day on which you actually use it. You do have to sign up for it. That is what I use.

 

If you want to use a local SIM you can do that too, but changing a SIM in an iPhone is a bit of a chore which I try to avoid if I can, and I also try to avoid dealing with a different phone number etc. But that is just me.


Edited by jis, 07 December 2017 - 01:22 PM.


#24 willem

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 01:15 PM

Thanks, jis.
 

As for getting service in the UK, it depends on your carrier. For example, if AT&T is your carrier you can get the $10 per day Daypass which essentially allows you to use whatever service you have in the US, in the UK for the day. So for example if you have unlimited, text messaging and data in the US, you can just use it in UK and pay $10 for each day on which you actually use it. You do have to sign up for it. That is what I use.
 
If you want to use a local SIM you can do that too, but changing a SIM in an iPhone is a bit of a chore which I try to avoid if I can, and I also try to avoid dealing with a different phone number etc. But that is just me.


I have Virgin Mobile USA, which (I understand) runs on Sprint's towers. Before signing up, I confirmed it has an international plan, but I didn't do enough homework. The international plan allows me to call international numbers from US, but does not allow me to call international numbers (or US numbers) from an international location. Even so, it was a good deal: $1 for one year of unlimited call, text, and data, after buying a new phone from Virgin Mobile USA, which set me back $240 (so $20 per month average for the year). I probably would have signed up even if I had understood how broken the international plan is.

 

But I am faced with finding a different provider for the England trip.



#25 greatwestern

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 01:54 PM

Regards driving in the UK, a visitor may drive here for 12 months on a valid US driving licence before being required to obtain a UK licence. Go into this UK government site www.gov.uk/driving-nongb-licence to get confirmation of that.



#26 jebr

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 03:29 PM

Note that I've never done this before, so I have no idea how well they work, but passing it along as an option to start with or start researching with:

 

eBay sells "Three UK" SIM cards for around $40-$45 with 12GB of data, 300 minutes, and 3,000 texts with free shipping to the US. I know Three is one of the major networks in the UK and eBay has decent buyer protection, but I can't guarantee that it'd work as desired. If I were traveling to the UK, though, without an international data plan, that's what I'd investigate. That being said, a lot of international airports have SIM card vending machines as well that, while maybe not giving the most favorable rates, are at least an option if all else fails.



#27 willem

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 05:15 PM

Thanks, greatwestern. That was just the confirmation I wanted to see.

 

Thanks, jebr. I've never dealt with eBay, and thought it was for used items. To further show my ignorance, I had no idea that a SIM could come with data and time on it. I would guess that just one of those SIMs would take care of me for the whole trip. I will investigate.

 

(Edit to add.) Amazon seems to have several choices, too. Since I have an Amazon account and no eBay account, I will deal with Amazon, unless someone has a compelling reason to change. Thanks again, Jeb, for pointing me in the direction of buying a SIM before leaving.


Edited by willem, 07 December 2017 - 05:21 PM.


#28 trainman74

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 05:29 PM

If you want to use a local SIM you can do that too, but changing a SIM in an iPhone is a bit of a chore which I try to avoid if I can, and I also try to avoid dealing with a different phone number etc. But that is just me.


In my experience, the main issue is finding a place to put your teeny-tiny U.S. SIM card where it won't get lost while you're on your trip. :D

Last time I went to the U.K. (September 2014), I went to an actual Three store to buy a SIM card for my iPhone. (I'd researched, and they had the best price for data, which was all I expected to use.) Their network was fine throughout London, and everywhere else I went in the country except some rural parts of Scotland.

#29 Jean

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 10:18 PM

Hi, we purchased regular Oyster cards when in London about 18 months ago and found them excellent. We handed them in at our departure at the entrance to the Piccadilly line in Heathrow, can’t remember which terminal. I think all terminals can access the Piccadilly line. We were refunded our unused credit and our £5 deposit. I see on the Visitor Oyster Card website today that the deposit is not refundable, so that may have changed. Visitor Oyster Cards cannot be purchased in London, but the regular ones can. See www.tfl.gov.uk, if you have not already done so. I must say that the staff on all London train stations have the best, most helpful and friendly staff in the world. Do not hesitate to ask them.

The Picadelly line is all stops. If you are likely to be tired on arrival, you may want to consider the Express from Heathrow. It is expensive, but I believe you can buy ahead on the internet for a better price. But if you are arriving in the morning and will have to wait until your hotel room is ready you may as well take the Picadelly line for a fraction of the price.

I have visited London four times and love it more each time. A few tips: travel light, most stations have lifts, but some do not. We found this when we needed to change to the Circle line at Paddington. That small section did not have a lift. The first time we lugged heavy bags up and down flights of stairs, the second time a helpful staff member pointed out that we could take the next train one stop in the opposite direction, just walk across the platform there and catch the next train back. It worked!

As a general rule, I would beware of any “deal” that restricts your travel time, it is a false economy to have to wait until mid morning to start your day. You may only be there once.

There is food of all types in London, just look around before choosing. There are many 7 elevens or similar where you can pick up ready made sandwiches etc. There are nice pubs, lots of options. We never had a problem finding good value, reasonable meals. It is worth taking note of good places, say, early in the day, then going back there at night.

Be prepared to walk, if possible. Both sides of the Thames River have excellent walking paths along the banks. and you see so much more. Be aware tube stations may have more than just the London Underground lines and other lines may get you somewhere faster.
Ask staff.

Re Bath: we have driven there and parked in the visitor parking around the perimeter, at a cost! It is a compact place and from memory the train station is close to everything. I recommend the hop-on, hop-off bus to get around. You will see lots and get off at the places you want to visit. There was a long queue for the Baths, maybe plan to get there early. Well worth seeing.

If you are in the Bath area, we loved the nearby little city of Wells, has a beautiful cathedral and water from the Wells runs through the streets.

Enjoy!

Jean

Check out everywhere you are going on the internet beforehand.

#30 cirdan

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Posted 08 December 2017 - 06:11 AM

The Picadelly line is all stops. If you are likely to be tired on arrival, you may want to consider the Express from Heathrow. It is expensive, but I believe you can buy ahead on the internet for a better price. But if you are arriving in the morning and will have to wait until your hotel room is ready you may as well take the Picadelly line for a fraction of the price.

I

 

Nitpicker here.

 

Strictly speaking that's not true. On the common section with the District Line, it's the District that does all stops and the Piccadilly runs express.

 

It's always fun seeing one underground train overtake another on this lengthy four-track line. It's four-track from Northfields all the way to the point where the District and Piccadilly part ways in central London.

 

If you want to see things, this is also a line worth doing as you're above ground for a serious portion of the journey, even on viaducts and embankments, so you get to see Metroland from the rooftop perspective and pass several sites of interest. Of course the line itself is also of interest, with stations and other lineside structures for the most part being in London Underground art-deco brickwork.

 

The Piccadilly is also onbe of the last lines on the Underground that still uses proper old-school old fashioned trains that still sound and smell like proper Undergrounds. I don't know for how much longer though.

 

But of course if you're in a hurry, there's no beating the Heathrow Express.


Edited by cirdan, 08 December 2017 - 06:13 AM.


#31 cirdan

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Posted 08 December 2017 - 06:18 AM

 

You can check out the credit on your Oyster at Oyster machines located at stations, and load extra credit at any time.

 
Thank you, cirdan, for the primer on using the Oyster card. For at least part of our visit, Vauxhall will be the nearest station. I understand it is in zone 1 or zone 2, whichever is more advantageous to the rider. Can you (or someone else) confirm that?
 

 

 

 

This is correct.

 

I'm afraid I can't answer your question about credit cards. Most people in the UK these days use chip-enabled cards, so I don't know if cards that just have the magnetic strip are universally accepted.

 

As far as I am aware many Oyster machines still accept cash.

 

I will ask my sister, who lives in London.



#32 Jean

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Posted 08 December 2017 - 06:41 AM

An interesting bit of nitpicking there! Thanks for making that clearer.

I forgot to mention the very useful www.seat61.com. Good for down to earth info and hints, also good prices for travel in Britain and Europe. I have asked questions there and received prompt answers.

I am pretty sure Vauxhall is in Zone 1, if this has not yet been covered.

Another thing about travel in Britain, France too - public toilets are pretty scarce. They are commonly to be found in cafes and restaurants, so take advantage of any you find. Sorry to be so basic, but I find it a really irritating feature.

#33 jis

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Posted 08 December 2017 - 08:33 AM

 

The Picadelly line is all stops. If you are likely to be tired on arrival, you may want to consider the Express from Heathrow. It is expensive, but I believe you can buy ahead on the internet for a better price. But if you are arriving in the morning and will have to wait until your hotel room is ready you may as well take the Picadelly line for a fraction of the price.

I

 

Nitpicker here.

 

Strictly speaking that's not true. On the common section with the District Line, it's the District that does all stops and the Piccadilly runs express.

 

It's always fun seeing one underground train overtake another on this lengthy four-track line. It's four-track from Northfields all the way to the point where the District and Piccadilly part ways in central London.

 

...

 

The Piccadilly is also onbe of the last lines on the Underground that still uses proper old-school old fashioned trains that still sound and smell like proper Undergrounds. I don't know for how much longer though.

 

But of course if you're in a hurry, there's no beating the Heathrow Express.

 

The parallel operation of District and Piccadilly is between just west of Acton Town and Baron's Court, after which Piccadilly dives down underground, but still runs parallel upto South Kensington, Even in this section District has one extra stop.

 

Turnham Green is an odd one. During daytime Piccadilly does not stop there, but at night it does.

 

Long time ago District used to run to Northfields, and even all the way to Hounslow West, but that was discontinued quite a while back.

 

Piccadilly will probably not get new trains for another five years or so.

 

There is a slightly less expensive (than Heathrow Express), but faster than Piccadilly Line alternative in the Heathrow Connect Service, which is a stopping service from Heathrow to Paddington, and with the opening of the Elizabeth Line next year, all the way to Liverpool Street. Eventually there will be a fast service from Heathrow to Cambridge North via St. Pancras LL.But that is still a couple of years away.


Edited by jis, 13 December 2017 - 10:23 AM.


#34 willem

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 10:49 AM

Thanks to all. To channel Rumsfeld, it's interesting to move items from the "unknown unknowns" to the "known unknowns" category. For example, I didn't know that the Oyster card came in visitor and non-visitor editions.
 

In my experience, the main issue is finding a place to put your teeny-tiny U.S. SIM card where it won't get lost while you're on your trip.

 
I have run into the issue of storing a SIM before, so I believe I am prepared to deal with it. On the other hand, sometimes issues find ways around my preparations. If ever there will be a time for a SIM to wander off, it will be in another country.
 

The [Piccadilly] line is all stops. If you are likely to be tired on arrival, you may want to consider the Express from Heathrow. It is expensive, but I believe you can buy ahead on the internet for a better price. But if you are arriving in the morning and will have to wait until your hotel room is ready you may as well take the Picadelly line for a fraction of the price.

I have visited London four times and love it more each time. A few tips: travel light, most stations have lifts, but some do not. We found this when we needed to change to the Circle line at Paddington. That small section did not have a lift. The first time we lugged heavy bags up and down flights of stairs, the second time a helpful staff member pointed out that we could take the next train one stop in the opposite direction, just walk across the platform there and catch the next train back. It worked!

[...]
 
Be prepared to walk, if possible. Both sides of the Thames River have excellent walking paths along the banks. and you see so much more. Be aware tube stations may have more than just the London Underground lines and other lines may get you somewhere faster.
Ask staff.

Re Bath: we have driven there and parked in the visitor parking around the perimeter, at a cost! It is a compact place and from memory the train station is close to everything. I recommend the hop-on, hop-off bus to get around. You will see lots and get off at the places you want to visit. There was a long queue for the Baths, maybe plan to get there early. Well worth seeing.

 
My only concern about the Piccadilly Line is having the bags take up space on the car. Carrying the bags should not be a problem, and I'm hoping that by time we clear customs and orient ourselves after our 0800 arrival, rush hour will be over.
 
I didn't follow the description of taking a train one stop and then catching the next train back. Did the next train back take you to a different station? Is there a lift on one side and not the other?
 
We used to be walkers, and I'd like to think we still are. We do expect to walk unless it would take too much time.
 
In the evolution of the plans, the current thought is to take the train to Bath.
 

I forgot to mention the very useful www.seat61.com. Good for down to earth info and hints, also good prices for travel in Britain and Europe. I have asked questions there and received prompt answers.

I am pretty sure Vauxhall is in Zone 1, if this has not yet been covered.

Another thing about travel in Britain, France too - public toilets are pretty scarce. They are commonly to be found in cafes and restaurants, so take advantage of any you find. Sorry to be so basic, but I find it a really irritating feature.

 
I have read pages at Seat61, but never interacted further. Thanks for the info.
 
There is no need to apologize for providing basic information—especially about toilets. In foreign countries, I carry my own toilet paper and suggest others do the same. Happily for me, I had already begun this policy before I entered the public restroom in Rome where one is expected to tip the attendant in advance. I don't know if I didn't tip enough or if the locals had different digestive tracts, but the three squares of toilet paper that the attendant gave me would not have been enough.

 

Thanks again for all the guidance.

 



#35 DoB

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Posted 09 December 2017 - 09:37 PM

If I recall correctly, there is a charge for the Oyster card itself. DoB, could you or anyone else tell me if I can avoid that charge by using Apple Wallet and presumably not getting the physical Oyster card? Would this enable me to buy the virtual Oyster card before arriving in England?

 

I'm confused by the discussion of Visa and Mastercard. Is that for reloading the Oyster card? If so, is it automatic or manual? Is it necessary? I mean, could I use a Visa at a reloading station without using Wallet? (I have never used Wallet, so if I asked a silly question, that could be why.)

 

The charge for an Oyster card is only for the Oyster card. If you don't use an Oyster card - e.g., you use your phone instead - you avoid the charge entirely.

 

I have multiple credit cards loaded into my Android Pay wallet. When I tried to use a Visa at the fare gate, I got an error message. When I switched to a MasterCard, it worked fine.

 

This is unrelated to the question of which card you should use to fund an Oyster card (if you opt to use an Oyster card). At a staffed ticket window, any card should work. At a machine, you may or may not be able to use a card that doesn't have Chip-and-PIN, but MasterCard vs. Visa shouldn't make a difference. If one machine doesn't work, try a different one - although it's been many years since I've used an Oyster card, I vaguely recall that the larger vending machines rejected my U.S. credit card while the smaller ones accepted it. (Or maybe I got that backwards?)



#36 caravanman

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Posted 10 December 2017 - 06:11 AM

It seems that this thread is getting over complicated, at least to my poor brain... Getting difficult to pick out the pearls (of wisdom) among the Oysters.  :D

 

The Piccadilly line tube train cars have an area just to one side of the doors where suitcases can be placed. As the airport is at the start of the journey, you should not have problems with your cases. I try and grab the 1st seat next to that floor space to keep a hand on my items.

 

Ed.


Edited by caravanman, 10 December 2017 - 06:13 AM.


#37 cirdan

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Posted 11 December 2017 - 05:08 AM

I asked my sister, who lives in London, and she confirms that cash top ups for Oyster are still possible, and that it is also possible to pay with AMEX, including the US type cards



#38 jis

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Posted 11 December 2017 - 07:23 AM

I asked my sister, who lives in London, and she confirms that cash top ups for Oyster are still possible, and that it is also possible to pay with AMEX, including the US type cards

It better be, ‘cause I did so a couple of times just two weeks back! ;)


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#39 caravanman

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 03:12 AM

You may find the short walking distance map between some stations of use...

 

http://content.tfl.g...ng-tube-map.pdf

 

 

Ed



#40 willem

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 09:58 AM

Nice map. Thanks, Ed. I probably would not have found that map on my own.

 

I am perplexed by the representation of what (I assume) are the London Overground and DLR lines. The Key to lines legend indicates that a solid colored line on the map is used to represent each tube line (or route, to avoid using the term "line" for two purposes). At least two of the tube lines (or routes) are represented by double lines on the map, even though the legend has no double lines. Is the mayor of London trying to present some additional information that I am not understanding? (That's a rhetorical question, unless someone knows the answer.)

 

Thanks again.






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