Which London Oyster Card Is Best for Visitors?

We Take a Look at the Main Differences Between Oyster Cards

••• Oyster Card. Dave Povey/LOOP IMAGES/Getty Images

An Oyster card is a great option for visitors using the London tube, train and bus networks as you'll save money compared to buying paper tickets and Travelcards. 

A Visitor Oyster card is a good choice for someone visiting for a couple of days or someone who visits for the occasional day. You can buy a Visitor Oyster card before you leave home and have it delivered ahead of your trip. 

Both cards can be given to someone else to use.

Former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said that he wanted visitors to pass on their Oyster cards to friends and family so they became a reusable piece of the travel kit when visiting London.

Selecting Your Oyster Card

The Visitor Oyster card costs £3 and it can only be credited with a minimum of £10. It can be credited with more money when this runs out and you can get a refund from a Tube station if the balance is under £5. If the remaining balance is over £5 you have to fill in a form and get sent a cheque in the post. A Sterling cheque may incur bank charges in an overseas bank. You can order and pre-load your Visitor Oyster card online before you travel so when you arrive in London you're ready to go and you don't have to waste time purchasing a card at a tube station. 

A Pay As You Go Oyster card costs £5 but that deposit is easily refundable – well, you have to queue up at a tube station at the end of your stay but it is quick once you get to the front of the line.


The Pay As You Go Oyster card can be credited with any amount of money and can be charged with 7-day (or longer) travelcards if you're staying for at least a week in London. The Visitor Oyster card can only be topped up with monetary credit. It cannot be loaded with 7-day (or longer) travelcards. 

The Main Differences Between Visitor Oyster Cards and Oyster Cards

  • Visitor Oyster cards can be purchased online, topped up with credit and sent straight to your door ahead of a trip
  • Oyster cards need to be purchased in person at a station (tube, Overground and some national rail stations)
  • Both cards offer daily capping so you'll always pay significantly less than the cost of a 1-day Travelcard
  • The Visitor Oyster card offers discounts at select restaurants, theaters and shops. The Oyster card doesn't
  • You can claim any unused credit from both cards. You can get the cost of an Oyster card (£5) refunded if you hand it back in to a station but you can't get the price of a Visitor Oyster card (£3) back
  • You can load 7-day or monthly Travelcards onto an Oyster card. You can't do this with a Visitor Oyster card. It can only be topped up with credit