London and the wonders of cash-free buses

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London bus

Back in the 1950s, if you’d have climbed aboard a shiny red Routemaster bus with only a plastic card for payment, you would have been promptly shown the door and laughed off the vehicle. Today, if you get on a bus in London with nothing but a handful of change and the desire to go somewhere, the same is likely to happen – how far society has come.1950s, if you’d have climbed aboard a shiny red Routemaster bus with only a plastic card for payment, you would have been promptly shown the door and laughed off the vehicle. Today, if you get on a bus in London with nothing but a handful of change and the desire to go somewhere, the same is likely to happen – how far society has come.

If you are planning on visiting London soon, these are the little bits of information that can help make your trip go a little more smoothly. It will also help you avoid the scornful looks of reproach that you are likely to be offered by a bus driver should you ask something ludicrous like “how much is it to Notting Hill please?”

Gone are the days of using money aboard transport in London; open your arms and embrace the contactless age.

Getting the bus in London

London buses

In reality, the abolition of cash on buses in London has actually helped to speed the entire process up markedly and, in a city where public transport is a vital lifeline for many, this is certainly a good thing.

All it means for you as a tourist is that you must prepare for your journeys in advance, as you cannot simply get on an expect to pay with cash anymore. Luckily, there are plenty of easy ways still left to pay your fare; it’s almost as easy as getting the bus.

Oyster card

If you’ve never been to London, or haven’t been in the last ten years, chances are you’ll have no idea what an Oyster card is or what it does. Firstly, it’s not some kind of discount coupon that you can use at the fishmongers, it’s something much more useful than that.

The Oyster card can be used on all of London’s major transport links (London Underground, London Buses, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), London Overground and some other services) and works in a pay-as-you-go fashion. Once you purchase a card from your nearest station or corner shop, you simply top it up with an amount of cash which you can then use for your travel.

To use it, just hold the card to the specific pads that are located at the entrance to most Tube stations and the fare will automatically be deducted.

For buses, this little pad is blue and located at the front of the vehicle as you get on. All you need to do is hold the card onto the pad until you hear a beep and the light next to it flashes green. You do not have to tap the card when you leave the bus. London Buses have a set fare of £1.50 for all contactless payments which is the adult price for travel in the capital. Bus is by far the most economic way to travel in the city if you are visiting on a budget.

The best places to get an Oyster card are: Oyster online, Oyster Ticket stops, DLR stations (top-up only at most stations), Tube and London Overground stations, and Travel Information Centres in the city.

No credit? No worries!

If to your horror, you climb aboard one of London’s fine buses and find that you have spent all the money on your Oyster card, the good souls at Transport for London (TfL) will grant you a trip under the “one more bus journey to get you home” scheme. Your card will be charged £1.50 anyway and the card will go into a minus balance. The next time you top up, you’ll need to repay the free ride you got earlier before adding the amount you want.

Contactless credit and debit cards

If you are in possession of a contactless credit or debit card, you can forgo buying an Oyster card and just use this to get around London. It works in exactly the same way, only the money will be taken directly out of your account by TfL.

For cards issued by a bank outside of the UK, check that you can in fact use the card in this way once you leave your country.

Paper tickets

There is also the option to use paper tickets on London buses, with single ticket, day travelcards and one day bus and tram tickets all available. If you are planning to see a number of sights in one day, the best option is to purchase a day travelcard which come in two varieties: Anytime and Off-peak.

To see the major attractions it is likely you will need a travelcard for Zones 1-4, for which only the anytime option is available. Your Notting Hill hotel is on the boundary of zones one and two.

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