Travelling in London with kids: Fares, Tickets and Advice

By Catherine Forrester

When planning a family trip to London...

…one of the things you’ll be thinking about is how are we going to get around London, and, how travelling in London with kids works.
You’re probably asking yourself what fares children need to pay on London´s public transport and you may even want to know how to use London´s public transport with a buggy.

Index

•  Children´s fares when travelling in London
• Travelling from the airport to central London
• Travelling in London with a buggy

Travelling in London with kids: Fares and transport passes

When travelling in London with kids it is important to know that children will pay different fares on London´s transport depending on their age. There are transport passes for children, and these transport passes will be valid for London´s underground network, buses, DLR, overground and trains within London travel zones.

Children under 11 years of age

Children under the age of 11 travel free on London´s buses and trams, with or without an adult, at any time, and don’t need a ticket.
Children under the age of 11 also travel free on London Underground, DLR (Docklands Light Railway), overground and TFL rail without a ticket if they’re accompanied by a paying adult. Up to 4 children can travel for free with an adult that has a valid ticket.
When entering the London underground with a children under the age of 11, it’s advisable to use the larger access doors. These doors are wider and don´t close as fast as the single doors and are designed for people travelling in London with kids, those with luggage or disabled passengers.

Children from 11 to 16 years of age

Children between the ages of 11 and 16 can travel at a reduced rate on London´s public transport, There are several options and to make it simple, we’re going to summarise these below.
Children from 11 to 16 years old can also travel with an adult Oyster card or travel card if necessary. But bear in mind, they’ll not benefit from reduced rates on travel.

Option 1: Oyster card with Young Visitor Discount

This is a great option if you’re planning on travelling in London with kids. An Oyster card with young visitor discount will apply half adult rates for 14 days. After 14 days this discount will expire, and the Oyster card will charge full adult rates again. The Oyster card can also be returned at the end of your trip, just like a normal oyster card.

All you need to do is buy an Oyster card or a Visitor Oyster card, either online or at an underground station, and then ask a member of staff to set the Young Visitor Discount. This discount can be applied at any underground station in London, including the underground station at Heathrow Airport. An adult will need to give their personal details to register the Oyster card before the discount can be applied, and you might be asked to confirm the child´s age.
You and your child will need to be together when asking for the Young Visitor Discount to be set onto an oyster card, and an adult can request the young visitor discount to be set for up to 4 children (on separate oyster cards).

Option 2: Zip Oyster Photocard

The Zip Oyster photocard will entitle children of up to 16 years of age to reduced fares on the underground and overground and other TFL services, as well as free travel on trams and buses. The Zip Oyster photocard is normally the best option for children that live in London, as the process to get an oyster photocard for a child can take some time and there’s an initial registration fee of up to £20 – so this is normally not the best option for visitors.

You can get a Zip Oyster photocard if you live in London, all you need to do is fill in a form that you will find at your local Post Office and return it to the Post Office. You will also need to include a passport sized photo and a copy of the birth certificate or passport and pay the fee. You should get the zip oyster photocard in 2 weeks.

If you’re a UK resident, you’ll need to do the process online on TFL’s website and you should get the Zip Oyster photocard within 4 weeks.

If you live outside the UK you will need to do the process online on TFL’s website. When applying, you’ll l need to choose which London Visitor Centre (Liverpool Street Station, Victoria Station, Euston, Gatwick, King’s Cross station) you want to collect the Zip Oyster photocard from, as it will not be sent to your home address. You’ll need to apply at least 3 weeks in advance but can also apply up to three months in advance.

Option 3: 1 Day Child Travelcard

A one-day child travelcard will allow unlimited travel at any time of the day on any form of public transport in London for the chosen London travel zones. No ID is needed to purchase this one-day child travelcard, but fares using an Oyster card with young visitor discount are normally cheaper. If you’re visiting London for several days and choose this option you’ll have to buy a one-day child travelcard for each day, and this will work out a lot more expensive than using an Oyster card with young visitor discount.

Option 4: 7 Day Child Travelcard

To buy a 7-day child travelcard in London there are 3 options: 1 – By adding a weekly travelcard into a zip oyster photocard. This is undoubtedly the most complicated option, as you need to request a zip card oyster photocard first and then add the 7-day travelcard onto it. 2 – Buy a 7-day child travelcard online. This is probably the easiest way of getting one, as you do not need a zip oyster photocard and they will send it to your home address before you travel. 3 – Buy a 7-day child travelcard at a national railway ticket office (not an underground station).

People 16 to 18 years old

People aged 16 to 18 can also apply for a 16 – 18 zip Oyster photocard, which will apply half adult rates on any form of public transport in London. Travelcards at a reduced price can also be added onto Zip Oyster photocards.
For more information about travelling in London with kids visit: Transport for London.

Travelling in London with kids: Travelling to Central London from the airport

Stansted, Luton and Gatwick airports are all located outside London’s Travel Zones, so fares when travelling with kids to and from these airports are different to fares when travelling in London with kids, so under 11-year old children will need a ticket.

An Oyster card is valid for travel into Central London from Gatwick Airport, but children under 11 will also need a train ticket to get to central London from Gatwick Airport, even if they are accompanied by an adult.

Heathrow and London City Airports are both inside London Travel Zones, so fares are as explained above. Children under 11 travel free and Children under 16 can travel with an Oyster card with young visitor discount.

Travelling in London with a buggy

If you are planning a trip with a baby or toddler, it may be that you wish to bring your buggy or stroller to London, especially if you’re planning on spending the whole day walking around London.

Travelling in London with a buggy can be quite easy if you know which route is best, or it can be a complete nightmare if you have to go up or down 300 steps when there are no lifts.

Don’t stress, we’re going to explain how to travel on London´s public transport with a buggy.

Travelling on London´s buses with a buggy

Public buses in London have a dedicated wheelchair and buggy space as well as easy street-level access. Travelling by bus with a buggy normally is the easiest option to get around London. You can enter the bus via the back door, which makes it a bit easier too. Up to two pushchairs are allowed in the dedicated buggy space on a bus but do bear in mind that during busy periods you may be asked to wait for the next bus or collapse your pushchair.

Travelling on the London Underground with a buggy

The trick to travelling in London with kids using a pushchair is to check London´s accessible underground map in advance and choose your route carefully. Being able to plan your route choosing accessible stations makes life much easier, and it may just mean that you need to get off at the next stop and walk 5 minutes, rather than having to take a buggy and a baby up 100 steps.

Unfortunately, not all underground stations in London are accessible. Most underground stations in London will have escalators, and many stations will also have some stairs at some point before reaching the platform. Many other stations have lifts to some of the platforms, and some stations are completely accessible, with lifts from the ticket office to the platform.

If you need help going up or down the stairs and you ask a member of staff for help, for health and safety reasons they will ask you to carry the baby and they will take the buggy for you.

London Underground Accessibility Maps

On the London Underground map, you will see that accessible underground stations are marked with the symbol of a wheelchair, in either a blue circle or a white circle.

• Blue circle: the underground station is fully accessible, which means that it is possible to go from street-level onto the underground carriage without any steps at all. In these cases, the platform will have an area that is slightly elevated to avoid any steps when getting onto the train.

• White circle: this means that there are no steps from street-level to platform, but there is some unevenness when getting onto the train. This is important for someone using a wheelchair, but it normally isn´t a problem when taking a buggy onto the train.

In addition to this map, there’s a Step Free Tube Map that is a lot more detailed and the one we’d recommend you check when travelling on the London Underground with a buggy. This map highlights the degree of accessibility at each station in detail and it also explains how accessible it is to change between underground lines at different stations.

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