Is it too hard for a visitor to buy an Oyster card when arriving London for the first time?

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miklcct

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I was shocked that we can't even buy an Oyster card at a main entry port to London (Clapham Junction), that I need to exit the station first, walk to the street, and find a convenience store to buy it. The machines in the station do not sell Oyster card, neither does the ticket office.

It seems that it's a huge inconvenience to visitors visiting London by train. I know that London Underground machines sell them, but Clapham Junction isn't connected to the underground.

Clapham Junction is the most used railway station in the whole of Great Britain, but it doesn't even sell an Oyster card! Imagine if someone visiting London enters it using a small station not connected to the underground and need to connect to a bus for the final destination, then he's doomed, as London Buses don't even accept cash.

Why doesn't the machines in the Oyster area sell Oyster cards?
 
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ainsworth74

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How many people don't have a contactless bank card these days? Because I'd think most visitors would just use one of them...
 

Journeyman

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How many people don't have a contactless bank card these days? Because I'd think most visitors would just use one of them...
Americans might run into trouble, because their banking system is ridiculously prehistoric, but I can't imagine it's an issue for anyone else.
 

bb21

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The number of visitors who:
  • require an Oyster card as opposed to Contactless, and
  • cannot plan in advance of travel to obtain a Visitor Oyster, and
  • first arrive at a location where none of the following is available/nearby/open:
    • TfL Visitor Centre;
    • Oyster shop;
    • London Underground station;
is incredibly small. TfL cannot cater for every single person's need.
 

CyrusWuff

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Clapham Junction is the most used railway station in the whole of Great Britain, but it doesn't even sell an Oyster card!
Not even close. Clapham Junction was 16th in 2019-20, and beaten by most London terminals (except Cannon Street, Fenchurch Street and Marylebone), Birmingham New Street, Stratford, Glasgow Central, Manchester Piccadilly, Leeds and Highbury & Islington.
 

Journeyman

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Not even close. Clapham Junction was 16th in 2019-20, and beaten by most London terminals (except Cannon Street, Fenchurch Street and Marylebone), Birmingham New Street, Stratford, Glasgow Central, Manchester Piccadilly, Leeds and Highbury & Islington.
Depends how you measure it - it's the busiest in terms of number of trains serving it.
 

boiledbeans2

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Depends how you measure it - it's the busiest in terms of number of trains serving it.

It seems in the past year or so, they removed a big sign on Clapham Junction's platform - "Britain's busiest station" or something like that. Not sure why though.

Anyway, to respond to the OP. I think pre-Covid it was fine. The first time I visited London 3 years ago, I bought an Oyster card at a TfL visitor centre. They gave a free TfL card holder along with the Oyster card. I think most of the visitor centres are now closed because of Covid.

Most importantly, the Oyster card can be bought at Heathrow as well as Gatwick.

As mentioned by the other posters, Clapham isn't a first port of call. If they are coming via Clapham on NR and wish to travel around London, they would most likely have a day travelcard paper ticket so would have no use for Oyster.
 

miklcct

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How many people don't have a contactless bank card these days? Because I'd think most visitors would just use one of them...
Contactless bank cards have only become popular in these few years only. People who have earlier bank cards may not have contactless on it.

As mentioned by the other posters, Clapham isn't a first port of call. If they are coming via Clapham on NR and wish to travel around London, they would most likely have a day travelcard paper ticket so would have no use for Oyster.

Most likely having a day travelcard paper ticket? I've heard that travelcard price is more expensive than Oyster caps so I avoided one right from the beginning.
 
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plugwash

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Separate travelcards are more expensive than oyster capping, but outboundry travelcards are often competitive compared to the cost of a seperate rail ticket and daily cap.
 

miklcct

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How many international visitors will use Clapham Junction as their first station? I think you're trolling again.

I didn't specify international. People living in other parts of the UK do visit London.

Separate travelcards are more expensive than oyster capping, but outboundry travelcards are often competitive compared to the cost of a seperate rail ticket and daily cap.
It isn't compatible with advanced fares though. Also it won't work on an overnight trip as well.
 

096igb

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The National Rail and Tube Map indicates that only National Rail and London Overground use Clapham Junction.

On that basis, why should a TOC ticket vending machine sell a competitor product?

I am sure that visitors, regardless of their origin, can plan ahead and purchase an Oyster card online. Maybe their TOC's smartcard can provide the capability they require or a paper ticket.

I was planning on visiting London this year but won't now until next year but my Oyster card is happy waiting at home. It was delivered by mail. I'll add my Railcard when I get to my nearest station that can

If you were using the London Overground, I am sure the ticket vending machine would sell a single ticket until you could buy an Oyster card if you didn't want to use Contactless.
 
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skyhigh

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I didn't specify international. People living in other parts of the UK do visit London.
How many visitors to London from inside the UK use Clapham Junction as their first station then?
 

py_megapixel

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How many visitors to London from inside the UK use Clapham Junction as their first station then?
I'd imagine very few, because if they are on a London-bound train through CLJ then it's also heading to a London terminus (i.e. Waterloo or Victoria), and both Waterloo and Victoria are far more convenient for continuing one's journey to whatever part of central London.
 

miklcct

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I'd imagine very few, because if they are on a London-bound train through CLJ then it's also heading to a London terminus (i.e. Waterloo or Victoria), and both Waterloo and Victoria are far more convenient for continuing one's journey to whatever part of central London.
This now makes me wonder. My first place of visiting London was Tooting Commons in zone 3 and that would be pointless to enter central London. I was expecting most visitors who intend to visit the outer regions of London getting off the train before it arrives a London terminal so there should be significant visitor traffic to warrant Oyster sale.

I'll be surprised if the number of first-time visitors to London, who lives in the UK and visit the outer zones before entering the city centre, is so small.
 

30907

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Contactless bank cards have only become popular in these few years only. People who have earlier bank cards may not have contactless on it.
All the cards I have expire in 3-4 years from issue, and contactless has been around for considerably longer than that.
This now makes me wonder. My first place of visiting London was Tooting Commons in zone 3 and that would be pointless to enter central London.
Agreed. But most people heading into the London suburbs would book through to destination anyway. It will be a very small subset who
(1) don't book through
(2) change onto another NR service within the Zones
(3) intend immediately to do multiple journeys within London
(4) need to use Oyster rather than contactless - eg Railcard holders
(5) are hugely inconvenienced by having to walk to a convenience store round the corner.

You could raise the matter with TfL, of course.
 

miklcct

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All the cards I have expire in 3-4 years from issue, and contactless has been around for considerably longer than that.
The credit cards I have are all valid for 5 years, and some debit cards are valid for 10 years.

Agreed. But most people heading into the London suburbs would book through to destination anyway. It will be a very small subset who
(1) don't book through
(2) change onto another NR service within the Zones
(3) intend immediately to do multiple journeys within London
(4) need to use Oyster rather than contactless - eg Railcard holders
(5) are hugely inconvenienced by having to walk to a convenience store round the corner.

You could raise the matter with TfL, of course.
So is my use case (having to transfer to a London Bus to the suburb) very rare? And is there a convenience store which sells Oyster near every station in the zones if there are no TfL stations nearby? A visitor will be doomed if his intention is to use a London Bus to visit the suburb but he has no contactless and nowhere to buy an Oyster near his entry station into London, especially if he is transferring at a smaller zone 4/5/6 station instead of somewhere as busy as Clapham Junction where I can expect a convenience store on a street.
 

JamesT

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The credit cards I have are all valid for 5 years, and some debit cards are valid for 10 years.

The banks in this country started replacing cards with contactless by default when they expired in 2013/2014. By this point, you would have had to deliberately refused a contactless card not to have one.
TfL introduced contactless payments in 2014, at which point it was reckoned half of Londoners already had one.

So is my use case (having to transfer to a London Bus to the suburb) very rare? And is there a convenience store which sells Oyster near every station in the zones if there are no TfL stations nearby? A visitor will be doomed if his intention is to use a London Bus to visit the suburb but he has no contactless and nowhere to buy an Oyster near his entry station into London, especially if he is transferring at a smaller zone 4/5/6 station instead of somewhere as busy as Clapham Junction where I can expect a convenience store on a street.

Assuming we’re talking overseas visitors, they can buy a Visitor Oyster online and have it delivered to their address before they set off. If you’re planning activities like buses to the suburbs (which don’t sound particularly touristy), presumably you’ll have done at least that much research in advance.
 

yorkie

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The credit cards I have are all valid for 5 years....
Contactless has been mainstream for a lot longer than that

and some debit cards are valid for 10 years.
This must be incredibly rare.

A visitor will be doomed if his intention is to use a London Bus to visit the suburb but he has no contactless and nowhere to buy an Oyster near his entry station into London...
They could buy a Travelcard.

I suspect most people not using PAYG who would be connecting onto buses at Clapham Jn would already be in possession of a Travelcard.
 

island

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Clapham Junction is not “a main entry port to London”.

Contactless cards have been around for 14 years; the amount of people with a non-contactless card is vanishingly small.

There are four Oyster Ticket Stops within a 5 minute walk of the southern entrance to Clapham Junction and two for the northern entrance.

This is the very definition of a non-problem.

Depends how you measure it - it's the busiest in terms of number of trains serving it.
I believe it’s also busiest in terms of number of passenger changes.
 

Ianno87

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I don’t know anyone in this country who doesn’t have a contactless bank card.

My Mum doesn't, but she uses alternatives.like Samsung Pay.

The other obvious example are the homeless, or other very low income people.

.

This is the very definition of a non-problem.

Or complaining a situation isn't perfect, when there is no real justifiable need for it to be.
 

Watershed

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I do think it's a reasonable point in a way - public transport in London is heavily geared towards Oyster and contactless, but not everyone will necessary have the latter, and it's not possible to get an Oyster card at every station.

In those circumstances it does seem a little unfair to charge extra for the luxury of using paper tickets. I think that a condition of allowing cheaper paper tickets to be scrapped should have been that Oyster cards must be sold at all stations.
 

swt_passenger

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I was shocked that we can't even buy an Oyster card at a main entry port to London (Clapham Junction), that I need to exit the station first, walk to the street, and find a convenience store to buy it. The machines in the station do not sell Oyster card, neither does the ticket office.
Sorry, but assuming “busy” at Clapham Jn means its some sort of gateway for first time visitors to London is just being ridiculous.
 

eoff

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I'm pretty sure I purchased my Oyster card at Heathrow.

First problem, T5 'underground' did not sell them but let me travel free on the service to T123 stop.
The next station said they could not sell the card and put a Railcard discount on it. But they could fix this if I filled in the form as that would tie the card to me, which I did. This was quite some time ago, before contactless.
I did not get the visitor card as that had a non-refundable charge.
 

Ianno87

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I'm pretty sure I purchased my Oyster card at Heathrow.

First problem, T5 'underground' did not sell them but let me travel free on the service to T123 stop.

T5 station is combined and managed by Heathrow Express. Though I'm fairly sure there is a TfL Visitor Centre type place in T5 arrivals (though probably easy to walk past without spotting it)
 

Djgr

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I think a more interesting exercise is trying to come up with scenarios where Clapham Junction is ever the entry point to London. (I know Balham is the Gateway to the South)
 
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