Tuesday, August 5, 2008

DIY London: Oyster, Please!

We've always believed that you can't really experience a place unless you do what the locals do. This means walking the streets like the locals do, taking the subway, eating what they eat, & going to the places that they go to.

And this is why we really get a kick out of planning for our own DIY holiday trips everytime. We've done it before with Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, Kota Kinabalu, Perth, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Macau, & now, London & Paris. It does take a lot of time & effort to plan & research on our part, but in the end it's all worth the while.

Going at it on our own means going back to our hotel & waking up the next morning whenever we feel like it the next day, instead of getting a wake up call at 6am so that you don't miss the tour bus. It also means that we can pick the places that we want to go to, instead of being brought to the mandatory Chinese restaurants, souvenir shops & shopping malls.

Of course, a DIY trip would always come with it's adventures. We had a classic killer horror movie experience with one of the ryokans in Japan, got lost in Kyoto while lugging our luggage like crazy & walked till our backs broke, almost didn't have a place to stay for the night in Hong Kong, & then also in London, got on a wrong train to a scary & almost deserted God-knows-where train station in the suburbs of France. But we know that when we look back, it will always be something worth remembering.

The simple principle here is to really be able to navigate & survive ourselves if we're thrown back to those places again.

When we were in London, it was so easy to travel. If you are there for consecutive days, you can get what they call a Travelcard of one, three or seven days with unlimited travel in certain zones. We opted for the Oyster card because in between our London stays, we travelled to Paris & then back again.

The Oyster allows travel on DLR, overground, underground tubes trams and buses. In the tube, you swipe when you get in and out of the station and the prepaid Oyster cards will charged accordingly. For example, Fare for Zone 1 is £1.5 per trip. Peak hours are from 7 am to 7pm.

And the wonderful thing about Oyster is that there is a capping fee which means you will not spend more than a certain amount in a day. For Zone 1-2 travel, daily capping is £6.30 for peak and £4.80 for off peak, which is actually cheaper than a daily travelcard.

And with Oyster, all bus rides costs 90pence, no matter where & how far you're going. You swipe when you board the bus. Bus ride fees will also contribute towards the daily capping fee. But if you use buses only, the daily capping is at £3.

The Transport For London website is at http://tfl.gov.uk/

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