One of the new features of the beta Virgin Trains East Coast booking engine is the ability to purchase London Travelcard when your destination is London. If you're not familiar with public transport in London you might think this is a good idea and an useful convenience, but in reality you're being ripped off and also make things slower for others if using the station at peak times.
Rip-off for customers
The cheapest way to get around London on public transport is either to get an Oyster card or use one of your contactless credit or debit cards (all contactless cards are accepted, even American Express), this way you pay by journey and your daily spend is capped. The price cap varies by the number of zones you travel but is always lower than the equivalent paper travelcard. Here's the prices in 2017:
|Zones||Oyster/contactless daily cap||Off-peak Travelcard||Anytime Travelcard|
So if you're staying in Central London (zones 1 and 2) and use contactless or Oyster the most you'll pay in a day is £6.60, but if you buy a paper ticket the cheapest is a zone 1-4 Anytime Travelcard which is £12.30 meaning you're paying £5.70 too much. This will add up more if there's a number of you travelling.
If you don't have a contactless credit card then getting an Oyster card is straightforward, you can buy one at most tube stations (through the ticket machines). There is a £5 deposit, but you can refund this when you return the card (although it's worth keeping if you visit London again).
Please note: off-peak travelcards are eligible for railcard discounts, a zone 1-6 off peak Travelcard is £8.10 with the railcard discount. This means contactless is still cheaper as long as you remain within zones 1-3. The cheapest option still remains Oyster but you will need your railcard added to your Oyster card to get the discount, railcards can't be added to contactless cards.
Annoying for Londoners
When the tube is busy it can be annoying for Londoners when there's people using paper tickets trying to get through the barriers. In some circumstances paper tickets are unavoidable but in this case paper tickets are the worst option both financially and for convenience. Dealing with a paper ticket is slower and more halle than tapping a card on a reader. It may not sound much of a hassle but when you're used to the speed of using a card on the barriers you do notice it.