Oyster Oddities: How To Travel Through Zone 1 At No Extra Cost

Geoff Marshall
By Geoff Marshall Last edited 18 months ago

Looks like this article is a bit old. Be aware that information may have changed since it was published.

Oyster Oddities: How To Travel Through Zone 1 At No Extra Cost

It's possible to travel between Clapham Junction and Highbury & Islington in two different directions: go clockwise through Willesden Junction, a route entirely in zone 2; or travel anti-clockwise up through Canada Water, a journey which is mostly in zone 2, but briefly dips into zone 1 when passing through Shoreditch High Street.

So... hang on. When you exit at Highbury, how does the Oyster system know which way round you've gone? Which journey fare does it deduct: all zone 2, or zones 1+2?

A friendly email (or three, it took them a while to understand our question properly) to Transport for London prompted a reply that might surprise you.

TfL is kind enough to assume that you have been the 'zone 2 only' way round. So whichever way you go, you'll be charged just £1.50 (off-peak) instead of the £2.10 you'd expect to pay for travelling through zone 1. Bizarrely, this means that it's cheaper to travel through the 17 stations from Clapham Junction to Highbury, than it is to make the five-stop journey from Shoreditch to Highbury along the same tracks.

This got us wondering... are there any other anomalies like this, with the Oyster and zonal fair system?

It also made us consider whether this is the furthest you can travel in London, on the lowest fare. Any off-peak journey that doesn't enter zone 1 stays at just £1.50 — if you travel from a zone 2 station to zone 6, it's that same 'flat fare' — it goes up to £1.60 if you venture into any zone beyond 6 from zone 3 (a zone 2 to 7, 8 or 9 becomes £2.70 for some reason).

We've worked out the best (and worst) value tube and bus fares on the network here. Let us know if you've found any other Oyster oddities in the comments.

Last Updated 29 November 2016

Michael M

yet another question to ponder. if you were to make the journey on the central line from Epping to west Ruislip (zone 6-6) but changing at stratford for the overground (and maybe Willesden Junction) and then Shepherds bush back to the central line. ultimately avoiding zone 1, would you get charged as if you went through zone 1?


You can do Clapham Junction to Barking, at 11.9 miles, for £1.50 if you take an "avoiding zone 1" route (e.g. change at Whitechapel, or go the long way round entirely on the Overground via Gospel Oak.)

Paul Corfield

There are loads and loads of "cheap" fares if you use the pink route validators. Beckton to Richmond, for example, is £1.50 off peak if you touch on the route validator at Stratford. Ditto Upminster to Richmond if you zap at Stratford or at Gospel Oak (change at Barking). Going north - south the default off peak PAYG fare (no need to find a route validator) for South Kenton - Peckham Rye is £1.50 (assumes travelling via West London Line and Clapham Junction). Upminster to West Croydon also has a default off peak fare of £1.50 (changing at Whitechapel or West Ham / Canada Water).

All this info is on the TfL Fares Finder.

Geoff Marshall

Hang on.. i think i just found a '30 miler' !

Heathrow to Upminster. As long as you change at Acton Town, Rayners Lane, West Hampstead, Gospel Oak, Barking you'd get to Upminster never having been into Zone 1.

i bet this also takes longer than 2 hours, which is pass the 'valid' time limit that you have on an Oyster Card journey. Who wants to try it?!?


erm....168 bus, 292, 148 cover about 10 miles each and cost less than 1.50


also, a great anaomoly is getting the train and transferring. when i tap in at borehamwood (z6), i tap out at west hampstesd tlink, tap back in at west htd tube before completing my journey at Westminster- at £6.90 cost.

however, if you top up your oyster card before transferring, or wait 15 mins, it treats the 2 legs as separate journeys, saving about £3 a journey- 0r £6 a day.

Joe Lynch

In terms of track distance I think that Earl's Court to Uxbridge on the Piccadilly line is the winner for a continuous single journey, although it's a close call between that, Richmond to Stratford and Epping to Bethnal Green. It's certainly between those 3 though.

Jamie Drew

I did this literally just last night, from Clapham Junction to Highbury & Islington, and when this article arrived on my twitter feed I was Googling this very question! SYNCHRONICITY.


I actually have the opposite to a money saving experience. A trip from Hayes & Harlington to Clapham North can be fully within Zones 5 to 2. The journey is below, but the Oyster system charges £2.10 for the privilege. TfL say "The journey between Hayes and Harlington and Clapham North stations has one default fare set for the route. Therefore if you make this journey with a Travelcard an extension fare is applicable."

TOUCH IN: Hayes & Harlington to Ealing Broadway (Zone 5 to 3)
TOUCH OUT: Shepherds Bush Overground (Zone 2)
TOUCH IN: Shepherds Bush Underground (Zone 2)
TOUCH OUT: Balham Station (Zone 3)
TOUCH IN: Balham Underground (Zone 3)
TOUCH OUT: Clapham North (Zone 2)

By over charging for this legitimate route is a con. But it seems my complaints go no further than a CSR.

martin stein

my mates used to travel from Walthamstow Central to Wembley (Victoria line via Euston and then Metropolitan) and Oyster would count it as changing at Highbury for overground to West Hampstead. Cheaper and about 30 mins quicker! :D


it didn't work that way few years ago, which was a buzzard for me. I have talked to the staff at London Bridge station previously, but none could offer me any solution and so I simply don't think it that way at all. I used to travel from Shepherd Bush (Overground) to Clapham Junction to catch the train from London Victoria to London Bridge via Crystal Palace, and get off at Brockley with my Z1-2 Travel Card on Oyster, and they charged extra a few time, claiming that I have passed though Z3, so they may sometimes do realise it!

Mark Speight

Okay, its not zone 1 but I regularly travel to see my friend in Amersham from Walthamstow. 3.70! What a bargain. One side of London to the other.

Holly D

I attached my young persons railcard to my oyster so every off peak journey I make is max £1.40 to zone 1 ;)

Miss Tash

In late 2011, I used to commute from Bermondsey to Uxbridge, i.e. zone 2 to 6, but travelled via zone 1 on the Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines. I didn't bother with a Travelcard as sometimes worked from home or in central London. I paid 4.50 each way in peak times. However, if I started or ended the journey at London Bridge (Jubilee), I only paid 2.70 each way. I was told that if I didn't take the quickest route, I wouldn't be charged the premium to travel through zone 1 and would only be charged a zone 2-6 fare. After 4 months of fares of 9 pounds per day, I moved to West London and straddle zones 2-3!

Gina Ribena

I travel from Hainault to Island Gardens via Bank in Zone 1. But I am charged as if I have travelled via Stratford - therefore only £1.50.

Tyrone Shoelaces

I have nothing to add except that it's nice to see the small town in which I was brought up, Hatch End, getting some kudos beyond being the birthplace of the late Richard Wright and the abode of Barry Cryer.


Please any1 wi a bit of advice?? I travel from archway (zone 2) to Northolt (zone 5) for work everyday but in order to do this I have to take the Northern line to Tottenham Court Road (zone 1) to get the central line to Northolt. A 7 day travelcard from zone 2 to zone 5 costs £30 whereas a 7 day travelcard from zone 1 to zone 5 costs £51.80. Would I be able to travel on the zone 2-5 travel card on this journey even though I pass through zone 1? is there anyway I can be caught out? Any help please as my travel costs will be nearly halfed


I love this website!


Hi anyone! Mine is a travelcard 2-3. I usually buy the 1-3 but i thought to try this as part of an attempt to save money.

After work I tapped in: Canary Wharf (Zone 2)
Tapped out at Highbury & Islington (Zone 2)
Was disappointed to find I was charged £2.20!!
I asked one of the TFL workers and he said it was because I went past Shoreditch High Street (Zone 1) on the overground. I told him 'yes I went past Shoreditch on the train, but never left the train or even set foot on that station'. His response was it doesn't matter it works like the congestion charge. I must say this bizarre! Any comments would be appreciated as I feel I have been conned £2.20. I only left tapped at Highbury for a burger.

Ben @ TDF

Is there a more complicated charging system on this fair earth?

naveen gupta

I travel from hounslow central(Z4) to canary wharf(Z1) but my journey passes through the Z1 although I dont touch the card in Zone 1.
I would need the monthly pass for Z1-Z4 or Z2-Z4?


Hello, I travel everyday almost on the central line from Hanger Lane to stratford they are both zone 3 and I don't change trains or enter zone 1 I simply just go through it underground... I still pay 27 pounds for weekly Oyster card zones 1-3 is it possible to get a zone 3 only Oyster card weekly for 17 pounds rather than paying an extra 10 pounds every week for no reason... ? This is on a 18+ Oyster card by the way


i live in westferry zone 2 which is east london and I recently got a new job in chiswick park which is zone 3 in west london. if this is true I could travel via zone 1 to work and back and only pay for the zone 2-3 travelcard right? I went to ticket office and they said no it will charge me zone 1 too. can anyone confirm this?

robert hingston

We should pay where we Touch in! and where we Touch out! so if you go from zone 4 to zone 2 via zone 1 should not matter.. this is a scam by TFL


I have a question, i do regular travel from manorpark to brentwood (just by tfl-train) sometime it charge me £4.00 and sometime just £2.70. What is the explication? thanks!


I am not sure how correct this is as there are pink card readers at Stratford and Highbury & Islington to calculate that you are taking the correct route. I have been charged an extension fare this month when travelling from Canary Wharf, I forgot to touch the oyster on the pink reader at Stratford.

Silver Scroll

I know this is an old article, but I just discovered a much more blatant exploit that should be possible, and I'd be interested if anyone can confirm this, for both alternatives. It also involves travelling to Highbury & Islington from Clapham Junction. First of all, the TfL single fare finder says the default fare is £1.70 peak/£1.50 off-peak, which is entirely correct for using the Overground ring. But now consider the following:

Travel to West Brompton with Overground or Southern
Travel to Victoria with District Line
Travel to Highbury & Islington with Victoria Line

Since there are (as far as I know) NO ticket gates on that route, for all intents and purposes that route should be charged with the same default fare, despite going through zone 1 and being faster than going around.

The other possiblity I found is even more interesting:

Travel to Clapham High Street with Overground
OSI to Clapham North
Travel to Stockwell with Northern Line
Travel to Highbury & Islington with Victoria Line

This should be a zone 1-2 journey on the TfL-LU fare scale - but the single fare finder lists NR1-T fares (for taking Southern or SWT to Victoria or Vauxhall) as the only alternatives to the default. Since this route involves an Out of Station Interchange, this is not a sneaky trick like the above - the system should know what you are doing. The question is - does it? The fare it should charge does not show up in the single fare finder, and Clapham High Street/Clapham North (rightly) doesn't show up in the stations that trigger the higher fare when changed at in the single fare finder.

So, what does it do? Does it charge the default fare? Does it charge a fare that doesn't show up in the single fare finder, but would be logically correct? Or does it simply give up and charge a penalty for going beyond what it can understand (hopefully not!)? I'd be really interested if anyone could test this.


Hello, i am new in london and i need a good advice to get a better price weekley fare. I live in lewisham ( hitter green station) and i have to get in harrow on the hill. I was thinking to get z2 to 4 and use busses too, but i don t know how to avoid passing thru z1, i need some help, give me some good options pls.

Steven Tukel

Another way to travel through the heart of London without being charged for it is if you travel between certain stations outside zone 1 that are both oveground and underground stops. For example, if you go from Highbury & Islington to West Brompton, the system doesn't know which way you went; on the overground, which doesn't enter zone 1, or on the tube, which takes you through the centre of London. According to Tfl's single fare finder, the system will actually assume you took the overground, even though the tube is faster. Thus, you can travel through King's Cross, Oxford Circus, and Victoria and only pay the zone 2 fare of £1.50. It may not be the longest journey you can take for this price, but it is certainly very cool to travel through the heart of the city for only £1.50.

Michael Lumsdon

Barnes to Whitechapel, changing at Vauxhall to the tube, is cheaper than Vauxhall to Whitechapel.

Jon Gibson

This is an old thread

Jaime A Balladares Hernández

Unfortunately, this information was correct, but now the system changed. I used to travel between zones 4 to 2 in off peak times, and I was charged of 1.5, however, now the system take 2.3. I asked to TFL, but they said that these fares always have been the same ones (but of course, not).

Juan Garcia

Maybe 4 years ago this was correct, not anymore though

Fuego Dios

strangely enough, traveling from Willesden Junction to Shadwell via Highbury and Islington actually charges the full zone1+2 fare of £3.30. It is strange how they allow the clapham junction journey to highbury cost less.

edward fotherby

I'll be renting a flat in Raynes park. Every so often I want to visit family in Wheathampstead / St Albans. Just wondering the cheapest fares from - Raynes park or Wimbledon or Wimbledon Chase to st albans abbey or st albans city or welwyn garden city or Hertford. Out of curiosity between zones is it better to walk between zone's, combination of buses, tubes, overground, walking, British rail, trams. Using the contactless where possible and non- contactless. Whether how much saving it is and whether it worth the saving - in time to avoid zone 1or using different transport. What is the time difference and cost. - Whether 1 understand my question out of curiosity. Thank you


I travel from Zone 4(Woolwich Arsenal) to Zone 2 (Westbourne Park) but pass through Zone 1(Baker Street) where I change to the Hammersmith and city line without touching my oyster. Will I still buy a zone 1?


Is there a planner tool available to plan your journey avoiding Zone1?