London Drum

London Child Bus Fares: Free Travel, Kids Passes & Oyster Cards

London bus fares for child 2024
Fare zone Cash Oyster cards Travelcard (Bus & Tram only)
Single fare Single fare Daily cap One day travelcard Weekly travelcard Monthly travelcard Annual travelcard
Children aged under-11
All zones free
Children aged 11-15 with a child’s 11-15 Zip Oyster photocard
All zones n/a free n/a n/a n/a n/a
Children aged 11-15 with a Young Visitor Discount applied to their Oyster card
All zones n/a Half of the adult bus fare n/a n/a n/a n/a
Children aged 16-17 with a child’s 16+ Zip Oyster photocard, who live in London
All zones n/a free n/a n/a n/a n/a
Children aged 16-17 with a child’s 16+ Zip Oyster photocard, who live outside London
All zones n/a £0.85 £2.55 n/a £12.30 £47.30 £492
Children aged 11-17 without any kind of child discount or Zip photocard
All zones n/a Same as the adult bus fare
Note: Child bus prices are correct as of

Do children pay on a London bus?

Children aged under-11 – Children under the age of 11 can travel for free on London buses. There are no time restrictions, they don’t require a photocard, and they don’t need to be accompanied by an adult either. But bear in mind that a member of staff might still ask for proof of age if your child looks over 11.

Note: If your child wants to travel unaccompanied on the train for free then they will need a 5-10 Zip Oyster photocard – see our child train fares page for details.

Do children get cheap fares on a bus?

Children aged between 11-15 – Children between 11-years-old and 15-years-old can travel for free on the bus if they have an 11-15 Zip Oyster photocard. They can also benefit from a cheaper child rate if the Young Visitor Discount has been applied to their Oyster card.

We always recommend sticking with the Young Visitor Discount over a Zip photocard if you’re only here on holiday. That’s because the photocard costs money, which will wipe out the savings you’d make during your stay.

Children aged between 16-17 – Children aged 16 or 17-years-old who live in London can get free travel on a London bus with a 16+ Zip Oyster photocard. If they live outside London then they can get a discounted rate on single fares and weekly, monthly and annual travelcards (but not one day travelcards).

What is the Young Visitor Discount?

The Young Visitor Discount gives children aged 11-15 50% off adult Oyster fares for a maximum of 14 days. (Note: This only applies to Oyster fares, not London travelcards.)

Oyster card and Visitor Oyster card
Oyster card and Visitor Oyster card

All you have to do is buy your child a regular London Oyster card or Visitor Oyster card (but not a travelcard), load some credit on to it (the Visitor Oyster cards already come with some credit loaded on), and then ask a member of TFL staff to apply the Young Visitor Discount to it.

You can do this at a London Underground station, a National Rail station (within London) or one of the Visitor Centres at Heathrow airport, Euston station, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, Paddington, Piccadilly Circus or Victoria.

Note: It’s not possible do this on a bus, so don’t try asking the driver. And you can’t do it online in advance either – it can only be done once you arrive in London.

All you have to do is go up to a member of TFL staff in a train station ticket hall (you can usually find them standing behind the ticket barriers), or at a desk in a Visitor Centre, and hand over the Oyster card. Each adult can only do it for a maximum of four children, and the children need to be present so the member of staff can check their age (they might ask for proof of age if they look older than 15).

Once they’ve applied the Young Visitor Discount to the Oyster card then your kid can carry on using it like normal, touching it against the yellow Oyster readers on the bus, and the computer will know to deduct the child price.

As soon as the fourteen days are over any remaining credit will still be on the card, but the computer will revert back to charging adult fares again.

Can children use cash on a London bus?

No. It’s not possible to use cash on a London bus.

Can a child use a contactless card on a London bus?

A child can use a contactless card on a London bus, but they won’t get a child price. That’s because there are no contactless bus fares for children.

The chips on bank cards don’t carry any details about your age so if a child tries to use one then it will just charge an adult bus fare instead.

What is a Zip Oyster photocard?

Zip Oyster photocards
Zip Oyster photocards for children

A Zip Oyster photocard gives children free or discounted travel on London’s buses and trains.

11-15 Zip Oyster photocard11-15 Zip Oyster photocards cost £15 and give children aged over 10 years 11 months and under 16 on the 31st August free bus travel on the bus.

If your child is aged 16 now, but was 15 on the 31st August just gone, then they can still apply for a child photocard because it doesn’t actually expire until the 30th September in the year following your kid’s 16th birthday.

16+ Zip Oyster photocard – 16-17 year-olds who live in London can get free bus travel with a 16+ Zip Oyster photocard. If they live outside London then they can get cheaper singles fares and cheaper weekly, monthly and annual travelcards.

16+ Zip Oyster photocards cost £20 and expire on the 30th September in the year following your child’s 18th birthday.

Where can you get a Zip Oyster photocard?

The only way to get a Zip Oyster photocard is for the child’s parent or guardian to order it online through the TFL website. The adult will have to set up an account in their own name first, and have a digital photo of their child ready to upload.

They will also have to verify the child’s age using the details printed on a machine-readable passport. It also gives you the option of printing off a verification letter and doing it in person at a Post Office.

The photocard can then either be picked up from a Visitor Centre when you arrive in London, or posted to a UK address. It’s not possible to post it overseas. You should allow for at least four weeks delivery time (although it usually arrives in one).

How do you top-up a Zip Oyster photocard?

To top-up a Zip Oyster photocard the parent or guardian must log in to their own online account (which they would have set up when they ordered it).

After you’ve linked your child’s photocard to the adult account you can take advantage of the ‘auto top-up’ feature. Just select ‘Add an existing card’ and enter the 12-digit number that’s printed on the back of the kid’s photocard. You can then select an amount of money between £20 or £40, which will automatically be drawn from your bank account every time the child’s credit drops below £20.

Note: If your child is less than 11-years-old then there’s no need to load any credit onto it, because they can already travel for free on London transport.

Are Zip Oyster photocards worth it?

We don’t recommend child photocards for tourists because the cost of buying it will probably wipe out all the savings you’ll make on child fares. You’re much better off just getting your kid a regular Oyster card and applying the Young Visitor Discount to it.

Can children use a passport as proof-of-age?

Faced with the extra expense of buying a photocard, lots of tourists wonder whether they can just show their child’s passport as proof of age instead. Unfortunately this doesn’t work. The only way for children to get cheaper fares is by using an official Zip Oyster photocard.

How do you use Zip Oyster photocards on the bus?

Oyster card reader on a London bus
Touch the Zip Oyster photocard against the round yellow reader

Zip Oyster photocards work in exactly the same way as regular Oyster cards. All your child has to do is touch them against the yellow reader at the front of the bus.

They have to do this every time they board the bus, regardless of whether they’re travelling for free or paying a discounted child rate.

There’s no need to touch it down again when they leave the bus (you only have to do that for trains).

Your comments and questions

Mook Need a single bus journey from Piccadilly to Charing Cross travelling with two 15 year old girls - I have a contactless bank card and I don't have enough time to get them a photocard so how can I do it?

Staff Hi Mook. If you want to pay the discounted fare for a 15-year old then you can't really, because they need a photocard. You can't pay by cash these days, and you can't pay three fares by tapping down three times with just one contactless card either. You'll have to buy them a travelcard or an Oyster card before you get on the bus from an Oyster Ticket Stop (ie. a newsagent). Personally I would just walk it, because it's not very far. You can just cut through Leicester Square and go across Trafalgar Square to Charing Cross

Keith Martin If the 11 to 15 year old is accompanied by an adult do they need the ZIp Oyster card

Staff Hi Keith, they do. Otherwise they’ll have to pay a normal adult fare

Brooklyn I’ve got a 16+ zip card that says half rates so how much is it for one tap in on a London red bus ?

Staff Hi Brooklyn. It’s 75p at the moment (the fares are shown in the table above, under ‘Aged 16-17 with a 16+ Zip Oyster photocard’

Mich Is it free travel for a 16 year old on the red bus with a 16+ oyster zip card?

Staff Hi Mich. They can travel for free if they live in a London borough. If they live outside London then they’ll get a discounted fare instead.

Sue from Norfolk We are travelling to London on Monday with our two grandchildren 12years old and 15 years old. Can we use our debit contactless card for ourselves and our credit contactless card for the grandchildren?

Staff Hi Sue. If you want to pay a contactless fare then each individual needs their own card. So if you only have two cards you can only pay two contactless fares (but you can still use them to buy paper tickets at the machine - but then you'll be paying a cash fare)

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