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Can You Use an Oyster Card to Get to Gatwick?

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You can use an Oyster card on all three of the train lines that connect Gatwick Airport with central London: Gatwick Express, Southern and Thameslink. Read below to find out how much you'll pay and expected travel times on each. Plus find out when you shouldn't use an Oyster card to get to/from Gatwick.

Getting To and From Gatwick Airport Using an Oyster Card

In order to use an Oyster card to pay your fare on the Gatwick Express, Southern and Thameslink, you'll simply need to have enough pay as you go funds on your card (see below to find out how much they each cost) and to touch in and out at the yellow card readers at the stations. The best option for you will depend on price, travel times and where you're travelling to/from in central London.

How Much Does it Cost?

Pricing on the Thameslink and Southern lines is comparable—not surprising as they're both part of the National Rail. A single adult fare from Victoria or London Bridge to Gatwick costs £15.10 during peak times and £8.30 off peak. Peak travel for these companies is Monday to Friday from 0630 to 0930 and from 1600 to 1900.

The Gatwick Express is about 30% more expensive during peak times and a whopping 139% more expensive off peak. The Gatwick Express doesn't offer off-peak discounts so you always pay the same, regardless of the time of day. A single adult fare is £19.80 when using an Oyster card. Note: you'll pay 10% less buying a Gatwick Express ticket online, but you'll need to set up an account to do so.

Adult Fares: Central London to/from Gatwick AirportDestinationPeakOff Peak
Oyster Fares
Southern (National Rail)Victoria£15.10£8.30
Thameslink (National Rail)St Pancreas£17.50£10.90
Thameslink (National Rail)London Bridge Station£15.10£8.30
Gatwick ExpressVictoria£19.80£19.80
Car Fare Estimates
UberXVictoria£79£62
Black CabVictoria£145£152
Bus Fares
National Express BusVictoria£10£8
easyBusVictoria£10£9

Discounts on Transit to Gatwick

Meaningful discounts aren't available when paying for a Gatwick trip by Oyster card. Those looking for the cheapest fare might find a cheaper ticket for Southern or Thameslink direct from National Rail (e.g., group tickets or returns) or buying direct from Gatwick Express online (e.g., cheapest fares plus a 10% discount).

How Long Does it Take?

Expect train rides between central London and Gatwick to take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour or so, depending on the train company and your London stop. The quickest ride is usually on the Gatwick Express. As you can see in the table below, trains are usually much faster than taking a bus or car.

Train Ride Durations Between Central London and GatwickLondon StopApprox. Time
Train
Southern (National Rail)Victoria28m to 34m
Thameslink (National Rail)St Pancreas44m to 1h 6m
Thameslink (National Rail)London Bridge Station30m to 50m
Gatwick ExpressVictoria30m to 32m
Car
UberXVictoria55m to 1h 45m
Black CabVictoria55m to 1h 45m
Bus
National Express BusVictoria55m to 1h 45m
easyBusVictoria1h 50m

Where do Gatwick Trains Stop in London?

The Gatwick Express and Southern travel on the same tracks and terminate in London at Victoria Station. From Victoria you can take the Victoria, District and Circle lines to transit elsewhere in London.

The Thameslink takes a different route in and out of town, making stops in London between London Bridge and St Pancras and beyond. From London Bridge you can take the Northern and Jubilee lines; from St Pancras you can catch the Circle, Metropolitan, Piccadilly, Hammersmith & City, Northern and Victoria.

Trains To/From Gatwick AirportTermination Point in London
SouthernGreen LineVictoria Station
Gatwick ExpressWhite LineVictoria Station
ThameslinkPurple LineTravels through London, stopping at London Bridge, London Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon, St. Pancras, West Hampstead

You can see the routes (green for Southern to Victoria, white for Gatwick Express to Victoria and purple for Thameslink to London Bridge) in the embedded Google map below. Click on the blue "More options" link to go into the map to alternate between the different train options (Southern, Gatwick Express and Thameslink).

Once you're in the map, clicking on the blue "Schedule Explorer" lets you view the train options for the date and time of your choice, as you can see in the image below. This may be useful to help you decide which train to take.

image showing train schedule to Gatwick
The Google Maps Schedule Explorer tool can help you pick the best train to/from Gatwick

Tip to Transit Between Central London and Gatwick Airport

When you pay for your train fare using an Oyster card, you must touch your Oyster card on a yellow card reader at the start and end of your journey. If you fail to do so, you may be charged the maximum journey cost on that line. (In the same way, you can pay via contactless credit or debit card.)

Disadvantage of Using an Oyster Card

Those who are very budget conscious might secure a cheaper fare by not using their Oyster card. Depending on which train you take, using an Oyster Card may not be the cheapest form of payment.

For example, those taking the Gatwick Express will get a 10% discount and the cheapest fare when buying a ticket online. To buy online you'll need to open an account at Gatwick Express. If you'd rather not do that then paying by touching in and out with your Oyster card might be preferable. If price is your priority and you want to open an account and buy online, here's how you actually get your tickets:

  • Collected from a Gatwick Express or Southern station (ready 2 hours after you book)
  • Delivered to you as a pdf e-ticket (you either need to present the ticket image on your smartphone or print the pdf up until the day before your journey)

Also, those travelling in a group or family can secure discounts when buying online from Gatwick Express—there are no fare discounts available when using the Oyster card. An Oyster card, however, offers convenience (so long as you have enough pay as you go funds on your card).

Getting an Oyster Refund When You Depart from Gatwick

If you were just visiting the UK and no longer need your Oyster card, you can get a refund for any pay as you go credit (but not the deposit on Visitor Oyster cards). Refunds at Gatwick are only available at the rail ticket desk in the Onward Travel area in the South Terminal. If you don't have time to do this before your flight, those with a UK bank account can post your card to TfL or apply online for a refund.

If you don't have an Oyster card yet, read how in our article Where Can I Get an Oyster Card?

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Comments and Questions

The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.