Gatwick truth (updated)

Yesterday I made some journeys to and from Gatwick to check out various questions. I’ve updated the post above, but here are the main points:

  • Auto topup won’t work if you have between £10 and the entry threshold at either Gatwick Airport or the Express gateline (p13/14) at Victoria. The gate will refuse entry citing insufficient funds.
  • The entry threshold at Gatwick takes no account of whether you have reached (or might reach) the daily cap for Gatwick. You still need the full single fare to enter even if you won’t be charged anything for the journey.
  • Between 1600-1900 you need the peak single non-express fare to London even though if you go to London zone 1 you’ll be charged the off-peak fare.
  • If you do use the gates to p13/14 and travel on a Southern train you will be charged the correct fare to any station other than Gatwick, but there is no OSI so any tube or Southeastern journey will not get linked and you may be overcharged.

43 thoughts on “Gatwick truth (updated)”

  1. Hi Mike,

    I might go to Gatwick with the missus and take the train from East Croydon. I’m on annual Oyster zones 1-4 while my wife is on PAYG. It’s off-peak so am I better off buying a paper ticket using my Goldcard? My wife can benefit too as we’re travelling together, right?

  2. Thanks, Mike.

    I’ve consulted the BR fares website and I’m being quoted £2.95 (Thameslink) and £3.45 (Southern). On National Rail it’s £4.50/£5.20 (without Goldcard discount) but it also says “Oyster and contactless from £3.00” but doesn’t give any further explanation. Do you know what the actual Oyster cost would be, please?

    • Hi Jeff,

      Yes, use the Oyster Fare Finder which is linked at the top of most pages on this site.

  3. Thanks. Done that and it’s £3.00 off peak. As there’s no distinction between Thameslink and Southern, I’ll definitely go for this option!

    • Hi Jeff,

      If you’re only going one way then yes, use Oyster. If it’s a return then paper is cheaper.

  4. Hi Mike,

    I’m thinking of using my oyster from Gatwick airport to London St Pancras, on a thameslink train is this possible as PAYG? If it is then I’ll buy a paper ticket from three bridges to Gatwick airport. I’m just trying to save money as I’m in work three to four times a week rather than a monthly Travelcard from Three bridges to London St. Pancras.

    • Hi Lesley,

      I agree that a monthly season is possibly overkill if you only travel 3-4 days a week. A travelcard is also not required just to get from Three Bridges to St Pancras. I think your cheapest/simplest option is a paper Three Bridges to St Pancras Anytime Day Return route “Not Underground”. This is £25.70 and is cheaper than the peak single x2 for Gatwick to St Pancras on Oyster (£14 x2 = £28). If one of the two journeys can be made off-peak then a £3.30 return to Gatwick plus £14 and £8 saves you 40p, but you will have to get off at Gatwick each way to touch in/out. Off-peak for Oyster is touching in at the start of the journey outside of 0630-0930 and 1600-1900.

  5. I think I have got this right, but would appreciate confirmation. I hold a PAYG Oyster with a National Railcard discount.

    If I am doing a single journey on Sun from Gatwick to St Pancras, the best option is to tap in at Gatwick, then out at East Croydon, then back in at East Croydon ?

    Is there a minimum time I must leave before tapping back in at East Croydon ?

    • Hi Mike,

      Yes, that’s right. You need to go through the gates when touching out and back in again, so no need to wait.

  6. Hi Mike,
    your website is really helpful and brilliant. Many thanks for your effort. I also have a question, since I couldn’t figure out the best options as different web sites seem to contradict each other. Me and my wife are going to Gatwick Airport from New Barnet or High Barnet. I have an annual Oyster zones 1-5 (and a Goldcard) and my wife is on PAYG. We are travelling on a Monday noon, so off-peak. Could you please advice us, what’s best? I thought, going till East Croydon via Euston and Victoria and then change to Thameslink using the Oyster card. Tfl website says it is £ 3 for each of us from East Croydon to Gatwick Airport. Is this correct? Or do you think there are better options? And why are the two separate trips cheaper (High Barnet -> East Croydon £ 4.70 + £ 3 East Croydon -> Gatwick) compared to a single trip from High Barnet -> Gatwick Airport, which is £10.20 according to the TfL website? Many thanks, Christian

    • Hi Christian,

      Yes, the off-peak single for East Croydon to Gatwick on PAYG is £3.00, or £2.00 if you have the goldcard discount loaded on your Oyster card. And yes, your plan does look like the best way. The answer to why it’s cheaper to split must be sought from Govia Thameslink Railway as they dictate the fares to/from Gatwick.

      Also, a note for your return. You’ll need the single fare to London on your Oyster card to enter at Gatwick, even if you’re only going to Croydon. If you have a contactless card it may be less hassle to pay the £3 that way rather than putting £8 or £14 on the card and having to wait until the end of your season to claim it back.

  7. Hi Mike,

    Many thanks for your reply, you are doing a fantastic job here!
    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  8. Hi Mike,
    Your website is great!
    I wanna ask you about my off-peak return route Debden – Gatwick.
    My wife has PAYG Oyster and I have Oyster annual ticket for zone 1-6 (with Annual Gold card).
    What is the best option for us?
    I am considering to use this road to avoid zone 1: Debden – Stratford – Canada Water – Coulsdon South. This part for me is free and for my wife it should be £2.80.
    We have to check out our Oysters at Coulsdon South. Are there Yellow readers on the platforms?
    The second part Coulsdon South – Gatwick airport is with bought return tickets from NR.
    What is your opinion? Thank you for your tip!

    • Hi vorbis,

      I don’t know where the readers are at Couldson South, but the prices to Gatwick are the same as from East Croydon so I would change there. There are many more trains to choose from between East Croydon and Gatwick, and you may even get a discount if you are prepared to limit yourself to Thameslink trains. Your wife would need to touch out at East Croydon but you are ok.

  9. Thanks Mike,
    East Croydon is really better option! There many trains and the price is lower (!!!). This is a paradox of the UK train system. The distance between Gatwick-East Croydon (zone 4) is longer than Gatwick-Coulsdon South (zone 6), and theoretically it should be more expensive. But in fact it is cheaper.

  10. Hi,

    Could you clarify Gatwick and oyster. Can I use gatwick express with oyster or do I need a paper ticket. Is there any other option other than gatwick express.

    • Hi Charlie,

      Yes you can use Oyster on the Gatwick Express. You can also use the much cheaper Southern trains which generally only take 2-5 minutes longer to get to Victoria. You don’t need paper tickets for either, but in some instances paper can be cheaper.

  11. Hi,

    From Gatwick airport to Stepney Green underground station return trip for 2 travelers, which way is cheaper?

    • Hi Echo,

      You haven’t given me enough information to advise properly. Will travel be off-peak or peak? Is the return on the same day or later? Are any railcards held? Is any other travel being made on the same day/days?

  12. Hi Mike,

    Sorry missing message, as the system always kick me off when I write too long… Here are details

    We totally will have 2 trips, between Gatwick airport to Hotel (near underground station Mile End or Stepney Green)

    My husband arrive London first, his one person return trip is:
    May 13, Saturday, around 18:30 PM arrive Gatwick airport.
    May 14, Sunday, from our residence to arrive airport around 11:00 AM to pick me up.

    Me and my husband return trips for two persons are:
    May 14, Sunday, from Gatwick airport to Hotel, around 12:00PM
    May 22, Monday, from Hotel to Gatwick, We plan to leave hotel around 9:00 AM to catch international flight which leaving at 1:00PM.

  13. –We don’t have railcards.
    –I think my husband return trip between May 13 to May 14 is off-peak because it’s on weekend. And we two return trip to the airport on May 22 may be regarded as peak time.
    –All trips are not on the same day.
    –If we take train, it seems they only sale tickets from Gatwick to Victoria, so we need to add additional cost from Victoria to Stepney Green station.

    I don’t know if we can use Oyster card from Gatwick to Stepney Green station directly so the cost may be cheaper?

    • Hi Echo Jiang,

      The good news is that you can use Oyster for the whole journey. As most of the trips are single fares it will be cheaper than buying paper tickets. Your husband may be able to get a slightly cheaper return ticket on the Sunday, but as he’ll already be using Oyster it may be easier to use it all the time.

      Now the complicated bit. There are three ways to do this journey. The most expensive by a long way is to use the Gatwick Express to Victoria. If you want to go via Victoria then make sure that you use the Southern services that also call at East Croydon and Clapham Junction. They take about the same time as the express but cost less than half the price off-peak. You can also take a more direct route which will cost even less, but this may not be practical if you have heavy luggage. It involves changing at East Croydon, New Cross Gate and Whitechapel.

      On the Monday morning you will be charged a peak fare if you touch in before 0930. After that it will be off-peak. Mile End to Victoria then Victoria to Gatwick shouldn’t take more than 90 minutes.

  14. Thank you Mike, I get some ideas now!

    It seems my husband better buy rail return tickets for his first trip.( Because he can not get Oyster card at the Gatwick airport directly but need to underground station to buy? correct me if I am wrong)

    And you mentioned ” you want to go via Victoria then make sure that you use the Southern services that also call at East Croydon and Clapham Junction.” From Gatwick to Victoria, if I do not take Gatwick express, then the only other option is the southern service? So my understanding is that I just tell the kiosk to buy not the Gatwick express then they will release me the southern service?

    Do you know if we book return tickets on national rail website in advance, will it be cheaper than buy directly when arrive?

    And I get a bit confused when use ” journey planer” on the website. I get different rate when select different departure time from Gatwick on May 14(Sunday)
    1)around 12:00 Pm( this is free charge for the return ticket)
    2)around 19:00PM ( there are additional 12 pounds cost charged for the return)
    Is there different off peak policy for the train?

    My questions are a bit long^_^ hope my writing not confusing you!

    • Hi Echo,

      If you have a contactless bank card then you can use that instead of an Oyster. You can also buy Oyster cards at the concierge outlets in both terminals at Gatwick.

      If buying a paper ticket at Gatwick then you need to ask for a “Not Gatwick Express” ticket. I’d be inclined to get a day single and buy the Oyster card(s) in London before taking the tube to the hotel.

      You won’t save money buying these tickets in advance and I’d try to get the Oyster before asking for a ticket at all, or use contactless.

      The journey planner is probably offering journeys using Gatwick Express as well as normal Southern trains. There is no peak pricing on a Sunday, just the extortionate rip-off that is the ‘express’ which saves about 2 minutes if you’re lucky.

  15. Could you please tell me regarding PAYG caps if your journey were to start on a bus and then go onwards by train or underground.

    • Hi Len,

      Bus journeys also count towards any applicable rail cap so you’d have spent the first £1.50 towards it. Also note that if you have a railcard added then the daily bus cap is reduced to the railcard discounted zone 1-2 cap of £4.35.

  16. hello Mike,
    my husband and I will be in London for a couple of days in June. We need to get to Wembly one day and around town in general. we also need to travel to Coventry and back to Gatwick…what do you suggest for travel cards and methods? Thank you.

    • Hi Felicite,

      I need a bit more detail before I can advise properly. What days of the week is it? Where will you be based? Is the Coventry trip the only thing on day 2 before returning to the airport?

  17. Hi Mike.
    Thanks for your reply. We’re in London for a Friday and Saturday night, heading to Wembley on Saturday. We want to visit Coventry from Sunday to Friday then back to London where we need to get to Stansted to go on the next leg of our vacation.
    Any thoughts?

    • Hi Felicite,

      For Friday and Saturday use either Oyster or a contactless payment method. For Coventry you’ll need a paper off-peak return, but check your return time doesn’t fall foul of off-peak restrictions. Then use Oyster to cross London to Liverpool Street and a paper single to Stanstead Airport.

  18. On our last day in London we will take the bus to City Thameslink and the train to Gatwick (after 0930.) If we each have $10 left on our Oyster, will we be able to get on the train? Idea would be to have as little as possible left on the Oyster when we get the deposit refunded at Gatwick. Thanks.

    • Hi Bob,

      City Thameslink to Gatwick off-peak is £8.10, plus £1.50 for the bus means you will need £9.60 total.

  19. Hi Mike, great site you have here! Do you know if the minimum amount to have on my Oyster pay as you go, when travelling from Gatwick has increased? I’d quite like to make sure I have enough on my Oyster when returning to the UK so I do not have to stand in the long ticket machine lines. I will be travelling to Hither Green but do not know yet if it will be off peak or not. Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Mai,

      You’ll need £8.10 off-peak or £14.20 peak (0630-0930 and 1600-1900). If you start your journey in the afternoon peak and want to change trains at London Bridge then you will pay less by touching out and back in at the same gateline (the downstairs concourse will be best). You can also avoid zone 1 to pay less, but if you have luggage that might be more hassle than it’s worth.

  20. Hi Mike

    I am travelling from Mill Hill Broadway to Gatwick Airport, 4 of us included. 3 of us have paper tickets/annual season + Annual Gold/60+ Freedom Pass up to Zone 4. 1 of us have PAYG Card. What is the cheapest option?

    I have worked out 3 x tickets (return) from Blackfriars to Gatwick, and 1 x ticket (return) from Mill Hill to Gatwick with the annual gold discount. We won’t need to get off to tap in and out because it should cover the whole journey. Do let me know if that is correct.

    Thank you

    • Hi Hannah,

      I think it might be correct, although there might also be a cheaper way. Can you confirm exactly what each person has and what time the journey(s) will be. If one person holds a 60+ or a Freedom Pass then they are covered to zone 6. I also need to check the rules for using gold card discounts for different tickets. Please specify whether the annual season(s) are on paper or Oyster.

  21. Hi Mike

    1 person holds a Freedom Pass, and the annual season is on Oyster.

    Thank you

  22. Also forgot to mention, the journey times are:

    9 June at 2:15 pm Blackfriars to Gatwick (couple of hours!)
    17 June at 4:20am Gatwick to Blackfriars or Mill Hill Broadway.

    1 x person = Freedom Pass
    1 x person = Thameslink travelcard up to Farringdon
    1 x person = PAYG
    1 x person = Annual season on Oyster + Annual gold

    • Hi Hannah,

      Sadly my election duties mean that responses have been a bit delayed this week. If you bought singles yesterday then this is my advice for the return. The freedom pass holder only needs an anytime single to East Croydon route Thameslink only. The Farringdon season ticket holder needs a super off-peak single to Farringdon route not Underground. The person using PAYG will be better off using the same super off-peak single if travel is just to Blackfriars or Farringdon, but if Mill Hill Broadway then PAYG will be cheaper. The Annual season ticket holder will need a single to Norwood Junction. All the paper tickets should be discountable with the Gold Record Card.

      I hope that helps a bit.

  23. You write that auto topup won’t work if I have between £10 and the entry threshold on the Oyster Card at either Gatwick Airport or the Express gateline (p13/14) at Victoria. The gate will refuse entry citing insufficient funds. Does this problem also occur when collecting a top-up from an online order?

    • Hi Kem,

      No, that’s fine. That’s an instruction waiting at the gate which is processed as soon as you touch.

      The problem with auto topup is that the process goes like this:
      1) Check balance, is it below £10?
      2) If yes then add either £20 or £40.
      3) Check balance against entry threshold for that gate.
      4) If not enough then refuse entry.

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