Let’s face it: understanding each city’s transportation system can be quite frustrating and overwhelming. This is why, when settling in Brighton, one of the things I wondered was whether I can use the good old Oyster Card I had from my previous trips in London. (and I know that many travellers to Brighton have thought the same.)
So, Can you use an Oyster Card in Brighton? An Oyster card will only take you approximately 26 miles into the 51 miles journey towards Brighton city, from London Victoria, but once you reach Gatwick, you will need to pay for the rest of your journey.
But no need to panic! In this article, we are going to break down some of the facts about the Oyster Card and how far it can get you, as well as examine the alternatives of moving around in Brighton and how to use the public transportation there. (if of course, my alternatives won’t convince you not to use the public transportation – but more about that later on)
So, let’s start by clarifying, What exactly is an Oyster Card and Where is it Valid?
An Oyster card is a prepaid smartcard issued by the Transport for London (TfL). As such, it can be used pretty much anywhere in London, including the London Underground (known as the tube), DLR, London Bus, London Tram services and finally National Rail within the London Fare Zones area.
This so-called London Fare Zones area includes the 1-6 London Zones, which form complete rings around it and the zones 7,8,9 outside the Greater London, which don’t. There are of course exceptions to the rule with 9 more spots outside the zones where Oyster is valid, including Gatwick Airport but unfortunately not our beloved, London-on-Sea-city, known as Brighton. This leads us unavoidably to the next question, whose answer you might already suspect.
Can I travel to Brighton using an Oyster Card?
As we established before, since Brighton doesn’t belong to the Oyster’s points of validity, one can approach it but not go from London direct to it by using an Oyster card. This can be a somehow baffling fact since, as it can be seen in the caption of the London Zone Fares map, there are in fact train lines from London to Brighton: The Gatwick Express, the Southern and Thameslink (the ones I have marked with red for you below). These are the train-names you’ll probably see when travelling from London to Brighton and vice versa.
This means that although you can use your Oyster card in the lines that go to Brighton, you can do so till the farthest Oyster spot, namely the Gatwick Airport, BUT (yes, you could see this “but” coming) not to Brighton itself.
So, I wouldn’t advise you to use your Oyster card for coming to Brighton, since even if you are on a direct train to Brighton (and you are a fan of following rules) you would have to disembark in Gatwick Airport and purchase a ticket to Brighton. Your best chance, in this case, is to book a ticket online at www.thetrainline.com a well-designed, easy to use page which, by the way, will present you the cheapest option for your chosen trip -if available-. (yes, I love it).
Can you use an Oyster Card from Brighton to London?
Well, as the GatwickExpress.com graphically demonstrates to us, no, you cannot use the Oyster card from Brighton to London since there are no Oyster Validators in the Brighton Railway Station.
So now it’s time to come to our main concern. If not-an-Oyster-Card (in Brighton), then-what?
How can I move around in Brighton?
Brighton does have all the main public means of transportation a city needs. But really, the main choice is basically between a bus or a train. There is a relatively wide range of buses in Brighton as well as 4 scattered train stations (Brighton Central Station, Preston park, London road, Brighton station and Moulsecoomb Station); but train lines are not of interest for us since Brighton’s main sights are located close to each other and around the Brighton Central Station. So, there is no other choice (as far means of public transportation is concerned) than that of a bus.
So How Does one get a Bus Ticket?
For old-fashioned practical folks, one can purchase a ticket on the bus by paying cash. Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that a single fare ticket costs £2.60 and you might end up paying a whole lot of single fare tickets and have your pockets full of ticket receipts (and nobody wants that). Furthermore, Tap on Tap off contactless payment became available by the Brighton and Hove bus company so recently as September 2019, simplifying the on-bus payment.
Last but not least there is the so-called B&H Buses app offering you a whole range of tickets and travelcards. Although one could feel at first, daunted by the variety of options, you’ll find yourself very quickly choosing a ticket due to the very friendly and easy to use app environment. I’d certainly recommend a CitySaver day ticket for £4.50 which will get you unlimited bus routes within a surprisingly large area, in which all the main sights are. For the night owls/ party animals who want to experience Brighton by night I should mention that this doesn’t include the night buses and if you absolutely need one the networkSaver for 24 hours for £5 might be the best option for you.
Now we’ve covered the subject and you are good to go, right?
Hell no! Because what people don’t tell you before travelling to Brighton is that it has a devilish amount of traffic and you will find yourself stuck for 30 minutes in the otherwise adorable double-decker buses for what would merely be a 10-minute walk.
So let’s take a look at:
The Bus Alternative for Day/weekend Tourists
- And because if you don’t blow your own trumpet, who else will do it for you, my last suggestion is a guided bike tour. From my experience of both being a tour guide and participating in guided tours, I can tell you that it is the perfect combination of getting a city’s insights and also the things considered as the touristic attractions -all in a nice neat package for you-. And mostly it saves you a lot of time of going around desperately, not finding what you want since it gives the first sense of orientation of the city.
The Bus Alternative for Commuters
- There is another thing that people don’t tell you before coming to Brighton and this time it is a positive one. Brighton is the UK’s “greenest city” meaning that the Green Party pulls a lot of strings here. This means that the city promotes a lot of environmentally friendly acts such as the Brighton and Hove’s Bike Share scheme. It launched in September 2017 and it basically provides you with 570 bikes from 66 hubs around the city (even in unexpected places) and gives you the option, after creating an account either on the site or the Social Bicycles mobile app, of taking a bike for a reasonable amount of money. The site has even an interactive map showing you the location of the hubs and the number of available bicycles in real-time. But more about that you can find in btnbikeshare.com and especially in this very enlightening video below.
Note: A third thing that people don’t tell you because you mainly learn it from physically experiencing it, is that Brighton can be quite hilly at places (Mainly in the residential areas). The main points of interest in Brighton like Brighton Pier, The Pavilion, The Lanes and the North Laine as well as the other shopping areas, like Churchhill Square and Western Road are all on pretty much flat ground and so are perfect for cycling and walking.
To Conclude: Yes, it is a pain trying to navigate in a completely new city especially in cases of combining more than one destination in a single trip and each time switching from one system to another – especially when those destinations are so close to each other -. In our case, our trusted, familiar Oyster card will get you some of the ways but not all the way to your destination, and also won’t help you with the local buses.
Plus, if somebody is ready to use there own two feet, Brighton offers a range of alternatives which will get you further than the usual means of public transportation would and give you a sense of independence you wouldn’t have differently.