There are a number of posts asking about the ‘2-4-1 OFFERS’ in London so thought to myself last night to create a post to explain and illustrate the so-called ‘PAPER TICKET’ the ‘OYSTERCARD’ and the ‘2-4-1 OFFERS’. 

2-4-1 OFFERS (when you go by train) 

In order to take advantage of the buy two attraction tickets for the price of one (2-4-1) offers available on , its necessary to have a PAPER train ticket. An Oyster card (see below) is NOT valid. See below, under 'paper ticket' on what sort of ticket you need. 

The train ticket must be valid on the day of visiting the attraction (unless you have tickets to and from London - see the next paragraph). For example, if you are visiting the Tower of London on a Tuesday then you need a train ticket valid on that Tuesday. This might be a ticket to London for Tuesday, or it could be a 7-day Travelcard which you perhaps bought on Thursday and would therefore be valid Thursday, Friday, Saturday Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

If you have train tickets both to and from London, then you can use 2-for-1 any time between the arrival date for the ticket to London and your departure date from London. For example, if you buy an Advance single from Bath Spa to London on the 1st of July  and hold another Advance Single valid for the 12th of July  from London to Edinburgh, then you would be eligible for the 2-4-1 discount on the dates 1st of July to 12th of July inclusive, using those two tickets. If you hold a Return ticket, you can use 2-4-1 any time within the validity of the ticket. For a Day Return that would be one day only. For other Return tickets, however, the validity would be 1 month from the date of arrival in London.

If you have a pair of train tickets like those above (one inbound, one outbound ) and wish to use them for 2-for-1, since most London stations have automatic ticket barriers which keep the inbound ticket when you arrive then do not go through the barriers. Ask the attendant to let you through, explaining the situation. This is only relevant for this type of rail ticket, e.g. one of a pair. It doesn't apply to a travelcard for use in London or to a single return rail ticket to London with travelcard included. In these latter cases the barrier always returns the ticket to you as otherwise you couldn't use it for future journeys.

There are no limits to the number of times you can use 2-for-1 with a rail ticket.


The safest  thing to do is to print the vouchers at home, before you travel, by filling in the form at You could also print the vouchers in an internet café in London, typically expect to pay around 10p-20p per page to print and £1 for an hour of usage, but it really is better to do this at home before you travel.

As an alternative, if you go to a mainline rail station, they might have a printed 2-4-1 Days Out Guide booklet available. This contains ~23 pages detailing the offers, and inside the back page it has 3 vouchers you can fill in by hand, with no printer needed.

The vouchers are like this and on the back are the Terms & Conditions.

This will show all travelers what could be on offer when they pick up a booklet from a station.


To use the offers in the booklet you WILL need a  ‘PAPER' TICKET BOUGHT FROM RAILWAY STATION, which brings the next point.


2-4-1 offers are always based on the adult price. In some cases children are free, or enter an attraction at less than half the adult price. In this case there is no point in using 2-4-1. In other cases, 2-4-1 may provide a saving. However do not assume that there is any saving - check the places you want to visit.

In particular, as children of different ages travel free on many forms of public transport, there's often no need for them to have a ticket, so you might be buying an unnecessary ticket for them in order to get a 2-4-1 discount that doesn't save any money! (However in some cases savings can be made.)

 Generally the savings are unsubstantial as Family discounts offered at the attractions are almost as good as the 2For1 offers or combo deals for 2 or more attractions for the family of 4 will work out the same as the 2For1 used at each attraction separately for eg Cutty Sark and Royal Observatory is the same on an online combo for family of 4 for £39 as using the 2For1 at each of these separately. Similarly Madame Tussauds and London Eye combo at £120 is only £17 more than using the 2For1 offers. See the workings made on this post.

Free travel ages are:

under 5 - free on all trains, buses, tube, trams

5-10 - free on tube, buses, trams, Overground but not most trains

11-15 - free on buses only (But only if the child has a Zip Oyster photocard which needs to be applied for in advance and costs £10)



‘PAPER’ TICKET (not Oyster card)

As explained, only paper rail tickets  are valid for 2-4-1 deals. Oyster cards are not valid.

Where to buy your ticket  

VERY IMPORTANT: The ticket that is valid for 2-4-1 must be purchased from a railway station and issued on 'National Rail' paper. Tickets purchased from a subway station, known locally as 'The Underground', or 'The Tube', are not valid. London Overground stations issue National Rail tickets and these are fine.

To provide extra confusion, certain railway stations are managed by London Underground and tickets purchased at these stations will not be valid either. The Heathrow rail stations are managed by Heathrow Express and tickets bought here are not valid. (Tickets purchased at Gatwick station, however, are just fine.)

A list of Rail Stations within London, with their managing companies is here. Any station listed there that is NOT managed by either Heathrow Express or London Underground or will work for buying tickets for 2-4-1.

Adding further confusion most major railway stations in London, for example, Paddington, Kings Cross, Victoria, Liverpool Street, will have a railway station at ground level and a tube station underneath. In these cases in order for your ticket to be valid for 2-4-1 you must buy it, from the railway station counters or machines, NOT the tube station.

Although central London has many Tube stations, it can be some distance between suitable rail stations. For example, if you are staying in the Earls Court area, the nearest suitable rail station would be Victoria, over 2 miles away.

This confusion of station types does not apply outside the greater London area, where all rail stations will issue tickets valid for 2-4-1.

Types of ticket 

Ticket from outside London 

The intention of the Days Out Guide offers is to get people to travel by train, and specifically on the National Rail network.

For UK residents perhaps visiting London for the day, this is no problem, they just buy a return ticket to London, and this would be valid.

For overseas visitors flying in and out of Gatwick and taking the train to London, a single ticket would give them 2-4-1 for the arrival date only. An Anytime Return provides little or no saving over 2 single tickets, but is valid for one month for both travel and 2-4-1. From other airports in the London area, including Stansted, Luton and others with rail service to London, an Anytime Return would also provide 2-4-1 access. The exceptions are Heathrow and London City airports, neither of which has a suitable rail station.


For tourists arriving at Heathrow, or travelling by taxi or coach to central London, the National Rail network is rarely useful: you could spend a week in central London and not have reason to use one of these trains, sticking to the Tube and buses.

That's not a problem however,  as a Travelcard used on the Tube and Buses, is also valid on the trains. Because it's valid on the National Rail network, it's accepted as a valid ticket for 2-4-1, no matter how you actually got to the attraction. Travelcard prices are the same whether purchased from an Underground station, a Rail Station, and whether purchased on paper or Oyster. (Obviously for 2-4-1 you need a paper RAIL ticket.)

7-day Travelcards 

For tourists spending more than five days in London, a 7-day travelcard is likely to provide savings.  (In prior years, the break point was about four days, but changes to ticket structure in 2015 mean that PAYG on Oyster is cheaper for visitors using transport in Central London).

As of 2015, a 7-day zone 1-2 travelcard  costs £32.10. By comparison, a single journey within central London on the tube costs £2.90, using a pay-as-you-go Oyster card, and a bus journey costs £1.50 using PAYG Oyster.  The bigger advantage, however, is that the 7-day travelcard (issued on paper, from a rail station) is valid for unlimited 2-4-1s for 7 days, and each 2-4-1 could save you £15 or £20, depending on the admission cost.

As mentioned above, in certain areas of London, finding a 2-4-1-eligible rail station is difficult, so holding a 7-day paper travelcard is convenient, as it saves first finding the right kind of station, and second buying tickets on each day you wish to use the 2-4-1.


1-day Travelcards 

If you are staying in central London for 1, 2 or 3 days, a 1-day off-peak travelcard, costing £12 per day may prove an economical choice, though the Oyster or Contactless "daily cap" is cheaper, £6.40. (These are 2015 prices).

Unfortunately in many areas of London there are no suitable rail stations, so buying the ticket can be a chore. Note that it is possible to buy a 1-day travelcard the day before from a rail station, so you could use a 1-day travelcard from a tube station on one day (and NOT do any 2-4-1 attractions that day - there are plenty in London that aren't), go into the rail station during the day, and buy a 1-day travelcard for the following day. Note also that the 7-day travelcard is valid all day

If you are staying in outer London, then off-peak day travelcards tend to be economical for slightly longer periods, when compared with a 7-day travelcard, perhaps up to 5 days, however if you have no rail station nearby you will need to plan in advance to work out which days you are going to use 2-4-1.

Decoy (throwaway) tickets 

Another route to get  2-4-1 is to buy the cheapest possible ticket to 'London'. The cheapest is currently 'Queenstown Road to Vauxhall', and the same fare can be obtained from Clapham Junction, Wandworth Town and Putney to Vauxhall. This ticket costs £2.30 single (£1.15 for children), and you can buy it from any National Rail station (you don't have to go anywhere near Queenstown Road or Vauxhall), however you would need to buy it from the ticket office as the ticket machine wouldn't sell you a ticket from another station. The cost for two such tickets would be £4.60, but the saving could £15 or more based on 2-4-1. 

If you have a group of 4 or more, using 2-4-1, including at least 3 adults, then Groupsave will reduce the cost of these tickets further. Using Groupsave you can obtain a 34% discount with three or more adults. Three adult sinlgles Queenstown Road - Vauxhall would cost £4.35 and four would cost £5.80.

You can also buy return tickets, that's Queenstown Road (or Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Town or Putney) to Vauxhall for your first day in London, and Vauxhall to Queenstown Road (or the other mentioned stations) for your last day. They will cover you for 2-4-1 for your entire stay in London. They are actually sold as two singles but they are still valid for 2-4-1.

Note that 2-4-1 will be valid with these tickets at all attractions for which a train journey into central London is appropriate. They won't be valid at attractions "behind" Queenstown Road, where you would need to travel in the opposite direction (e.g. Hampton Court, All England Tennis Club at Wimbledon and Kew Gardens). Another decoy rail ticket (or actual ticket for out of zone travel) would be needed for each of  those.

The cost of the single tickets will be much less than buying a second adult admission to the attraction, and you don't need to actually travel by rail.

Buying tickets 

Prices for travelcards, tube and bus journeys can be found: here

The paper ticket that is needed to take advantage of the above 2-4-1 OFFERS in the Days Out Guide  can be purchased in person from a  clerk OR at a ticket machine, which are all touch screen and look like this.  

The first screen is generally tailored with the most popular tickets purchase from that machine. But in the bottom right-hand corner you will see ‘TRAVELCARDS AND TICKETS TO UNDERGROUND ZONES’ press this and it will take you to the next screen where you will have a choice of travelcards. Most travelers opt for the ‘ZONE U12* LONDN’ which gives you unlimited bus, train and tube within Zones 1 & 2. Right column 2nd from the top. Nearly all tourist attractions are in Zones 1&2.

Make your choice and you will be taken to the next screen where you will have a choice of: 

  • OFF-PEAK TRAVELCARD (only available on weekends or after 09:30 on weekdays

From here just follow the prompts to make your payment.

You will receive 3 tickets:

  • 1 x receipt;
  • 1 x receipt 2;
  • 1 x actual travelcard which looks like this:

To purchase more than 1 ticket or travelcard in the same transaction you will see at the payment page/screen at the bottom right a yellow button to add more tickets to your basket. Press this and it will take you back to the beginning to make your 2nd purchase.

You will then make your way back to the payment screen where you will see the 'basket' button to the bottom left. Click on this and you will see that both tickets are now in here and ready for purchase.

To purchase a 3rd, 4th or more just repeat the process till you are ready to pay. 



 "Oyster" is a delivery medium, not a travel product.

You can have PAYG on Oyster, a bus pass on Oyster, a Travelcard on Oyster, etc., and often combinations. 


 VERY IMPORTANT: Just to repeat;  2-4-1 deals are not valid with an Oyster card.

The Oyster card is a very fast and efficient way to travel around London. With the touch-in, touch-out system it couldn’t be easier. Oyster card is just a way to hold either money (pay as you go = PAYG) or a travelcard, for example valid for a week. Or you can have both on one card. It might even work in your benefit to buy an Oyster card and put a small amount of PAYG money on it to cover your trips to and from Heathrow or other outlying areas, and then use a paper travelcard for a week or a day to use with your 2-4-1 deals. At the time of writing, there is a £5 deposit needed on Oyster card. You can get a refund of this, plus any unspent PAYG money, at your last station but try and keep the money under £10 when you ask for a refund, otherwise the clerk will refund you, not with cash but with a cheque which will probably cost you more to cash it outside of the UK than its worth. If seeking a refundless than a month after the card was issued, then £3 of the deposit will be retained (ie you'll only get £2 of the deposit back).

An example of using both will be;

Arrive at Heathrow. Buy Oyster card, put £10 PAYG on it. Travel to your hotel. Use Oyster card to travel to a railway station. Buy a weekly (or daily) paper travelcard, (probably for Zones 1-2 as that's where most attractions are), so that you are now eligible for the 2-4-1 offers.

Use the travelcard from now on but with maybe a few exceptions.  Perhaps one day, you go to Zone 4 - use your Oyster card for that rather than your zones1-2 travelcard. Your last day, return to Heathrow, use Oyster card for that.  Claim your refund for the unused PAYG money and the £5 deposit. (warning, reports are that the lines may be long for refunds)

You will see the yellow pad everywhere and this is what you touch with your oyster card whenever you enter/exit the station/bus.

Most Oyster cards can be topped up at stations/machines where Oyster cards are for sale otherwise at the ticket counter/clerk.

You will need to keep this topped up for your journeys. When entering/exiting a station/bus it will display your balance. Sometimes this will go into the negative which will be displayed in brackets (brackets) which you will then need to top up your Oyster. If you are too far into the negative the gates will not open and just beep at you or the bus driver will not let you on the bus.

Hopefully this will help somewhat and please feel free to copy and paste this link into other posts where necessary which may save many of those who live in London re-iterating the above.

Sorry about the lengthy post but hope it clears a few things up and makes thing easier to understand.