City discount cards, are they too good to be true?

city discount cards

City Discount Cards

As we’ve traveled in Europe, we’ve found that most of the major cities will have some type of City Discount Card.

The London Pass, I Amsterdam City Card, the Berlin Pass, etc.

A lot of passes include public transport and more than once, we’ve found ourselves, tired from a long journey, standing at a ticket machine trying to decide whether we want the Pass or just a ticket to our hotel. So do yourself a favor and do a little research before you arrive to make the best decision and get the most for your money.

How to decide if a Pass is a good fit for you:

  1. Make a list of all your “must see” attractions in town.
  2. See which ones are included in the Pass.
  3. Determine if you can actually see all those things during the length of the pass.
  4. Add up the entry fees for your  included must-sees.
  5. If public transport is included in the pass, use the public transport website for your city to determine how much transport will run you for the same period of time. Add that amount to #3.
  6. If the total is more or pretty close to the price of the pass, give it a try.
  7. Try it and keep a record so you can see if you got a good deal.

Additional benefits to the Pass to keep in mind, in addition to saving money:

  • You’ll be able to use public transport anytime you want without a thought for cost. This includes no worries when you make a wrong choice and have to backtrack or u-turn. (We never do this 🙂
  • If you have extra time you can stop in to additional attractions.
  • If you don’t like an attraction, you don’t feel obligated to stay “because you paid”, you just leave and try something else.
  • You might discover something really cool you never would have directly paid money for.

Usually the longer you are in town, the better the deal.

When we’ve been in a city only one or two days, we’ve generally opted not to buy passes because we inevitably want to spend some time on attractions that are included and some on attractions that aren’t included and also free things like just walking around seeing the city. Usually it turns out to be either not a good deal or a wash.

However, if you either want to see a lot of paid attractions (and the Pass includes the ones you want to see) or you are in a place for more than a day or two it is likely to be a good deal.

Our experience: We are in London for a month and just finished up our 6-day London Pass. We figured we had plenty of time to see the things not on the Pass and we could dedicate 6 days to all the things we wanted to see that were.

We kept close track of where we went and what we would have paid without the Pass.

Here’s the outcome: The Passes cost us $234 each and we tallied $340 in entry fees. That means we saved over $100 each on attraction entries and that doesn’t even include all the public transport we used. We figure we probably each used at least $7 a day in transport, so add another $42. We figure between the two of us, we are up $300 on the deal.

These city discount cards definitely deserve a look, but don’t just assume they are a good deal.

It all depends on how much time you have and how you want to spend it.