Should You Get a City Pass for Your Next Popular Destination?

By Abbi Browning

 IMAGE:  Alex Holyoake  via  Unsplash

IMAGE: Alex Holyoake via Unsplash

I stumbled across city passes when I was investigating for my Amsterdam trip and considering this the best way to save money abroad. After a few minutes of researching, the ‘I Amsterdam Card’ seemed an obvious choice to me, but then I discovered that you can buy an Amsterdam City Pass, Amsterdam Holland Pass and many others, which completely overwhelmed my options.

I know this is a problem in many cities, so thought I could help shed light on the different passes available on your holiday.

For those who don’t know, many cities offer a pass to get discounts on their most popular attractions. In fact, most notable hotspots now offer these, including 15 American states, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Prague, Stockholm, London and Budapest. The majority will offer free or heavily discounted attractions (based around museums and culture), walking tours, sightseeing bus rides and free public transport.

When considering if you should buy a card or not, the most important thing to judge is whether you’re interested in typical tourist sites, or if you’d prefer exploring without the walking tours. If you don’t want to be among crowds of tourists and prefer rural areas, I’d say these passes aren’t useful for you. If you’d use the public transport and have interests in art and culture, however, these would cater for your needs much more.

City passes tend to be packaged for different time slots, depending on the length of your stay. Most will offer 24, 48, 72 or 96 hour passes and are reasonably priced, if you plan on using their recommendations. For example, I’d worked out the I Amsterdam Card costs $70-$110 dollars depending on the length of the stay, but the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House (two of the most popular tourist stops) cost $52 on their own, without considering travel to and from.

The other factor that needs considering is the type of pass you’d want. Passes can be museum specific, an unlimited travel option, or with other specific add-ons, so it’s important to think of just what you’d use yours for. Amsterdam even has a nightlife card and a canal cruise card, so there is bound to be one that’d suit your vacation style.

Typically, if you would visit five of the offered places on the pass, they’d show value for the money. For example, if visiting Paris, you could see the Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre Museum, Arc de Triomphe, Picasso Museum and Panthéon to name a few, showing there are plenty of stops to help get your money’s worth.

In terms of my own search, I had fast discovered the I Amsterdam Card was the best all-rounder, with 1,703,105 passes being sold and a 93.4% recommendation rate. Generally, it appears that you can quite clearly see which are more valuable by looking at their own site . After looking at eight cities’ options, I’d noticed that the more expensive ones actually rarely offered more sites (sometimes even less) and generally appeared much less professional.

For instance, The Paris Pass costs €131 for a two-day adult pass with fast track entry for a lot of the included locations. However, the 'Paris VIP Pass Silver with Summit Access' – offered by FastPassTours.com  – costs €155 for a two-day adult pass, but only offers access to 63 museums with Priority Access. It didn't list the precise offerings. 

These cards can provide some heavy discounts if used often, being most useful for the site-seeking traveller. I’d definitely recommend searching through your options if you intend on visiting a city for its attractions, to see which you could fit in to your time slot.

Have you purchased a city pass? What were your thoughts? Leave a comment below!


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