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jul 16 2010

Decoding the "London Pass"

(Alex Robinson)

London's most famous museums and art galleries are free. So you'll pay no entry fee to see Rembrandt and Da Vinci in the National Gallery, the Elgin marbles and Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, and to experience new Brit art at the Tate. But the city's other key attractions are pricey. The London Pass offers discounted access to 56 of them. Yet is the pass worth its $280 price?


The pass is a plastic card with a microchip. You pay a one-off fee for the card, which functions like an electronic voucher, entitling once-only entry at a list of major sights, such as the Tower of London, the London River Cruise, Windsor Castle, Hampton Court, and the London Bridge Experience.

Passes range from one day to six days. A one-day pass costs $61 for adults (or $73 with travel on the subway, buses, and some trains and boats) and $41 for kids (or $44 with travel). A six day pass costs $136 for adults ($207 with transport) or $97 for kids ($130 with transport).

Should you buy the pass?

It depends. If you are an adult under-60 (senior citizens receive discounted access in the U.K. regardless), and you plan on visiting a bunch of the more expensive sights then yes. You'll save money on entrance fees too. But only if you move quickly. We worked out that you would need to visit at least three attractions per day to make the pass pay. This is doable. But it'll be a run-a-round. And it will be very difficult to visit three attractions per day if you include a sight lying outside the city (like Windsor Castle) on your itinerary.

The pass also lets you jump lines and gives you discounts on food in locations like the restaurant at the Tower of London. You'll appreciate this in high season when visitor numbers are heavy.

Unfortunately, plenty of sights are not on the London Pass, including some of the city's biggest draws, such as the London Eye and Madame Tussauds waxworks. So you'll have to pay extra if you want to visit these.

And what about the travel deal?

The "Pass with Travel" is only worth it if you plan to stay in outer London because it covers all six of London's "transport zones." But as most travelers seldom venture beyond the center, they are unlikely to need to travel beyond "zone two." You'll get better value from an Oyster swipe card or a one-day travel card, both for sale at subway (Tube) stations. Learn more at the Transport for London site.

MORE

How can you save money on London's subways and buses?

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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