When a traveler is planning an overseas trip, there is as strong perception, often fostered by tourism websites and travel agents, that one should purchase special entry cards to facilitate local sightseeing, save money, and solve problems using public transport. One such offer Is the London Pass which is usually linked to a London transport travel card. These passes are heavily promoted, and offer free entrance to 55 attractions and free public transport for the number of days purchased. London Passes come in 1 day, three day and 6 day forms – the 6 day offering 7 days of public transport.
Value of the London Pass
Promoters list the following benefits:
Free entry to 55 famous London attractions
Substantial savings (the London Pass official website suggests up to 420 GBP) on entry fees
Free public transport
Free tube transport from Heathrow
No queuing to get tickets, thus saving time
Purchase in own currency before leaving home
Tourists will appreciate the sense of security of having it ‘all worked out’ before setting off and of dealing with familiar local travel agents. Those who don’t have a tight travel budget may find no reason to question the value-for money aspect of the purchase or to investigate alternatives.
London Pass Prices
Here are the prices of the London Pass at the time of publication (June 2010):
One Day 40 GBP
Three Day 68 GBP
Six Day 90 GBP
One Day with Travel Card 48 GBP
Three Day with Travel Card 90 GBP
Six Day with 7 Day Travel Card 137 GBP
London Passes May Not Represent Good Value for Money
The London Pass, especially tied to a public transport ticket, sounds as if it would be fantastic value and very useful. Who wouldn’t want to save 420 GBP on museum entrance fees and have the convenience of hopping on and off buses and tube trains without having to line up for tickets. There are, however, a few facts for the savvy traveler to consider.
Money Saved on London Pass Attractions Entry Fees
The visitor to London must think hard about how many of these attractions can realistically be visited over the duration of the stay. It is logical that several hours might be spent at each venue and then travel time must be added. As well, everyone has different tastes – an examination of the list of attractions offered will reveal many that may not appeal to a particular tourist. What of the queuing argument? Queues may be long in peak summer months and perhaps on some weekends, but many tourists will be visiting outside these times and can enjoy much speedier access.
What about Free London Attractions and London Sightseeing
These attractions on the London Pass list will surely vie for time with the many wonderful free London attractions. With only a day to spend in London (or even a week), the average tourist could sightsee the best of London and not spend a bean. The great museums and art galleries are totally free – The Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, The Imperial War Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the Tate Modern, to name just a few free attractions available. As well, the famous landmarks of London are situated close to tube stations that bear their names, so sightseers can easily reach places such as Covent Garden, Fleet Street, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, or Tower Hill. Gaze at Buckingham Palace, watch the changing of the guard, walk along the Thames Embankment; check out Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Cathedral from the street.
Doubtful Value of the London Travel Car
The Travel Card is outmoded; it was replaced by the Oyster Card as the card of choice for most Londoners. Both are readily available at stations throughout London and at numerous other venues. The Oyster Card can also be used on tube trains from Heathrow. The Travel Card is a fixed price according to the number of days required. The Oyster Card credit is easily topped up. It slices the price of bus and tube tickets and once the traveler chalks up the cost of a daily (or weekly) Travel Card, all subsequent travel is free. In other words, the Oyster Card can never cost more than a Travel Card. However, it can cost significantly less, because if used infrequently or not used for a day when the tourist chooses to tramp the streets, it costs nothing at all, while the Travel Card is pre-paid and wasted. For a complete cost comparison of the two cards, see the Suite101 article Oyster Card Versus Travel Card.
It is clear that budget conscious travelers need to look closely at how often they will use the London Pass and Travel Card and what advantage they will get from doing so. Buying an Oyster Card on the station on arrival, seeing the many free London attractions, and selecting judiciously from the attractions that have an entrance fee will undoubtedly save money.