To buy or not to buy (a London Pass)? That is the question…
…well it’s a question I have been fielding on the front line for several years. I’ve worked in the main London tourist office selling the pass and at a few attractions which accept the pass. So I’ve seen both sides of the equation and helped hundreds of people decide if it’s the right product for them. I’d like to share my insights with you now to help you weigh up the pros and cons of the London Pass card.
What exactly is the London Pass?
Put simply it is a pre-paid plastic card for entrance to tourist attractions and discounts. You pay in advance for the card and then use it to enter any of the attractions that are included.
It can be purchased to use for a duration of 1,2,3, 6 or 10 days depending on the amount of time you have to sightsee.
Will I save time and money?
This promise is plastered all over their marketing materials but the true answer is… it depends!?!
You will save time at some attractions by skipping the line (or queue if you’re British). At a lot of places you will avoid the line for a ticket but may still have to wait to enter or get past security, a good example being the Tower of London, but it does speed up your visit. Somewhere like Westminster Abbey however has a lengthy line and you will have to join it even if you have the London Pass, no skipping!
You can save money too if you plan your time well. A lot of places included in the pass will have a last admission time of around 4 or 5pm depending on the time of the year so you will need to get out there in the morning to get maximum value.
With a pass of 3 or more days if you visit 3 attractions a day you should save money on the combined entry fees. With a 1 or 2 day pass you would need to visit 4+ places to make it really worth buying the London Pass.
So should I buy one?
Think about the places you really want to visit or see in London. There’s a truckload of great museums and galleries that are totally FREE to enter. Then there’s other stuff that you want to see but may only stare at from the outside or can’t actually pay to ‘visit’ like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square etc.
Don’t buy a pass and then run about visiting places you are not really bothered about visiting just to get value out of it.
Do plan what you want to visit in advance and then check if the pass includes these places. If there are enough of them per day to make it value for money then get a London Pass!
CHARLIE’S TOP TIP: Plan to visit places that are close to each other. You will waste lots of time traveling across the city and it always takes way longer than you think. You might then be able to add a bonus attraction each day to get better value!
Should I buy an Oyster Card too?
When buying the pass online you have the option to add an Oyster Card to your order. This is a separate pre-paid card for use across the public transport network in London and has nothing to do with seafood.
It’s well worth having one when visiting London and works out way cheaper than paying per journey in cash. So I’d recommend buying it with the pass if you are ordering online and getting it posted to you.
If you’re buying the pass in London you can buy an Oyster card at any London Underground (Tube) station for exactly the same price.
Are there any restrictions?
Something a lot of people don’t realise is that days of use are automatically consecutive so once the pass is activated it will only be valid for the next ‘x’ amount of days. So if you buy a 6 day pass you will need to use it 6 days in a row and cannot split the use to say 3 days and 3 days.
This is really important if you are visiting London around Christmas time as most attractions are closed on 24th, 25th and 26th of December.
It’s equally important to know that a ‘day’ in London Pass terms is 1 calendar day and not 24 hours. This matters because if you use the pass for the first time at 4pm this counts as your first day so it’s a waste of a days pass use. I’ve dealt with some very upset people that used the pass in a gift shop at 7pm on the first day of their trip to get a 10% discount and only realised 4 days later that it counted as a days use! Not great value.
Each time you use it it will be scanned to enter an attraction. The passes do have a cash value but this is way above the amount you will pay for it hence the money saving element.
However, if you do hammer the pass by running around visiting everything that’s included, there’s a chance you will run out of credit or be left with a random £7 on the card which isn’t enough to enter most places.
I have only seen this happen a few times but the amount deducted at each attraction is usually the maximum adult/child price. So be aware and you can always ask the person scanning it to tell you how much is left on the card as it will show up on the scanner and plan accordingly.
It’s also a 1 shot deal! There’s no re-admission to attractions so it’s just 1 visit to each place. Not really a major catch but a lot of people seem to think a 6 day pass gets them 6 days of river travel, not true. The City Cruises Sightseeing boat trip counts as an attraction (not part of the travelcard) so you get just 1 ticket of 24 hour validity per pass regardless of how many days your London Pass is valid for.
Should I order a London Pass in advance?
Yes. But only if you have enough time to get it shipped to you.
If you have to collect it at the redemption desk in London then don’t! You’ll spend half a day looking for the place to collect your pass and then have to wait in line when you find it. There’s only one place for London Pass order collection but it is sold at several outlets across the city at the full price.
UPDATE 2016: London Pass now offer a ‘mobile’ version. You can download their app for iOS and Android and have this scanned at the attractions. This negates the need for a physical plastic pass and saves you a lot of the collection hassle issues. Click here for more details.
If you’ve found this article useful and are going to buy one (card or mobile app) please use this link to pre order your London Pass or the banner below. This helps us out with the site running and you get the pass from the official site at no extra costs.
Can I get a discount on a London Pass?
Occasionally there are discounts and promo codes (up to 20% off!) for the London Pass that we have exclusive access to as British travel bloggers. Drop your details in the box below and I will include these in our FREE monthly travel tips newsletter.[mc4wp_form]
I hope that helps you out. If you have any questions drop them in the comments below…