London City Passes | Which Tourist Pass is Best?
This post compares the London Pass, the Explorer Pass and other tourist discount passes in London. Learn how a tourist discount pass could save you money on attractions, tours and more.
- Before You Buy
- London Pass (All-Inclusive)
- Choose 3, 4, 5,7 or 10 Attraction
- Prepackaged Passes
- Bus Combo Passes
- Other Discount Passes
BEFORE YOU BUY
There are several different passes to choose from, and we have broken them down by type.
The London Pass is an all-inclusive pass that allows you to enjoy as many attractions, tours, and experiences as you can within a set number of days for one set price (think of an all-you-can-eat buffet).
All-inclusive pass is the most expensive type, but you could potentially save the most amount of money with the right pre-planning.
Alternatively, there are passes that allow you to choose a set # of attractions and tours.
These passes are usually offered in increments of 3, 4, 5, 7 or more attractions and you choose which attractions you want from a long list of top attractions.
These are a bit cheaper and more flexible than all-inclusive passes but your savings potential is lower.
Another option is prepackaged passes which are like a prix-fixe/set-menu. If you like the attractions included on the ‘menu’, then these passes are a nice, uncomplicated way to save money.
There are bus tour companies that offer their own combo deals.
Lastly, London has many discount cards and passes for one or two specific activities.
If at first glance the tourist passes seem too pricey, be sure to calculate the estimated cost of visiting all the attractions you hope to see. When properly planned, these tourist passes can actually save you a lot of time and money.
It can be difficult to decide which, if any, are right for you. Therefore, we recommend deciding on what you want and have time to do first before choosing which pass you would like.
In other words, don’t necessarily let the pass(es) decide for you where to go, but certainly, get ideas from what is offered.
Remember Our Tours
Don’t forget about all of our “name your own price” walking tours of the city! You can save as much as you like on our tours and use the passes for more attractions.
For a full list of our tours offered, check out our calendar.
The London Pass is a sightseeing pass available for all visitors to London to purchase.
It takes the form of a smart card that has a one-off fee loaded onto it in advance, allowing the holder to enter numerous attractions.
Additionally, the London Pass offers a queue jump for many attractions which can literally save hours of standing in line!
Passes can be bought to last for 1, 2, 3, 6 or 10 days depending on the length of one’s visit to London.
Passes can be bought up to 12 months in advance and ‘activates’ on the first usage of the card to enter an attraction.
Once the card has been used for the predetermined length, it expires. It is also worth noting that the pass only grants entry to each attraction once but is valid at over 80 tours and attractions in London!
Overall, that could potentially mean a saving of over £500.
However, it is unlikely that anybody would make it to all the attractions that accept the Pass.
So, it is best for individual visitors/groups to take a look at the list of accepted locations that they wish to visit whilst in London to decide whether or not the card could save them money.
What is included in the Pass?
Attractions included in the London Pass are numerous. Here we will list a few of the ‘big’ locations, but do take a check the comprehensive list.
Use London Pass at:
- The Tower of London
- View from the Shard
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Westminster Abbey
- Hampton Court Palace
- Windsor Castle
- Kensington Palace
- The London Zoo
- The Churchill War Rooms
- Apsley House
- Kew Gardens
- HMS Belfast
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
- The Royal Albert Hall
- The London Monument to the Great Fire of 1666
- Golden Hinde
- National Army Museum
- Freud Museum
Also note, that it includes ‘Fast Track Entry’ at some of the busiest tourist locations in London – for some, this is an invaluable addition since this feature can save so much time.
Which attractions are not included in the Pass?
As vast as the list of attractions who accept the Pass, there are some that do not.
Also, note that the majority of national Museums and Galleries in London are free regardless.
Prices (as of January 2019):
- 1-Day Pass: Adult £75 & Child £55
- 2-Day Pass: Adult £99 & Child £75
- 3-Day Pass: Adult £125 & Child £89
- 6-Day Pass: Adult £169 & Child £125
- 10-Day Pass: Adult £199 & Child £149
- More information or to book.
Is the London Pass worth it?
This depends entirely on the user! It is worth tallying up the entry costs of the attractions you wish to visit, and comparing it against the pass.
Here is a good example:
Sample one day itinerary:
- Tower of London £24.70
- St. Paul’s Cathedral £17.00
- The London Bridge Experience £19.95
- The View From The Shard £32.00
- Total: £93.65
This means with a One-Day pass you would save just under £20 per pass. It’s estimated that visitors need to go to three attractions a day to make a 1 to 2-day pass worth the money.
You will need to go to at least 2 attractions per day with the 3 or 6-day pass.
Their website offers up their own itinerary suggestions.
You might also browse the reviews of the pass on Get Your Guide.
Who is the Pass good for?
- Those traveling with children. Skipping the long queues can prove invaluable for those who are visiting with little ones.
- Those who want to see a lot in a short period of time. If you are traveling on a tight schedule and can make it to three attractions a day, then the pass should work out to save you money.
- Those who are not interested in too many museums. For people who are not interested in visiting free museums, but would rather see big attractions, the Pass will be suitable.
- Those who are visiting London for the first time. If you are in London and looking to hit all the MAJOR traditional sites (Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, etc.) the pass can provide good value.
Who should skip the London Pass?
- Those who are interested in museums and galleries. As most museums and galleries in London are free of charge, those who want to focus their tour around these attractions should not purchase the Pass.
- Those staying in London for longer than a week. If visitors are in London for longer than a week, there is more time to see big attractions AND free museums and also tour at a more leisurely pace which means the Pass would not save too much money.
- Those who only want to see a couple of the sites that the Pass takes in. For those who only have one or two ‘big’ spots on their must-see itinerary, the London Pass will not provide much of a discount.
Tips for tourists considering London Pass
- Consider the time of year. In the summer, London can be extremely busy. And, surprising to some, extremely hot! Many visitors to London between July and September may find that the price of the London Pass alone is worth it to enter the fast track queues which will save users time spent on their feet out in the sun.
- Think about the shorter tickets.
- If you are prepared to stick to a strict itinerary for one, two or three days and then want to relax for the rest of your visit and keep your days less regimented, look seriously at the shorter Pass options.
Plan, plan…and plan some more!
Check the opening hours and days of the attractions you want to see so that you know you will have enough time to visit them. Consult your map and Underground map to select attractions that are close to one another to save time in traveling.
Bottom Line: Look at the London Pass website and do some maths in advance so you know whether the Pass will be worth it based on your individual itinerary.
There are two passes available (Explorer Pass or the iVenture Card) where you buy a pass based on the number of attractions and activities, instead of the number of days.
These passes offer between 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 attractions.
You ‘pick’ your attractions and activities from a large number of offerings, many of which are the most popular, and expensive. You can save up to 50% of the total cost of your sightseeing.
You don’t have to choose in advance which attractions you want to see or what days you’ll visit them. Better still, these passes are valid for 30 days from the date you activate it.
Another perk is that at some attractions you will get fast-track entry and get to skip the admission lines!
One slight negative to these passes are that to get the most savings, you might want to do some research. You may even want to use a calculator to maximize your savings.
For example, if you choose to see attractions that are the most expensive (over $20), your savings will be higher. But it is only worth it if you want to see these attractions.
Another way to save money and make this kind of pass worth its price, don’t pick attractions that can be visited for free on certain days or hours.
With some pre-planning, these kinds of passes are ideal for those who want to save money and enjoy flexibility and spontaneity.
Smart Destinations is now offering the LONDON GO CARD Explorer Pass for London’s top 20 attractions!
This coupon book is designed to save you money (up to 40%!) off of the admission price of popular tourist locations throughout the city, and can save you time by skipping the line at the entrance!
One nice bonus is the 100% money back guarantee for up to 1 year following your travel dates if you don’t use the pass.
Attractions to choose from:
- Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus Tour (can be used as an alternative to public transit)
- Madame Tussauds London*
- Sea Life London Aquarium*
- Fat Tire Bike Tour
- London Eye River Cruise
- Dreamworks Tour: Shrek’s Adventure
- Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour
- Coca-Cola London Eye*
- St Paul’s Cathedral
- The London Dungeon*
- The Tower Bridge Experience
- Wembley Stadium Tour
- A meal at Planet Hollywood
- James Bond Walking Tour
- Doctor Who Walking Tour
- London Zoo*
- Windsor Express Day Trip
- The Rising Sun Pub
- The Royal Oak Pub
- 3 Choices: Adult £59 & Child (3-15) £49
- 5 Choices: Adult £89 & Child (3-15) £69
- 7 Choices: Adult £109 & Child (3-15) £89
Click here to purchase. One nice bonus is the 100% money back guarantee for up to 1 year following your travel dates if you don’t use the pass.
How It’s Done
Pick your package (3, 5 or 7) and then pick your places! You’ll have 30 days from your first visit to use the GoCard, which means there is no rush to fit it all in one week.
You’ll get your GoCard instantly via email, as well as a map and tourist-friendly pamphlet for even more exploring! Just show your GoCard on your phone at the entrance and be granted instant admission!
Pro tip: Do your research on admission costs for the places you are interested in attending, then use your GoCard on the most expensive admissions to save up to 40%. If you are worried about whether this is a good deal or not, it’s as easy as comparing admission costs.
In London for just a weekend? Then choose to bundle 3 attractions that you can take your time exploring.
(London Flexi Attractions Pass)
Like the Explorer pass above, this pass offers packages of 3, 5, 7 or 10 attractions from which you choose from a list of 33 attractions.
This pass will save you up to 50% of the normal admission prices.
You do not need to pick in advance, which offers you a great deal of flexibility. See the full list of attractions here.
Among the attractions is The View from The Shard, Madame Tussaud’s, the London Zoo, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
It also includes activities and services such as river cruises, airport transfers and day trips to Oxford, Stonehenge, Stratford, and Bath. West End theater shows are also an option.
All passes are valid for a month (31 days) from the date you first activate it. When booking, simply choose how many attractions you wish to include on your card.
- 3 Choices: Adult £69 & Child (4-15) £59
- 5 Choices: Adult £99 & Child (4-15) £89
- 7 Choices: Adult £129 & Child (4-15) £114
- 10 Choices: Adult £169 & Child (4-15) £149
iVenture Card packages can be purchased online (click here).
When you arrive in London, you go to one of their Collection and Sales points to retrieve your actual pass.
Note: The pass is not refundable. All sales are final.
Prepackaged passes are great if you know what you want to do before you arrive. These passes give you discounted access to several specific attractions for a set price.
The savings per attraction are on the high end for tourist passes, however, if you have more interests, you might find better savings overall with the other discount pass options.
Below are two prepackaged passes with similar names: the London City Pass “TurboPass” and London City Pass.
To differentiate these cards, make sure to keep an eye out for the word TURBOPASS when looking at different passes.
If you are going to be in London for more than a few days and are interested in the limited choice of attractions offered by this pass, this pass may be good for you.
The London Turbo Pass offers 3 levels of the pass based on how many attractions you want to see: Starter (4 attractions), Classic (5 attractions) or Best (7 attractions).
The higher the level of a pass that you choose the more attractions you gain free entry to, but the higher the price.
A nice feature is that you will also have “fast track” entry to some attractions which is a real time-saver.
You also receive entry to a “special surprise attraction” (we’d tell you more but it really is a surprise and we don’t even know!)
Lastly, you get some good discounts on 10 additional attractions, for example, 20% discount on Brit Movie Tours, 20% discount on Ripley’s Believe It Or Not London and 12% discount on Hop-on-Hop-off Golden Tours.
The passes to choose from are:
- 1-Day Pass: Adult £66.90 & Child £48.90
- 2-Day Pass: Adult £89.90 & Child £68.90
- 3-Day Pass: Adult £109.90 & Child £83.90
- 4-Day Pass: Adult £124.90 & Child £89.90
- 5-Day Pass: Adult £134.90 & Child £99.90
- 6-Day Pass: Adult £149.90 & Child £104.90
- 7-Day Pass: Adult £159.90 & Child £109.90
- More information or to book.
How to Purchase:
1) Go to their website and choose which pass you want.
2) Choose the number of tickets
3) Choose if you want to pick up your pass in London or if you prefer to have it shipped to you
4) Complete your purchase. After payment you will receive you City Pass within a few days via mail or a voucher via e-mail, so you can pick up the Pass on site in London.
Note: When choosing between pick-up in London or mail delivery, take two things into consideration. Shipping times will vary so unless your pass purchase is several weeks in advance of your trip, it would be best to go with the pick-up in London.
If you choose the mail delivery option, you are given the option to purchase an “Oyster Card” which you will need to use public transport in London.
You can choose to purchase an Oyster Card with money already loaded onto it and will be ready to use when you arrive in London.
For navigating the London Transportation system read our post on Navigating the London Underground.
How long is the London City Pass good for?
All passes are valid to activate within 12 months from the date of purchase. But once you activate it by writing in the first date you plan to use it, you have 7 consecutive days to visit any or all of the attractions and museums.
Example: you purchase your pass online in February. Your trip to London isn’t until May. That’s fine – just remember that you only have 7 consecutive days from you’re the date you write onto your pass.
Refund policy: If your plans change, you may cancel your order, send back the pass and receive a full refund (less a €20 cancellation fee per Pass).
Is this the right card for me?
First, this pass is only worth it if the attractions offered are ones you want to see! Don’t let the offer of free entry to 30 museums sway you. Most museums in London are free anyway.
Next, we did an analysis of the costs of purchasing this pass versus paying for the attractions individually. It turns out that you are paying anywhere from 8% to 15% higher when you purchase the pass instead of buying tickets for each attraction.
However, you do get the surprise attraction, discounts to prime attractions and the ability to purchase your transportation card in advance which can save time.
Of all three passes offered, the CLASSIC makes the most sense. For two adults, the CLASSIC pass costs £200 whereas buying tickets individually costs £198.
With so many passes out there, you might want to look at the other options as this one doesn’t seem to offer that many advantages.
The London City Pass is a bare-bones discount card that includes a few items, but ones that you are likely to visit.
By bundling these items into a pass, you will save some money AND you also get 20% discounts on many other top attractions.
This pass is best for people who are planning to visit a few attractions and like the convenience of having your pass before you even arrive in London.
It’s also good for people who want more time to see the sights since the pass does not have a time limit of 24 or 48 hours like other passes.
The London City pass includes:
- Ticket for the London Eye
- Ticket for Buckingham Palace (The Queens Gallery)
- Airport transfer (one-way if Gatwick or Heathrow or return if Luton or Stansted)
- 24-Hour Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
- 20% discount on skip-the-line tickets for museums, and attractions such as Tower of London, Madame Tussauds, London Dungeon, guided tours, and out-of-London excursions, including Stonehenge.
Note: The London City Pass does not include public transport.
Prices: (as of 2019) Adult €123.94 / Child (5-15) €69.19 (does not include the 3% fee)
How to Purchase:
Once you have booked your airplane tickets, go to their website. You will be asked to enter your arrival/departure dates and which airport you are flying in and out of.
After you complete your purchase, you will receive your email which serves as your pass. You can also use your smartphone as your pass!
You will also get the code to receive a 20% discount on skip the line tickets you purchase online.
A few different tour companies offer combo passes, which guarantee guests discounts on certain attractions. If you are already planning on purchasing a tour bus ticket, these may be good options.
- The Original London Sightseeing Tour
The Original London Sightseeing Tour is one of the most popular and longest running bus tour companies in London. The Original Bus Tour operates as a hop-on-hop-off tour bus with over 80 different stops around the city.
Tickets are valid for a 24 hour period, so guests are encouraged to see as much as possible within that span. Also offered within those 24 hours, guests can take up to 3 free walking tours and a free ride on the Thames River Cruise.
Price: £32.00 for adults, £15.00 for children
Additionally, The Original London Sightseeing Tour offers combo packages, which gives guests 24-hour access to the bus, walking, and boat tours listed above, as well as entrance to an attraction of their choice for a discounted rate.
Below are some of the most popular combos available (purchase tickets online to get these discounted rates):
- Original Bus Tour + London Eye (£51.00/Adult, £31/Child)
- Original Bus Tour + Madame Tussauds (£54/Adult, £34/Child)
- Original Bus Tour + View from the Shard: £49.95 for adults, £29.95 for children (£2.45 savings)
- Original Bus Tour + Tour of St Paul’s Cathedral: £41.00 for adults, £17.00 for children
- Original Bus Tour + London Zoo: £46.90 for adults, £19.90 for children
- Original Bus Tour + Tower of London: £65.2o for adults, £31.20 for children
If you don’t mind touring from dawn until dusk and are also very interested in seeing one of the many attractions included as a combo, then the Original London Sightseeing Tour combo is perfect for you!
Again, it will be a long day of intense sightseeing, but as long as you don’t mind seeing everything into a 24 hour period, then this combo package is a great way to save. Get more information and purchase here.
- Golden Tours
Very similar to the Original London Sightseeing Tour company, Golden Tours also offers combo packages with their bus tours that give guests entrance to major attractions at a discounted rate.
The biggest difference between the two companies is that Golden Tours primarily offers 48-hour tickets, so guests have more time to explore. Also, with just over 60 stops, the hop-on, hop-off bus tour is slightly less extensive than the Original London Sightseeing Tour company.
- Hop on Hop off Bus Tour – 48 Hour Ticket + The London Eye: £49.00 for adults
- Hop on Hop off Bus Tour – 48 Hour Ticket + Tower of London: £48.45 for adults
- Hop on Hop off Bus Tour – 48 Hour Ticket + Tower of London + The London Eye: £74.70 for adults
- Hop on Hop off Bus Tour – 48 Hour Ticket + Madame Tussauds: £54.00 for adults
There are also special deals for families or groups.
Golden Tours are really a great way to go. If the description of the hop-on, hop-off bus tour meets your standards, then this is a great combo deal to take advantage of as it is the most budget friendly and allows for the most amount of time to explore.
Golden Tours don’t necessarily have the reputation of Original Sightseeing London, nor are the tours quite as extensive, but they are still very good.
- Big Bus Attraction Packages
This is a well-reviewed hop-on-hop-off bus service whose multiple day bus tours include 3 free walking tours, a boat cruise and a slew of coupons and discounts in addition to the bus service. You also get Live guides, Pre-recorded commentary, and free onboard Wi-Fi Click here for more details.
Below are their combo Bus Tour + one attraction offerings. Note: Prices listed are for online purchase. Purchasing your tour online from their website will save a few pounds, but not so much that you should feel bad purchasing them on the street if you decide at the last minute to buy tickets.
- 24-hour hop on, hop-off bus tour + London Eye Fast-Track Entry (skip the queue)
- Adult online price: £63.00
- Child (5-15 years) online price: £47.0
- Child 4 and under Free
- Family (2 Adults + 2 Children) online price £192.00
- 24-hour hop on, hop-off bus tour + London Eye Standard Entry
- Adult online price: £60.00
- Child (5-15 years) online price: £36.00
- Child 4 and under Free
- Family (2 Adults + 2 Children) online price £171.00
- 24-hour hop on, hop-off bus tour + Madame Tussauds Standard Entry
- Adult online price: £64.00
- Child (5-15 years) online price: £43.00
- Child 4 and under Free
- Family (2 Adults + 2 Children) online price £190.00
TIP: If you are considering a London tourist attraction discount pass, keep in mind that Smart Destination’s Explorer Pass includes the Big Bus 1 Day Tour + Boat Cruise at no additional cost.
TIMEOUT CARD LONDON
Though many touristic favorites such as the Tate Modern, the Tower of London, and the Globe Theatre are included with the card, there are also many local gems that are discounted with the card as well.
The TimeOut Card does NOT offer free access to any sites but does allow for major discounts, as well as access to special events.
What is included?
A lot! The range of attractions, restaurants, and events are vast. TimeOut differentiates the offers by categories: restaurants and cafes; bars and pubs; theatre and the arts; museums and attractions; music and nightlife; shopping and lifestyle; cinema; and experiences.
Some favorites include:
- 25% off Tower of London visit with Thames Cruise
- 20% of audio tours at the Houses of Parliament
- 20% of most City Cruises
- 10% off many musicals such as Matilda, The Lion King, and Billy Elliot
- 10-50% off many restaurants and bars
For a full list of discounts offered with the TimeOut card, check out their website.
What is not included?
The important thing to remember with the TimeOut card is that it does NOT offer free access to any attractions or events. Rather, it simply allows guests to purchase tickets at a discounted rate.
A TimeOut card is valid for a full 12 months, and so access to tickets is subject to availability at that particular time of year.
How much does it cost?
The TimeOut card is available for purchase for the flat rate of £29.99.
Where can I purchase the TimeOut card?
Also online! You will be sent a virtual card as well as a physical card. That way, if you ever forget to bring your card with you, you will have it stored in your email!
Is the TimeOut card worth it?
The TimeOut card functions best for locals or for visitors who are staying in the UK for a longer amount of time. It does not offer as great of savings on touristic sites like the London Pass and is therefore not the best option for visitors hoping to see as much as possible in the least amount of time.
However, because it is valid for a full year, it is ideal for those who can visit attractions at a more leisurely rate. The discounts available at restaurants and bars around the city allow for the greatest amount of savings.
2 FOR 1 DEALS
Many of London’s most famous attractions have partnered with National Rail to offer visitors who purchased a rail ticket a 2 for 1 deal on attractions.
Your travel card, bought from a rail station, will give you unlimited travel on all buses in London and all Underground stations within zones 1 and 2 – as well as qualify you for the 2 for 1 rail offer!
To learn more about the 2 for 1 deal with National Rail, check out our post detailing how exactly to purchase your ticket!
DISCOUNT LONDON PACKAGES
Similar to the combo deals noted above, tour packages are another great way to save by combining many different tourist attractions.
Discount London offers a variety of tour packages. The big difference is that these packages are solely comprised of attractions, and do not include bus or walking tours.
Packages range in price from £32.20-£95.50 for adults depending on the type and number of attractions included.
LONDON NIGHTLIFE TICKET
Also included are drink discounts at certain venues. Some of the popular bars that are featured include Underworld and Gilgamesh. Purchase your ticket here.
NATIONAL TRUST TOURING PASS
The National Trust Touring Pass is available only to overseas visitors to the UK. The Pass gives you access to historic sites around the country for a one time fee.
There are over 300 sites available to visit, and guests can choose between either a 7 or 14-day all-access pass to each. Some of the highlights include:
- The Fountains Abbey (where the Secret Garden was filmed)
- Winston Churchill’s home Chartwell
- The childhood home of William Wordsworth
- Hill Top home of Beatrix Potter
7-day adult pass (admit 1) – £33.00
7-day adult pass (admit 2) – £58.00
7-day family pass – £64.00
14-day adult pass (admit 1) – £38.00
14-day adult pass (admit 2) – £69.00
14-day family pass – £81.00
Purchase your tickets from the National Trust website. When you purchase online the pass will be emailed to you immediately.
Is the National Trust Touring Pass worth it?
It depends. For those interested in touring many different historic sites and willing to explore the countryside, the National Trust Touring Pass is an excellent deal! Considering the relatively low price, it’s less intimidating than other more costly passes.
If you are in the UK for more than a week, consider purchasing the 14-day pass as it is only slightly more expensive than the 7-day option, and allows guests to explore at a much more leisurely pace. These sites are scattered around the UK, so it’s helpful to have extra days.
If you find a package that interests you, but still hoping to take a tour while in London, consider following one of our “name your own price” walking tours!