The London Pass

Is it worth buying?

I love London and have been spending time there for years. It's an expensive city to be a tourist but it's possible to find inexpensive things to do and see. The government run museums are all free, the Victoria and Albert or V&A as it's more commonly known now. The Natural History Museum, The Imperial War Museum, The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, The Tate Modern. Even the cathedrals if you attend a service it's free, you can still appreciate the interior and I think you get a more authentic experience rather than just wandering around aimlessly.

Then there are the attractions that charge an entrance fee, which if you visit them all, ends up costing quite a bit. Like some other major cities in the world London has a tourist card that you buy which will give you free entry to many of its major sites. The card is called The London Pass, normally when I stay in London I try to visit those sites which are free. But a few years back, I travelled to London with some friends, a few who had never visited London and wanted to 'do all the sites' so I ended up buying The London Pass.

So is it worth buying?

You can buy a 1,3,6 or 10 day pass, there's also an option to buy a pass with an oyster travel card. The pass works on a calendar day, not a 24 hour period, so even if you start using it late in the day, that still counts as day 1. You activate it when you visit your first attraction, so make sure you begin in the morning.

In the end it was worth buying for the visit I did, but that had more to do with planning my days with military precision beforehand! I chose the most expensive sites to visit and tried to clump sites together. For example, The Tower of London, with Greenwich and the Cutty Sark and Royal Observatory, from Greenwich I took the Thames cruise to Westminster so could visit the Abbey.

The Tower of London, the White tower in the centre, it's the oldest part of the tower complex.

To get your money's worth out of the pass, you need to see at least 3 attractions during the day, most don't open until 10am and last entry tends to be 4.30pm. You also have to factor travel time between sites e.g. Windsor Castle is a 30 to 45 minute train journey from central London. It does seem a bit manic to me, rushing from site to site, that's where the planning comes in. Decide beforehand what exactly you want to see, be selective and realistic as to how much time you would spend seeing that particular site. I used the pass to visit the Tower of London, I had been before so was quite happy with a quick walk around and then see the crown jewels. For first time visitors however the visit could take much longer as you can get an audio guide and wander around and have a more thorough experience, than having a brief stop before rushing off to the next site.

If you just want to do one paid site per day, then the London Pass probably isn't good value for you to purchase. Even if it's your first time to London, just selecting a few things to see rather than try to see everything in the tourist guide book is a far better way of having a memorable visit. After a while all palaces, cathedrals, historic sites do blend together and you can't remember one from the other!

The rebuilt Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, I recommend this site, even though it's a reproduction. Watching a Shakespearean play there is a memorable experience as well. It's open air and the performance goes ahead even if it rains!

There is an option to get a travel card with the pass, I would probably say this isn't worth buying. It's just as easy to buy your own oyster card and load it up with as much money you think you'll need and reload when it runs out! Oyster cards can be bought at the ticket office at Underground Stations and also railway stations. The London Pass does give you a one day trip on the Hop on Hop off bus which takes around to the main attractions.

You can buy the pass online and have it sent out to you, this is the most expensive option. You can collect the pass in London from their office, a cheaper option as you just pay for the pass and no postage, and they now have an option for it to be sent to your phone, and it's scanned from there when you enter a site.

For the 3 days I had the pass I did get my money's worth out of it, but it was a bit manic, the planning beforehand and then the racing around attractions to get to the next one to squeeze as many in as possible. Subsequent trips to London have been more relaxed and I haven't bought the pass, I hadn't needed to as I had seen all the 'big ticket' sites on that previous visit.


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