Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tip: Travel Cards and Passes

Most major cities in the world (especially in Europe), are prone to have travel cards and passes for tourists.  These cards can combine access to local transportation (such as subways, buses and trains), and free admission to museums and other sites.

While these passes can certainly be handy, be aware of the prices.  Sometimes you may not be planning on visiting all the sites on offer, and there goes the cost savings.

So here are my tips. 
  1. Check to see if your destination has a tourist or travel card.  You can often do this by typing the name of the location plus "pass", "card", or "tourist card" into your search engine.
  2. Check what locations the pass covers, and what transportation access it offers.  Most of the passes have a list on-line of included attractions.
  3. Look at the prices.  These passes tend to come in a variety of time lengths and prices.  Check the number of days it will cover (and whether those days are consecutive, or the pass is good for an entire year) and when the pass becomes valid (some become active on the date of purchase, others on the first day of use).
  4. Find a good travel site, or use Google, and look up the sites you'd like to see at your destination.  This is where I love to use spreadsheets! 
  5. Make a list of the sites you plan to visit and list the price to visit each site.  Total up the price of all the sites.  
  6. It may be helpful to add a check mark by each site that is also included in the tourist pass.
  7. Look up local transportation options (the tourist card sites can be helpful here as they may list the name of the transportation provider, which may either have a direct link, or allow you to use your search engine to find).  You should be able to determine what it would cost you to get around.
  8. Compare your total costs for individual admission and transportation with the total cost for the requisite tourist card.  Make sure you are only comparing sites that are common to both your list and the tourist card.  Include transportation cost in the comparison, if, and only if, the tourist card includes transportation.
  9. Determine what is the cheaper option that makes best use of your time. 
  10. Remember, to keep in mind the amount of time you'll have to visit your destination.  The tourist card may turn out to be cheaper, but if you can't visit all your locations in the allotted time, your going to go "out of pocket" for additional time.

The big lesson: don't just assume because a location is offering a travel card that it is cheaper and more efficient than paying at each location.  Remember these cards cover a wide number of attractions, and generally more than you may have the time or inclination to visit.

In case you are interested, I've included a list of travel cards we've come across in our adventures.

Campania (Naples area of Italy)
Normandy, France
Dublin, Ireland
Luzern, Switerzland
Salzburg, Austria

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