When I was researching things to do in New York, I kept on coming across tourist card type promotions – cards that you pay a one-off payment for, to let you into a number of top tourist attractions. I decided to look into it a bit further.
There are two main types of tourist card. One that restricts you by time, and one that restricts you by number of attractions.
So, for example the New York CityPass gives you a booklet of 6 coupons to get into 6 attractions. The New York Explorer Pass is a card which gives you a choice of a number of attractions, then you can use your card and visit that number of things. And then the New York Pass gives you a number of days within which you are free to visit as much as you can.
For me, it was a toss up between the last two options. What swung it for me in the end was that I know I can go around things really quickly because I’m by myself and also that they had an app which I found really useful.
I got the card for three days and I did over $200 worth of things, including going up both the Empire State and the Rockafeller Center, a walking tour, the museum of sex, the Lego exhibition…and so much more. I paid $160 for the pass, so although I could have saved a lot more if I’d tried (and if I’d have taken more walking tours which are expensive) but still, $4o is a couple of meals and so that was a good save for me.
The downside to the “time limit” option is that you really have to plan everything. I spent days working out a schedule for all the things I wanted to do – especially because I wanted to do tours as well. The walking tours you’re able to take with the card only happen once or twice a week and so, unless you take a week’s card, it’s really hard to do all of them. Also, you need to book the tours in advance and their websites aren’t the friendliest.
The upside of this type of pass is that I could fit in things last minute. When the weather turned icy cold, I decided to take a trip to see the Lego exhibition so I could warm up for a few hours. When I was on the way to somewhere else, I found I was near the Museum of Sex and so decided to pop in there for a while.
However, if you’ve seen the list of what’s on offer and know exactly what you do and don’t want to do, then the “limited by number of attractions” option would be better for you, I think. That way, you can take your sweet time over the course of your trip, and can spend time in other places on the way that aren’t part of your deal, and not feel like you’re wasting precious time and money.
The coupon option is good if you have a small budget. Though saving the least, you’ll also be spending the least as there are only 6 coupons and so you won’t be tempted to spend any more than that.
Have you ever used any tourist passes when traveling? Do you have any recommendations for other cities? I’d love to hear them!