London is one of the greatest cities in the world and one of my favorite destinations to visit. Filled with incredible history, world-famous landmarks, and some of the coolest castles you’ll find, London is one place everybody should put on their bucket list.
If you’re an English speaker, London also provides a great introduction to European travel. Besides the fact that you already speak the language, you’ll likely find the culture very similar to what you are used to at home. The tourist areas are also very clean, which can be more palatable to first-time visitors than some other grittier places in Europe.
Additionally, London is relatively easy to navigate. The majority of the city’s most important tourist sites are located in Central London and many are within a 10-minute walk of each other. London’s subway system, affectionately known as “The Tube,” is also a breeze to use.
Speaking of tourist attractions, London isn’t the cheapest place to travel. That’s why I strongly recommend first-time visitors to use a sightseeing pass while they are there. These cards help you get into the city’s top sites faster and help you save money while you’re doing it.
Two of my favorite passes in London – in fact, two of my favorite sightseeing passes anywhere in the world – are the London Pass and the London Explorer Pass. In this piece, we’ll explore the differences between these two cards and help you decide which is the best pass for you.
How Does the London Pass Work?
The London Pass is a sightseeing card that includes admission to over 80 of the city’s best attractions. With that many included attractions, the vast majority of the places you’ll want to visit are already on the card. In most cases, all you need to do is present your pass at the attraction you’re visiting and you’re in. Easy peasy.
In addition to all of the attractions on the pass, the card also saves you time and money. At the busiest attractions, the London Pass allows you to skip the ticket lines and gain “fast track” entry. Compared to ticket prices at each venue, the cost of the London Pass actually comes at a fairly steep discount – especially if you purchase the card during one of their flash sales.
Speaking of costs, the London Pass works on a consecutive day basis. The pass is currently offered in 1, 2, 3, 6, and 10-day options. There is no limit to the amount of attractions you can visit using the card, provided that you do it within the timeframe specified by your pass. If you choose, you can also add access to London’s public transportation systems, which I highly recommend for saving steps while you’re there.
How Does the London Explorer Pass Work?
The London Explorer Pass is another good option for sightseeing in London. However, this card has some significant differences from its sister pass.
Rather than being an “all-inclusive” pass, with the London Explorer Pass, you pick the number of attractions you wish to visit. In total, the card offers entry to 20 attractions. From that list, you can visit 3, 5, or 7 attractions. Unlike the London Pass, the Explorer Pass gives you 30 days to visit the attractions from the time you first activate the card.
This card is particularly good for those who may want to travel a little slower. If you’re only going to visit one site per day, the London Explorer Pass is a great option. For people who want to see as much as they can with the limited time they have, the London Pass tends to work better.
Which London Attractions Are Included?
Although I don’t have the space to list all of the attractions on each card, many of the city’s biggest sites are found on both passes – including Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court Palace, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. However, each card does include some important attractions that the other does not.
Here’s a quick rundown:
Important Attractions on the London Pass but NOT on the London Explorer Pass:
- The Tower of London
- Windsor Castle
Important Attractions on the London Explorer Pass but NOT on the London Pass:
- London Eye
- Madame Tussauds
- SEA LIFE London Aquarium
Comparing the Costs
Now, let’s compare costs for both the London Pass and the London Explorer Pass.
London Pass Pricing
|Passes||Adult Price||Child Price (ages 5-15)|
|1 Day Pass||£79||£56|
|2 Day Pass||£100||£79|
|3 Day Pass||£127||£93|
|6 Day Pass||£171||£126|
|10 Day Pass||£201||£155|
|*Current March 28, 2020|
London Explorer Pass Pricing
|Passes||Adult Price||Child Price|
|*Current as of March 28, 2020|
When it comes to the London Pass, I think the 3-day pass provides the most reasonable value. You still get a hefty discount, but you aren’t locked into sightseeing for 6 (or 10) days straight.
If you’ll be in London for more than 3 days, combining a 3-day London Pass with a 3-attraction London Explorer Pass may be a good option – especially if riding the London Eye and visiting Madame Tussauds are on your “to do” list. That way, you’ll still get free entry to all of the historic sites with the London Pass, but you’ll still save on the other attractions that aren’t included.
Who Should Get the London Pass?
- First-time visitors to London – If this is your first visit to London, chances are good that you’ll want to visit the city’s most important sites. For me, the Tower of London is probably the top spot to visit in the city, and you’ll only find that on the London Pass.
- Travelers visiting 2-3 sites a day – To get the best value from your London Pass, you’ll need to visit at least 2 to 3 included sites per day. If you want to travel slower than that, a London Explorer Pass may be a better fit.
- Castle lovers – The London Pass includes entry to all of the historic castles located in and around London. The London Explorer Pass skips the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.
Who Should Get the London Explorer Pass?
- Slow travelers – If you’re somebody who really wants to take their time, the London Explorer Pass is probably a better fit. Not only do you have 30 days to use the pass, but the London Pass loses value if you don’t visit at least 2 to 3 sites per day.
- Travelers splitting their time between cities – Will you be visiting more than one city during your time in the U.K.? The London Explorer Pass may be for you. While the London Pass is often the better option, it works on a consecutive day basis. So, if you’re splitting up your time in the city, the Explorer Pass may be your best bet.
- Those who get “castled out” – If you’d rather ride the London Eye or visit Madame Tussauds wax museum than visit all of London’s castles, this may be the pass for you. Personally, I don’t think you can go to London and skip The Tower, but that’s totally up to you!
London Pass vs. London Explorer Pass: Final Thoughts
So, which pass is better for you? When it comes to the London Pass vs. London Explorer Pass, you don’t have to choose just one!
For first-time visitors to London, it is hard to go wrong with the London Pass. It includes nearly everything you’d ever want to see there, and it will save you time and money while you do it.
However, if you don’t want to visit 2 or more sites per day, the London Explorer Pass is also an option. With that said, I’d likely recommend this pass to those who have already seen most of London’s top sites and don’t necessarily want to go back.
If you’ll be in London for more than 3 days, combining the passes may be your best option. On days 1-3, you can take advantage of all the London Pass offers. Then, fill in the gaps on day 4 or 5 using the London Explorer Pass.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this comparison of my two favorite London sightseeing passes. Overall, they are both great passes that can save you time and money in London.
Thanks so much for reading and enjoy your trip to London. Until next time, happy traveling!