La Jolla Mom

The London Pass vs. London Explorer Pass: Which Is Better?

The London Pass and the London Explorer Pass are both pre-paid discount ticket packages for London tourists. Once purchased, they are used in substantially identical ways. The key differences are the attractions covered, price, and length of time that they remain valid. Detailing them both here, with links, may enable  you to quickly determine which might be better for you.

See also: 20 Things I’d Do on a Dream Trip to London

What Is The London Pass?

The London Pass is a sightseeing card that has enabled up to 3 million visitors to see many top London attractions, while also saving time and money in the process.

What You Get with The London Pass

1. Free entry to over 70 London attractions and tours. Current London Pass attractions include: Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Thames River Cruise, London Zoo, Windsor Castle and more. The full list is available online.

2. Fast Track entry to selected attractions, enabling holders to skip lines during busy periods. Current Fast Track-available attractions are: Tower Bridge Exhibition, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace, London Zoo, London Bridge Experience, and Kew Gardens.

3. Free 1-Day Hop on, Hop off Bus Tour to explore London and discover its iconic landmarks. I’m a fan of these tours because in a city where the subway is such a main mode of transportation, it’s easy to forget about what’s above ground. It also helps London visitors get the lay of the land and see multiple attractions at the same time. Get the Hop On, Hop Off Bus Tour details.

2. Free money back guarantee for all online orders.

3. The London Pass app which has a mobile ticket option that allows users to have the pass accessible by smartphone.

4. Free 160-page guidebook, with tips, information and maps.

5. Free London Pass Dining Guide to help make finding a restaurant easier and savings at over 145 restaurants, with discounts of up to 50% off or special offers. It covers up to 6 people over 7 days.

5. More than 20 exclusive special offers.

The London Pass + Oyster Travelcard

The London Pass provides the option to buy an Oyster Travelcard, for an additional fee, to cover your transportation needs. The Oyster Travelcard is a preloaded travel card that deducts fare each time you travel on a single journey via bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London.

When you add the Oyster Travelcard to The London Pass, you are doing so simply for convenience. The £5 deposit plus fare credit is exactly what you would pay should you pick up the card at a machine inside of a Tube station (which takes minutes to do).

Tips: Children ages 10 and under do not need an Oyster Travelcard as they travel on most of London’s public transportation networks (bus, Tube, DLR) for free. And visitors to London should consider the Visitor Oyster Travelcard which comes with discounts at London restaurants and more. Visit London has an excellent article about which Oyster Travelcard to buy.

See also: Why Heathrow Airport Is One of the World’s Best for Families

How Does The London Pass Work?

Once you’ve bought The London Pass, you don’t have to pay the entry fee at any of the attractions it covers.

Simply show your pass at the entrance or ticket office of any included attraction. The staff there will scan it through a London Pass card reader there. Then, you will be admitted free. It’s very simple.

The London Zoo is part of the London Pass.
A meerkat at the London Zoo.

How to Buy The London Pass

You can buy The London Pass for 1, 2, 3, 6 or 10 consecutive days.

The London Pass can be sent to your smartphone instantly, mailed to your home address, or you may pick up the card when you arrive in London. Note that mailing the card to your home costs a little extra. Find out how to receive your pass.

You may also get London Pass on your smartphone, so you don’t even need to carry around the actual London Pass card, if you prefer.

The London Pass can also be purchased in person at most major railway and Underground stations in and around London, including: Heathrow (TFL Information Centre and British Hotel Reservation Centre), Gatwick (British Hotel Reservation Centre), Victoria (TFL Information Centre), Piccadilly Circus (TFL Information Centre and HotelWorld), King’s Cross St Pancras (TFL Information Centre), and many more.

Tips for Using The London Pass

Your London Pass card will be activated at the time you first use it. Note that it operates on a day basis and not on a 24 hour basis. When you first use it, do so early in the day to get maximum value from it.

The conventional wisdom is that the London Pass can be an excellent value if you plan to visit three or more fee-charging sites per day that it covers. It is good for people who like all-day sightseeing.

Note that, in London, government-run museums (like the world-famous British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum) are generally free to enter for the general public without need for The London Pass.

It is also important to note that some popular London attractions such as the London Eye are NOT included with The London Pass.

Make a list of London attractions that you’d like to see and map out a potential itinerary. This will help determine how many days to buy and whether the London Explorer Pass (details below) might be a better option.

Fast Track entry to the Tower of London is included with The London Pass.
Fast Track entry to the Tower of London is included with The London Pass.

The London Pass Promo Code

It seems that there is always a London Pass promo code floating around. I will update this section as new promotions occur.

London Pass promo codes are typically valid for only the pass and not the Oyster Travelcard add-on.

FLASH SALE: 4 days Sale! 20% off 10-day passes, 12% off 6-day passes, 8% off 3-day passes at London Pass. 
T&Cs: Discounts Do Not Apply to The Travel Element
Expires – Wednesday, 02-06-2019. Get the discount.

London Explorer Pass

The London Explorer Pass is a similar concept to the London Pass, but the details vary considerably.

The London Explorer Pass is a flexible multi-attraction pass that allows London visitors to choose from 3, 5, or 7 attractions (from a list of 20) into which they will then be admitted free, saving time and money.

The London Explorer Pass attractions are limited to:

  • Coca-Cola London Eye
  • Madame Tussauds
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Tower Bridge Exhibition
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • London Dungeon
  • Thames River Cruise Hop on Hop off
  • 1-Day Big Bus Hop on Hop off
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • DreamWorks Tour Shrek’s Adventures
  • Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition and Theatre Tour
  • SEA LIFE London Aquarium
  • HMS Belfast
  • London Eye River Cruise
  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • Planet Hollywood
  • Royal Observatory Greenwich
  • Wembley Stadium Tour
  • Chelsea FC Stadium Tour
  • Cutty Sark

Note that Tower of London, London Zoo, and other major attractions are not options. However, this could also be a good compliment to The London Pass.

The London Explorer Pass is then valid for 30 days from the date of first use.

How Does London Explorer Pass Work?

Like The London Pass, once you’ve bought a London Explorer Pass, you don’t have to pay the entry fee for any of the attractions you’ve pre-selected.

Simply show your London Explorer Pass card at the entrance or ticket office of your selected attraction. The staff there will scan it through a card reader there and then you will be admitted free.

You may also get the London Explorer Pass on your smartphone via the London Explorer Pass visitor app, This eliminates the need for a hard copy.

Attractions Covered by London Explorer Pass

The list of 20 available attractions is headlined by the London Eye, the famous Ferris wheel on the River Thames, which is not available on London Pass.

Tip: If budget permits, I would recommend not adding the London Eye to this pass but purchasing a premium skip-the-line ticket through London Eye instead. Ticket holder queues here can also be long. Skip-the-line ticket holders wait in a much shorter line.

Other options not available on London Pass include Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and the London Dungeon. Many of the other listed attractions are also available on London Pass, including the Hop On, Hop Off London Bus Tour touted as a highlight of The London Pass.

Unlike The London Pass, the London Explorer Pass does not enable any Fast Track line-skipping at any attractions. But it does allow you to build-your-own pass and save money versus buying tickets directly.

How to Buy the London Explorer Pass

It is easiest to buy the London Explorer Pass online.

You may collect your physical pass at their London office, have it mailed to you (for a fee), or have it sent electronically to your smartphone via the app.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The London Pass vs. London Explorer Pass: Which Is Better? via @lajollamom #familytravel” quote=”The London Pass vs. London Explorer Pass: Which Is Better?”]

Which Pass Is Best?

The answer is that it depends. When traveling in London it is worth having one of the two. Ticket queues can be long otherwise. My daughter and I waited nearly 30 minutes in the London Zoo ticket purchase line, for example.

See also: How to Plan the Ultimate Harry Potter London Vacation

Have you used The London Pass or London Explorer Pass lately?

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