The London Pass and the London Explorer Pass are both pre-paid sightseeing passes 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, will enable you to quickly determine which might be better for you.
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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 80 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 include 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 transportation mode, 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 simultaneously. Get the Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour details.
4. Free money back guarantee for all online orders.
5. The London Pass app which has a mobile ticket option that allows users to have the pass accessible by smartphone.
6. Free 160-page guidebook, with tips, information and maps.
7. 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.
8. 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.
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.
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 access The London Pass on your smartphone, so you don’t even need to carry around the actual pass 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
The London Pass activates 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 ideal 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 the need for tickets or sightseeing passes.
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.
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.
London Explorer Pass
London Explorer Pass is a London sightseeing pass that functions differently than The London Pass.
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.
London Explorer Pass attractions include:
- Coca-Cola London Eye
- Madame Tussauds
- Westminster Abbey
- Tower Bridge Exhibition
- BODY WORLDS London
- 1-Day Big Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour
- Banqueting House
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- London Dungeon
- Kensington Palace
- SEA LIFE London Aquarium
- Hop-On, Hop-Off Thames River Cruise
- Churchill War Rooms
- Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition and Theatre Tour
- Emirates Arsenal Stadium Tour
- Hampton Court Palace
- HMS Belfast
- Royal Albert Hall
- DreamWorks Tour Shrek’s Adventures
- Wembley Stadium Tour
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
- Planet Hollywood
- Royal Observatory Greenwich
- Chelsea FC Stadium Tour
- Cutty Sark
London Explorer Pass is valid for 30 days from the date of first use. Visitors to London who sightsee at a slower pace often choose this pass.
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 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 access 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 The London Pass.
Tip: If budget permits, I would recommend not accessing the London Eye with this pass. Instead, I would purchase a premium skip-the-line ticket through London Eye to avoid waiting in the long ticket holder queues here. Skip-the-line ticket holders wait in a much shorter line.
Other options not available on The London Pass include Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and the London Dungeon. Many of the other listed attractions are also available on The 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.
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.
Which Pass Is Best?
The answer is that it depends on how many sights you’ll see in a day. When visiting 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.
Have you used The London Pass or London Explorer Pass lately?