Travel SOS: Are city passes good value?

Are city passes and other discount cards a tourist trap or a good deal?

Travel SOS: Are city passes good value?

Kay O’Sullivan is no accidental tourist. More than a decade ago, she decided to combine two of her favourite things – journalism and travel – and become a travel writer. Since then, she has written about travel for numerous papers, magazines and on the internet, both here and internationally.

Rosie wants to know if city passes are tourist traps or good deals. So here's Kay O’Sullivan's lowdown on the best ones and the savings they offer.

Q. Rosie
I keep on reading about these city passes or tourist cards with all kinds of discounts. A couple seem too good to be true. Forty-five per cent off this, 20 per cent off that. What's the deal? Good value or a scam?

A. I was with you on this, Rosie. I used to look at those cards and think: "No way, that can't possibly be true". But I'm the first to say that I've been proven wrong on more than one occasion. You can save big bucks, Euros or pounds, but you've got to do your homework, as with all things travel related. Whatever the discount offered, it's not worth a bean if you don't want to see the attractions on offer or eat in the restaurants involved.

I've purchased a number of these cards on my travels. The ones that stand out for me are the Vienna, Salzburg and Amsterdam city cards, and I would also recommend the CityPass system that operates in six cities across the US. All offer great value. I'm not saying they are the only ones, they’re just the ones I've used.

vienna pass cards

The Vienna Card is an initiative of that city and its official tourism body, so you know you are in good hands as it is strictly regulated. It offers 210 discounts at museums and sights, as well as reductions on concerts and theatre. You also get free transport for either 24, 48 or 72 hours on Vienna's excellent underground, trams and buses.

The wonderful Belvedere, Klimt, Leopold and Schonbrunn museums are just a few included on the card. So is Madame Tussaud's if that's your thing. And given Vienna's stellar place in the musical world, of course there are discounts in this sphere. I didn't make it to the Vienna Boys’ Choir because they were away on tour, but they are listed on the card. More than 30 retail outlets offer discounts to card holders, including Augarten, the venerable maker of perhaps the finest porcelain in the world.

Apart from the free transport, you also get discounts on certain taxi services and access to airport lounges. Food is an essential part of travel and the Vienna Card offers discounts at some of the city's historic restaurants. The Cafe Landtmann in particular is one that I've visited and loved but there's also a special offer for the casino and Crossfield's Australian Pub – I kid you not.

Prices vary according to the duration of your stay in Vienna –13.90 Euros for 24 hours; 21.90 Euros for 48 hours and 24.90 Euros for 72 hours. For more information or to buy it online go to

two women in new york using city pass cards

As I said, I'm a fan of the CityPass system that operates in Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Philadelphia and New York City. The NYC CityPass offers 40 percent discount on six attractions, although you get a choice of nine. The good news is that these are the must-sees of NYC: The Empire State Building, 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Circle Line Sightseeing cruises, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Guggenheim, Top of the Rock Observation Deck, American Museum of Natural History and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. All up, you save US$74. Good value in anyone's currency.

For more information, visit  

Do you have a travel question for Kay? If so, email your Travel SOS to



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    24th Sep 2016
    My wife and I travel to Europe every year, the best travel pass we have used is on the Paris underground system, if you purchase a carte which is a book of ten tickets for travel on their metro system you only pay the price of four tickets and it is an excellent way to get around to most tourist attractions. Another good pass is on the barges in Amsterdam they have a hop on hop of ticket for the barges the cost was 20 euros we found it a great way to see Amsterdam and surrounding areas.
    24th Sep 2016
    G'day :) A suggestion for this type of article. Give some opinions on City Passes for Australians visiting our capitol cities as we dont all get time to visit various European countries :) Just sayin' although I did utilise these passes on my visit to UK/Ireland and they were beneficial.
    4th Oct 2016
    Brisbane hop on hop off is good and there is a free city loop service too

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