City passes make touring easier

May 07, 2006|By ROBERT CROSS | ROBERT CROSS,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

For a traveler in Europe, the question often becomes: Just how much do I want to do?

Most major cities and some minor ones sell tourism cards that permit free or discounted admission to museums and monuments, unlimited rides on public transportation, escorted tours and a lot of other goodies.

The cards can be purchased at official tourism offices, certain stores or on the Web site of a town's visitor bureau.

Paris

For art and history lovers, the Paris Museum Pass, which costs about $37 (30 euros) for two days would be an essential supplement to the $6 (5 euros) Paris City Passport. The Paris passport, good until Dec. 31, reportedly offers $370 worth of discounts on shopping, dining and attractions, but does not include such sights as the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

So for free access to the big-star attractions, one should supplement the Passport with the pricier Paris Museum Pass, which is also available for four or six days. The pass covers about 60 museums and monuments.

Basic admission to the Louvre is about $11. L'Orangerie wants about $5, and Musee d'Orsay charges about $9. It all can add up so fast that the museum card starts to look like a steal, even at the six-day rate.

Those admission prices are just a few examples. Still, it pays to strategize before shelling out for any city card. Seniors 65 and older frequently get in free, anyway, over much of Europe. Same goes for those younger than 18. And then there are all sorts of discounts for students, members of certain associations, members of tour groups, etc.

A lot of ins and outs of Paris bargain hunting and other strategies can be found on the Paris Convention and Visitor Bureau Web site: parisinfo.com. For information on the Paris Museum Pass: parismuseumpass.fr.

London

A hefty assortment of London museums are free - the British Museum, the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum to name a few. (For some exhibits surcharges may apply.)

The city offers the London Pass, nonetheless, and well it should.

With a transportation option that provides virtually unlimited access to buses and the Tube, the pass ranges from $60 for one day, up to $196 for six days. Dedicated explorers can make it work by taking advantage of the many sites that do charge (a lot) to get in but welcome pass holders with free admission.

The Tower of London charges about $25 for those without a pass. Ordinarily, you can't get into Windsor Castle without forking over about $22. And so it goes.

London's official Web site, visitlondon.com, has more details.

Rome

Like London, Rome welcomes visitors with a lot of free culture, and that includes the Forum, the exterior of the Colosseum, numerous beautiful plazas, St. Peter's Basilica and the Pantheon.

It's said a Rome city card is still in the planning stages, but a Metro and bus pass for an entire day costs $5, a savings for those who move around a lot. Discounts go even deeper for three-day and weekly tickets. There's a lot more to learn at romaturismo.com.

Robert Cross is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

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