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The Great British Heritage Pass can save you plenty of money while you're traveling around Britain and visiting the many different interesting places we all love to see.

This is a smart way to save valuable money on your otherwise expensive British sightseeing.

 
 
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The Great British Heritage Pass

Saves you money and simplifies your sightseeing around Britain
 

If you're going to Britain, you're of course planning to visit some of the castles, stately homes, gardens, museums, and other interesting attractions there.

Costs for admissions can add up very quickly, and the exchange rate between the Pound and most other currencies makes these costs even worse for the foreign visitor.

Good for unlimited admission for 4, 7, 15 or 30 days, the Great British Heritage Pass is a great way to affordably sightsee around Britain.

 

 

The Great British Heritage Pass gives you free admission to over 580 different attractions throughout Britain.

Complete with a free map and guide book, and with line-busting privileges in many cases, the Great British Heritage Pass makes your UK visit easier to plan, more fun to carry out, and more affordable.

If you're planning to include even only a moderate amount of sightseeing during your time in Britain, you should use The Great British Heritage Pass as an excellent way to save substantial money on your sightseeing.


Some Attractions in London are Free

The London Pass gives you free entrance fees at many places - 55 at present count, but there are of course many other places than 'just' these 55 to go visit in London.

The good news is that not all museums and other visitor attractions charge an entrance fee.  A few are completely free, including such notable places as the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the National Maritime Museum (in Greenwich), the National Gallery and the Tate.

It is possible to see and do a great deal in London without paying any admission at all.  But once you progress to places with paid admission, the London Pass becomes a very valuable way to keep your costs down.

How Much Can You Save?

Clearly, because the Pass allows unlimited admissions during its validity period, the more places you visit, the more you save.

How many places are you likely to visit each day

The chances are you're probably only going to visit one place every day or two.  It is sometimes possible to visit two places a day, if the traveling time between places isn't too great, and if you don't spend too long at each place, but more commonly, people will probably visit one place a day.

And some days are going to be spent just relaxing, walking around towns, or traveling.  So a conservative rule of thumb would be to guess at visiting one place every two days, or perhaps two places every three days.

If you want to be more exact, you can of course plan your itinerary and from that plan you'll know exactly how many places you're visiting and can calculate the cost savings exactly.

How much do you save on each visit.

In 2007, it seems most places have admission prices, for an adult, somewhere between about 5.50 and 16.  As a rule of thumb, you could guesstimate that each place you visit would cost, on average, about 10 for admission.

So if you're going to be traveling around and sightseeing for say a week, then you might use your pass four or five times, meaning that you'd be saving about 40 or 50 while having purchased a pass that cost 39.  You're saving somewhere between 1 and 11.

Noncash benefits of using the GBHP

Is it worth buying a Pass up front even if you're saving perhaps only 1 or 11?

Yes, for several reasons - see our discussion below on using the pass to add extra places to your itinerary and using the pass to jump to the front of lines waiting to get in to places.

There's another subtle but important reason.  With a pass, you've fixed this part of your travel costs before leaving home, and so, while you're traveling around, you then feel motivated to go to see more places, because the more you do, the more you save.

If you didn't have a pass, the chances are that sooner or later you'd find yourself saying 'I don't think we'll go there because we're spending too much money already' and you might miss out on something unique, interesting and enjoyable.

In other words, the Pass encourages you to enjoy yourself.

Using the Pass to Plan your UK Holiday

One of the problems many of us have when going back to Britain, yet again, is trying to choose new interesting places to see and visit.  Once you've visited the handful of the best known attractions, you are then confronted with tens and even hundreds of less well known attractions, and it is hard to know how to pick and choose from them all.

So here's an idea.  Use the Pass as a way to plan your time in Britain.  Work through their lists of the 580 different attractions offering you free admission to create an interesting fun filled time in Britain that costs you no more than the price of the Pass, and get to see some places you probably never even knew existed.

No longer do you have to ask yourself the questions about where to go in Britain and what to do once you get there.  The pass clearly shows you the best attractions by region, so you can choose your holiday's itinerary based on what you want to see.

Go to the Front of the Line

Here's a major benefit of the Pass.  Chances are you don't want to spend your vacation standing in long lines to buy tickets, especially if you're traveling during the peak summer months.

Many of the places featured in the Pass program have special priority lanes for people with the Great British Heritage Pass.  You can go straight to the head of the line and won't waste any of your valuable vacation queuing to buy tickets at full price.

Visit Places You Don't Already Know

We all know about some of the most famous places in Britain such as Stonehenge, Blenheim Palace, Bath's Roman Baths, Leeds Castle and so on, most of which (including these four) are covered by the Great British Heritage Pass.

But what about some of the other places that aren't so well known?  We suggest you include a mix of the 'A' level attractions such as the four named above along with 'B' level attractions - for example, as well as perhaps the A level Chatsworth stately home, why not include the B level Chartwell (home of Sir Winston Churchill for many years) as well (and you're probably already considering A level Blenheim Palace where Churchill was born).

Maybe visit a ruined Abbey or two.  Fountains Abbey is Britain's largest, and is close to York.  Or beautiful Tintern Abbey in Wales, made famous in Wordsworth's eponymous poem.

Or if castles are more your thing, in addition to such famous castles as Edinburgh and Warwick, why not go to Tintagel Castle, fabled home of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table?

And so on and so on, working your way all through the 580 different places where you get free admission with your Great British Heritage Pass.  Because each extra place you visit costs you no more, treat yourself to some less well know places and you'll get a much richer more varied travel experience as a result.

Using the Pass in London

You might find it makes better sense to use a separate London Pass for your time in London, and to save the Great British Heritage Pass for your time traveling outside of London.

The London Pass includes the same places as the GBHP, plus a vast number of extra places too.

If your GBHP has extra days that will otherwise be unused on it, then of course use these days while in London, but if you're right at the point where maybe you need to upgrade to a longer pass length, consider then getting separate London Passes for your time in London.

And, similarly, if your London stay is of a length such that maybe you need to upgrade your London Passes to a longer validity, perhaps you can use a day or two of your GBHP passes to save the need to get longer validity London Passes.

Other Pass Products

English Heritage have a pass - the Overseas Visitors Pass - which gives you admission into about 100 different properties in England.  The price is about half that of the GBHP (eg 19/23 for 7/14 days compared to 39/52 for 7/15 days), but you're limited to only about one sixth as many places that accept the English Heritage pass.

Historic Scotland has a pass as well, offering 3, 7 or 10 days of admission out of 5, 14 or 30 elapsed days, selling for 19/27/32.  This gets you admission to about 75 places in Scotland.

The National Trust has a pass that is good for 7 or 14 days, and allows you entry to about 300 properties in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.  It costs 18 or 23.

Generally you're better off with a GBHP than with getting separate English and Scottish passes, and you have admissions to vastly more properties (580 instead of 175).   And if you add a National Trust pass to this, you are spending vastly more money and still have less places to choose from.

The GBHP includes 103 English Heritage properties, all Historic Scotland properties, and 219 National Trust properties.  It also has many other properties to get to its total of 580 properties, and most of the properties it doesn't have are ones which either have free admission or such limited opening hours as to be problematic for international visitors.

So, overall, and for most of us, there's no real cost benefit and a major loss of flexibility if you choose something other than the Great British Heritage Pass.

Daily cost of a Great British Heritage Pass

The Great British Heritage Pass of course costs more when adding extra days of validity to the Pass, but each additional day of validity represents a lower cost per extra day you are adding.

So, for example, if you are considering 'should I buy a seven or a fifteen day pass', note from the table below that the extra cost of the longer pass is 13, or only 1.63 per extra day.  With an average admission costing about 10, you only need to go to two more places during the extra eight days to make the longer pass a better value.

There's another way of considering this, too.  It allows you to set a more leisurely pace and not feel the need to always be visiting places every day to make sure you get your money's worth out of the pass, even if it means sacrificing the concept of a relaxed leisurely holiday to do so.  With the minimal extra cost of a longer pass, you have more time to go and visit the places you wish to visit.

 

Days

Total Cost

Cost per Day

Cost per Extra Day

  4

28.00

7.00

n/a

  7

39.00

5.57

3.67

  15

52.00

3.47

1.63

  30

70.00

2.33

1.20


Note that there is also a Family Pass available, for the same duration, for 62/86/114/154.  This allows up to two adults and up to three children (or one adult and four children) to travel together.  Prices are only slightly more than twice the single person pass, making it a good deal if you are traveling as two adults and one child; if you have two or three children, the saving becomes even bigger.

What Length Great British Heritage Pass Should You Buy

As you can see from the table above, the cost per day of the GBHP drops as the number of days (and total price) increases.  And the extra cost of longer duration passes is so minimal it generally makes sense to buy a pass long enough to cover your entire stay in Britain.  If you use, as a rule of thumb, that each admission would normally cost you about 10, you can see you need to be sure you'll visit three places to justify a four day pass, four places to justify a seven day pass, six for the 15 day pass and 7 for the 30 day pass.  Most of us will definitely visit that number (and quite likely substantially more) of places and so can be sure of getting our value out of the pass.

Clearly it makes no sense to buy a GBHP for longer than your total stay in Britain, with two possible exceptions.  If you are planning on a stay that is perhaps 10 days, it might make sense to buy a 15 day pass.  Or, if you are visiting Britain, then traveling to the continent for a while, then spending more time in Britain on your way back, it might make more sense to, eg, buy a single 30 day pass than to buy two seven day passes.

The economics of the pass costs should be considered, although usually the answer is so overwhelmingly in favor of buying a pass this doesn't need to be studied at great length.  But if you are not planning on traveling around and if you don't wish to visit some of the places the Great British Heritage Pass gives you admission to, then there's little sense in buying one.

Should you buy the Great British Heritage Pass singly or as a family pass

The London Pass can optionally include a London Travelcard good for unlimited off-peak travel (ie all day after 9.30am) for the same number of days as the Travelcard itself is valid for, in all zones (1 - 6).

The extra charged by London Pass to include the Travelcard is almost exactly the same as you'd pay for a Travelcard by itself - see table below.  But - for most people - you don't need a Travelcard that covers all six zones - if you're traveling around central London, a simple Zone 1 and 2 Travelcard is all you need, and this is a little less expensive if purchased separately.

Here's a table comparing the alternate ways to arrange your travel around London.  For a much more complete discussion on the best value way to travel around London, see our page on how to find the best transport ticket pricing in London.
 

Days

Cost with
London Pass

Travelcard
Zones 1 - 6

Travelcard
Zones 1 - 2

  1

5.00

6.70

5.10

  2

13.00

13.40

10.20

  3

19.00

20.10

15.30

  6

38.00

40.20

30.60

 

If you're buying a one, two or three day London Pass, and/or if you think you might travel to further away points than just central London, you should probably buy the inclusive London Pass, complete with Travelcard.  This saves you the bother and hassle of having to buy Travelcards every day while in London.

But if you're choosing a six day London Pass and are reasonably sure you won't be needing to travel outside of central London, then buy the London Pass without the included Travelcard option and buy your Travelcards as you need them in London.

Note the included Travelcard is only good for travel after 9.30am.  If you're going to be starting your touring earlier in the morning, you'll need to buy extra tickets until 9.30am when the Travelcard can start to be used.

Reference Book Included

Each Pass comes complete with a 160 page book giving you an excellent resource to plan your London stay.

The soft-covered book measures approx 4" x 6" and features helpful information about every attraction the Pass includes, plus some general London touring information, suggested itineraries, and of course a copy of the inevitable London Underground map.

I found the book to be very helpful in better understanding whether some of the less well known attractions would actually be of interest to me or not.  Plus each featured venue has a small map showing you how to get there, which is very helpful.

This guidebook is published twice each year (the most recent edition coming out in early June) so has up to date information to help you.

Delivering the Great British Heritage Pass

You can choose whether you would prefer to have your passes mailed to you (6.50 for mail that takes up to ten days to arrive), couriered to you (three day service from 27) or if you'd rather collect the tickets yourself subsequent to arriving in Britain (free).

There are pickup points in London and seven other major tourist cities in Britain, with the London pickup point being at the main Visitor Center in London at 1 Regent St - a place most people choose to go to anyway.

Note - although you can pick up your tickets in Britain, you can only buy and pay for them outside of Britain.  You need to buy them before traveling to Britain.

Summary

Chances are a Great British Heritage Pass will save you a great deal more than it costs you, and chances also are that this pass will help you choose some interesting places to see while in Britain, encouraging you to see and do more than you'd otherwise do without its assistance and if you had to actually pay for every place you visit.

With a choice of 4, 7, 15 and 30 day validities, and with both individual passes and family passes, there's a pass to suit just about every intending visitor to Britain.

The Great British Heritage Pass can be conveniently purchased from their website.

 

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Originally published 4 May 2007, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 
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