City cards vary wildly in terms of price and inclusions, with some being exceptional value while others barely save you anything. However, regardless of whether it’s saving you money or just offering convenience, you can wring the most value possible out of your card by following a few simple steps.
1. Check that it works for you
Before you buy the card, think about what you actually want to do in the city and how much money those things cost. Then look at what’s included in the pass — are your attractions included? If you’ll save money on what you want to do by getting a pass, go for it. Even if the pass is a little more expensive, it’s probably worth getting so you can do something a bit out of the ordinary by visiting attractions you might not have chosen but are suddenly free by virtue of having a card.
2. Read the inclusions
Spend some time looking over what’s included in the pass, and pick out the attractions that most interest you. Check if public transport is included or not, and also read over the list of extra discounts that are available to you — you might save 20 or 30% on something that isn’t completely covered by the card, and that you were already planning to do.
3. Plan your days carefully
Many attractions have limited opening hours, so put them into the schedule first. Also be aware of what’s open later than everything else, and plan to do those things at the end of the day. When using a city pass in Salzburg recently, we noticed that almost everything closed at 5pm, but that the restaurant of the brewery we wanted to visit stayed open a lot later. So we arrived at 4pm for the brewery visit, making sure to leave before 5pm closing, but then took our time sampling the beers that were included in the entrance fee. If we’d been in Salzburg later in the year, two or three attractions stayed open later in the evening, and we could have planned to visit them after everything else was shut.
Similarly, if something opens earlier than everything else, start with that. This is an especially good idea if it’s located a bit out of the way — use the public transport element of your pass to get there right on opening time, and you’re not using valuable minutes of the card’s validity travelling.
Location is another aspect to consider. Take a map of the city and circle or highlight the things you want to visit, as well as attractions that interest you a little. Then create mini-itineraries composed of attractions that are close together. Even if an art gallery or museum isn’t super interesting to you, if you find yourself with an extra half hour and you’re nearby, why not visit?
4. Choose your start time
It’s easy to get museum fatigue when you’re trying to fit as much as possible into a day of sightseeing, so spread your pass’s validity over an extra day by activating a 24- or 48-hour pass in the middle of the day. You can spend the afternoon of the first day doing as much as possible, then start bright and early on the second day and see what you can until the pass expires. Of course, this trick doesn’t work on passes that are valid for calendar days rather than consecutive hours.
5. Be ready to change your plan
Things will happen to make your plans change — a museum will be closed for repairs, or you misread the opening hours and it’s not open on Mondays (true story). Be flexible and you’ll have a much better time.