Pros and Cons for City Card Tourist Discount Offers
Enlarge image Germany's ADAC is comparable to America's AAA. (© picture alliance / Josef Wildgruber) Tourists coming to German cities often have a full schedule in mind. Many budget-minded travelers see the price of public transportation and attractions as a challenge to getting the most out of their trip. A city card is meant to help travelers on a budget by offering a multitude of discounts and reductions. Regina Ammel from ADAC, Germany’s largest automobile club that also offers travel tips and promotions, says that sometimes these cards do pay off, but “people need to know that as a rule, the cards do not come from tourist offices, but from private vendors.” Naturally, said the ADAC representative, they want to make a profit. However, she said that it did not mean that the cards are not totally without merit. In a recent Europe-wide test, ADAC was able to find several worthwhile offers.
In many cities, like Berlin for instance, there is more than one type of city card available. Ammel recommended researching the various options each card could offer, including the conditions and prices. “Travelers should ask themselves what they want to do in the city and check what kind of discounts they can get for individual offers or the extent to which major attractions are included in the price”, she said, noting that it might be helpful to bring a calculator and not forget that the price of the card itself should be considered. The prices of city cards vary from city to city – of the three tested in Berlin, costs ranged from 22.90 euros to 82 euros for a three-day pass.
In most cases, city cards are good for varying periods of time, such as a one- or three-day validation, but they do not always offer families special rates. Ammel pointed out that frequently every member of a family needs his or her own card. Families were thus recommended to make a price comparison for their children, as most under a certain age do not need to pay an entry fee, or the entry fee is already reduced without the need of a city card.
One of the most important things to bear in mind for any city card, said Ammel, was whether or not the price of public transportation is included. “For many cards, the cost is worth it just because you can ride on buses and trains for free,” she said. Yet, that this option was not always included, she added. Furthermore, she said people should check to see how much a multiple-day public transportation ticket would cost in comparison.
In addition to cost comparisons, another consideration is where the cards can be purchased. Many offers can only be bought online, some can only be purchased in person and for others both options are possible. “For buying in person, it is most favorable for city card [providers] to be centrally located or near all the most popular attractions. That is unfortunately not always the case,” said Ammel. What ADAC had found was that city cards were often only available at few or even only one location, such that buying them may not just include the cost of the card but also the cost it takes to buy it.