We travel a lot, and we love to visit sights and attractions when we do. Tourist attractions that charge admission may include museums, amusement parks, national parks, castles, historic buildings, zoos, experience-based attractions, city viewpoints, hop-on hop-off buses, boat rides, and the like.
Many of these activities have an entrance fee, which can quickly escalate. In fact, entrance fees to attractions often account for a significant portion of our travel budget.
Throughout our years of travel, we’ve learned a lot about buying tickets for tours and attractions so that we don’t spend more money than we need to. Of course, we don’t mind paying to visit attractions, but we prefer our budget to stretch as far as possible.
In this guide, I’m going to share with you tips for getting the best deals when it comes to shopping for sightseeing. I’ll go over the options you have when it comes to buying attraction tickets online, the pros and cons of each, and share our tips for saving money when buying sightseeing tickets.
Where to buy sightseeing and attraction tickets online.
Below, I’ll go over the main options you have for buying tickets online, and list the pros and cons of each option.
Online tourist ticket websites.
Firstly, there are a number of websites that sell tickets for attractions around the world. They are a good starting point for your search, as they usually have the main attractions listed and, in some cases, are cheaper than buying them directly at the attraction.
These websites often offer lower prices than other ticketing options because they sell in higher volumes. In addition, some may have exclusive agreements with attractions for specific products, meaning that some types of tickets are only available through these third-party sites.
On the downside, be aware of the fees charged by the service. The sites we have chosen do not add additional fees, except for some specific tickets, but it is always good to check what the final price is.
The websites we like to use are the following.
With over 60,000 activities available worldwide, including tours and attractions, GetYourGuide is often the first place we go when looking to buy tickets online.
GetYourGuide has tickets for attractions all over the world and, in our experience, the prices are usually the same or slightly better than direct bookings. They also don’t charge booking fees, except for very specific tickets, such as those for the Louvre.
The website is easy to use and navigate, and can be filtered specifically for tickets.
We like that the key information you need to know is presented in a clear and obvious way. Ticket features such as the ability to skip the queue, cancellation policy and ticket validity are highlighted.
There’s also a full review system so you can see the experience of other users, and each product for sale has a detailed description of what you can expect. They also accept payment in multiple currencies.
We also love the mobile ticketing option offered for many products. For products that support mobile tickets, GetYourGuide sends the ticket to your phone. You can then display the ticket at the entrance on your phone, saving you from having to print a ticket. Printing tickets can be a challenge when traveling. Of course, if you prefer to have a printed ticket that is also an option.
I’ve used this mobile ticketing option while outside attractions watching the long ticket lines, and it has allowed me to skip the line and get in, often saving money on the box office price as well.
Viator is probably one of the most popular websites for booking tours and activities online. In fact, with over 345,000 activities to choose from, this TripAdvisor-owned company definitely covers a lot.
We usually start with GetYourGuide because we prefer their interface, but we also often check Viator to compare prices. They also have a larger selection of products, so it’s a good place to look if we can’t find an entry elsewhere. This is especially the case for lesser-known destinations, where Viator is more likely to have products than the other sites on our list.
Viator offers a powerful filter system for finding attraction tickets. First, you can select just to view tickets and passes, which you can then filter by additional criteria, such as being family-friendly or offering queue-free access.
Payment is accepted in multiple currencies, there are mobile tickets for many products, and naturally there is a review system. Detailed information about each experience is also provided, with information about what to expect, inclusions and exclusions, as well as meeting point and redemption information.
Overall, Viator is certainly a great option for buying attraction tickets online.
While Tiqets does have some tours, the site specializes in attraction tickets. This means it has fewer products in its overall inventory (there are about 3,000 attractions available), but the focus makes it easy to find specific tickets.
Tiqets has tickets for places all over the world, from museums to other types of attractions, like guided bus tours and even theme parks. They also have some smaller attractions and venues that are available exclusively on the Tiqets platform. So if you can’t find an attraction on another platform, Tiqets is worth checking out.
Tiqets offers competitive pricing, customer reviews of their products, multi-currency payment and mobile tickets. Its filtering system, however, isn’t particularly powerful, so while you can find suggestions for attractions in a destination, we think it works best if you already have an attraction in mind.
Civitatis is the leading online travel and activity booking platform for the Spanish-speaking market. However, they now also offer their services to English speakers.
With over 45,000 activities to choose from in destinations all over the world, including attraction tickets, the offer is certainly extensive.
When it comes to features, Civitatis covers everything you need. You can search for a destination specifically for tickets, and filter by features such as accessibility, price and cancellation policy. You can also filter by availability, so if you’re looking for something to do last minute, you can skip things that aren’t available.
Naturally, there are reviews of the products from other customers, payment is accepted in multiple currencies, and there are no hidden fees or surcharges. One thing we’ve noticed with Civitatis is that many tickets must be printed, and there’s no option to filter by mobile ticket, so keep that in mind.
Finally, another website worth checking out for buying attraction tickets is Klook. Launched in 2014, Klook has over 100,000 products available in over 350 destinations worldwide. Based in Hong Kong, Klook is a great option if you’re looking for attractions in Asia in particular.
Klook’s website is very easy to navigate, and it’s easy to filter by the type of activity you’re looking for. So if you’re specifically looking for tickets to attractions in a city, you’ll be able to find them quickly. You can even filter by the type of attraction you’re interested in, from museums and exhibitions to theme parks and animal attractions like zoos.
Klook tells you before you buy if instant confirmation is available, and most tickets can be viewed on your mobile (or printed if you prefer). Klook has thousands of user reviews of their tickets, and accepts payment in multiple currencies.
City / Region / Themed Attraction Passes
If you are visiting a city or region and plan to do quite a bit of sightseeing, you may be interested in a pass that includes admission to several attractions.
There are several types of passes available, from passes for a specific city to passes that can cover one type of attraction in a country, such as national parks.
When considering any type of pass, you will need to do some research and planning to find out if the pass will save you money. You’ll also want to see if you get any useful perks with the pass, such as public transportation, skip-the-line entry to attractions, or discounts on shopping and dining.
Most of these passes can usually be purchased online directly from the pass website. Some are also for sale on the online ticketing sites mentioned above.
The passes have the advantage that you can see a lot of sights and save quite a bit of money doing so. The disadvantage is that, unless you want to spend more money, you’re limited to the attractions they cover, and you have to do a bit of research to make sure the savings are worth it.
Here are some of the different types of passes, with examples of each, to give you an idea of what’s out there.
Flexible passes for the city’s attractions.
When visiting a city for sightseeing, we always check to see if there is a city attraction flex pass for sale. A flexible pass is one that allows you to visit as many attractions as you want from a full list, and they are usually valid for a set number of days.
In our experience, you need to plan to visit quite a few attractions to get the financial benefit of one of these passes. You will also need to check that the pass covers the attractions you plan to visit.
We have used flexible city passes in destinations all over the world and have written reviews of many of them. You can see our reviews of some of our favorite attraction passes at the links below:
Of course, there are many more passes for cities around the world, such as the San Francisco Pass.
Fixed city attraction passes
The other type of city pass worth considering is one that allows you to visit a fixed number of attractions. Usually, the pass will include a set number of attractions or you can choose from a list. In either case, you will only be able to visit the specified number covered by the pass you purchase.
The advantage of one of these passes is that they usually last much longer, and are sometimes a bit more cost effective.
The cities that have these passes also often coincide with the more flexible but shorter duration passes. Thus, you can choose whether you want to visit many attractions in a shorter period of time, or fewer attractions in a longer period of time.
There are quite a few passes of this type available. We especially like the CityPASS products, which typically include 5-7 of a city’s top attractions and offer considerable savings. Plus, they often cover cities not covered by other passes. We used one during our stay in Houston, for example, and saved quite a bit of money.
Other companies that offer passes of this type are the GoCity Pass and the Sightseeing Pass, both of which have the option of a pass with a fixed number of attractions, and cover many cities around the world.
Passes / Combined tickets for a specific organization or region.
Another category of passes that can save you money, depending on your trip, is a pass that comes from a specific organization.
Examples of this type of pass are the National Parks pass in the United States and passes for National Trust or English Heritage sites in the United Kingdom.
In addition, there are passes that focus on a selection of similar attractions in a region. Examples include the Royal Edinburgh ticket, the Loire Valley Castles pass and the Bavarian Castles pass.
There are many such passes offered by organisations and regions around the world. Our advice when travelling is to search for the region or attraction you are looking for to see if there is a pass or combined ticket available.
Some only include two attractions, but if you were planning to visit them anyway, it may be worth it.
Annual / Season Passes
For attractions that you plan to visit multiple times in the same year or season, you may want to consider purchasing an annual or season pass. This will often save you a lot of money if you make multiple visits and can come with additional benefits, such as priority admission, free entry to special exhibits, and discounts at the restaurant or gift shop.
Annual or season passes are especially popular at ski resorts, major museums, zoos, and theme parks. Season tickets or passes are also available for performance venues such as theaters. Generally, these types of passes must be purchased directly from the attraction’s website or in person, but may also be available from third-party ticketing sites.
Sometimes these passes are referred to as memberships. What they have in common is that they usually cover one venue (or sometimes multiple venues of the same brand), and offer significant savings if you plan to visit multiple times a year.
As an example of savings, a single day ticket to a U.S. Disney park typically costs between $100 and $130, while an annual pass typically costs starting at around $1,200. Therefore, if you plan to visit a Disney park for more than ten days a year, an annual pass will typically provide you with great savings, as well as additional perks such as free parking.
Rides that include admission to an attraction.
We also wanted to mention that another option for visiting attractions is to take a tour that includes admission to the attraction.
While a guided tour is almost always more expensive, you will have an expert guide to help you understand what you are seeing and guide you to the highlights. Also, many tours include multiple attractions, so it can be a good way to see many sights without worrying about having to book lots of separate tickets.
We often take a guided tour or two when we first arrive in a city. It’s a good way to get your bearings and see some of the highlights. We also find it a good way to get some tips on other places of interest to see in the destination as well as where to eat.
Two companies we particularly like are Take Walks and Context.
Take Walks is one of our favorite small to medium sized walking tour companies. We’ve done tours with them in Florence, Venice, and Rome, as well as New York. They do walking tours all over the world, including a number of exclusive access tours to places like the Vatican and St. Mark’s Basilica. We think their full-day tours, in particular, are a great way to get to know a city.
We have also done several walking tours with Context in various cities around the world. We love how small their groups are and the fact that the guide is always a true subject matter expert, usually with an advanced degree in the subject of the tour.
We have a discount code for Context, if you book through our links you will automatically get a 10% discount.
Online directly from the attraction
Finally, of course, you can also book directly from the attraction’s website if they sell tickets directly online. In some cases, tickets will be cheaper than if you buy them in person, to encourage visitors to book online in advance. Although be aware that there may be a booking fee or tax added which may increase the price.
The advantages of buying direct are that it usually ensures that more of your money goes to the attraction. There are also usually types of tickets and experiences that are available exclusively on the attraction’s own website, and if you have questions about your visit, direct contact with the attraction will give you the best answers.
However, there will also be some disadvantages. There may not be multi-currency support or extended customer service hours like you would get with a platform like GetYourGuide. Also, the website may not be available in your language, making it difficult to know what to do.
It’s also unlikely that there will be reviews from other customers. Also, if you are going to visit multiple attractions, having to jump from one website to another and enter your payment details several times can be more time consuming than doing it through one website.
Naturally, we are not suggesting that you should not buy direct. It’s always worth checking the price, and some venues have options for exclusive tickets, VIP experiences or skip-the-line tickets that can only be purchased directly. So bear this in mind when looking for deals, and weigh up the pros and cons before you buy.
Buy tickets in person or online?
You may be wondering whether you should buy your tickets in person rather than online for an attraction. After all, buying tickets online is the more traditional and obvious way to purchase tickets for attractions.
All you have to do is show up at the attraction and buy the ticket at an on-site ticket counter. This can be a good option, but it depends a lot on the attraction you want to visit and the flexibility of your trip.
However, buying tickets in person has quite a few disadvantages.
For major attractions, such as the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the Colosseum in Rome, tickets often sell out well in advance. In addition, many of these popular attractions have a timed-entry system, so even if tickets are available on the day, they may not be for the time you want them. The consequence is that if you don’t book in advance, you won’t be able to visit an attraction.
Next, and again this applies mainly to popular attractions, there are often very long queues at the venue ticket office. We prefer not to waste our limited holiday time queuing for tickets whenever possible. So the consequence is that you may wait in long ticket queues rather than buying a ticket that allows you to skip the queue. This can also mean you have less time to visit other attractions in a destination.
There are other disadvantages to buying tickets in person. For example, you may not get the best price on site. Also, payment options may be limited if you buy your ticket in person. Smaller attractions, for example, may require cash payment in local currency.
This is an exception, but is definitely something to keep in mind if you are used to paying with a credit or debit card.
Of course, it’s not all negative. Buying tickets in person has some advantages.
The main advantage of buying a ticket in person is that it gives you a lot of flexibility with your planning.
If you’re the type of person who likes to wander around a destination and visit attractions on a last-minute whim, buying tickets at the box office is most likely the easiest way to go.
Finally, for smaller attractions or those off the beaten path, buying in person may be the only way to purchase tickets. Also, for these smaller attractions, you know that when you pay in person all of your money is going to support the attraction.
In our case, we typically only buy tickets in person for off-the-beaten-path attractions where online purchase is not possible, or for those smaller attractions that we visit on a whim at the last minute.
However, we generally prefer to buy online at one of the places we have mentioned, and see if we can get a better deal for our ticket.
Tips for saving money on sightseeing
We wanted to share some tips for saving money on sightseeing and buying tickets online.
First of all, when comparing ticket prices on different websites, always check what the final price is. Booking fees or taxes may be added to the initial price at the time of purchase, which can make the ticket more expensive than on another website or when buying in person.
To get a fair price comparison, it is wise to compare what you actually pay for tickets, including fees and taxes.
If you are thinking of buying an attraction pass, make sure you will visit enough attractions to make it worthwhile. Attraction passes offer considerable savings, but it is usually necessary to visit some of the included attractions before realizing those savings. Otherwise, it may be more cost-effective to pay only for the attractions you do plan to visit.
If you buy an attraction pass, be sure to read everything included. Some may include a lift pass or other bonuses that can save you even more money on your trip.
We hope you found our guide to buying tickets online useful. Before you get going, we wanted to share some other tips to help you plan your trip.
And that’s it for our guide to buying tickets online. We hope you found it useful. As always, we are open to your opinions and questions, just post them in the comments below. Have a good trip.
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