Save money with visitor discount cards
The weather had been unseasonably cool, but after a hefty slice of apple pie and a steaming cappuccino in a local cafe, I was warming to another round of sightseeing in the bustling Dutch capital.
I felt more than ready to spend a couple of hours pondering the Rembrandts, Vermeers and other old masters’ works hanging in the Rijksmuseum, that treasure chest of Dutch paintings from the Golden Age.
I had already been on a canal boat ride, stopped off at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, caught a tram, toured the Van Gogh Museum and was now set to take in dozens of world-famous paintings at this popular gallery.
You might think this lust for culture was putting a serious dent in my travel budget. However, thanks to the “I amsterdam” card tucked inside my wallet, my cache of euros was still in good shape.
Without the card, my well-worn wallet would have been about $70 lighter so far this day. If I could squeeze the Hermitage Museum and another canal boat ride into my itinerary, I calculated I’d be saving a further $35 before heading back to the hotel. At a cost of about $50, my 24-hour “I amsterdam” card was proving to be a good investment. My savings for the day would be around $55.
A few days earlier, I had used a similar card in Brussels. Two days of sightseeing had been pretty well covered with a 48-hour Brussels Card. For about $45, the card gave me free access to the city’s metro, tram and bus services and became a passport to the Belgian capital’s many cultural gems.
The Brussels Card gives free entry to more than 30 main museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Public Aquarium of Brussels and the Natural Sciences Museum of Belgium.
With more than 500 kinds of beers brewed in the country, it’s not surprising Brussels is the location for the Belgian Brewers Museum, which also recognizes the card.
Entrance charges to just these four popular tourist highlights would be close to the price of the card. You could comfortably do all four of these attractions in one day, turning your second day using the 48-hour card into a free ride.
The visitor-card route will not be to everyone’s tastes. If your plan is to hit one or two museums a day, without using the free transportation options that come with the purchase, the card might well be a waste of money. It’s also good to remember that the card is good for just one visit to each attraction, and it is activated as soon as you begin using it.
But if you’re packing a lot of highlights into your next European visit, investing in city visitor cards might be the ticket to saving money.
Besides offering good value, the Amsterdam and Brussels cards can also be strategic dual purchases due to the proximity of the two communities. Brussels is just an hour and a half by express train from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
My KLM flight from Canada landed at Schiphol. After clearing customs, – -the Thalys ( thalys.com)fast train to Brussels from the station located immediately below the airport complex.
Both cards can be purchased online before leaving Canada, or you can buy them from select tourism offices in the cities you’re visiting. These cards can include restaurant and bar discounts, often giving free drink incentives with meals or up to 25 – -off menu items.
– Getting its name from the city’s official tourism slogan, the “I amsterdam” package consists of a smart card, public transport ticket and a useful pocket guide that provides more than 40 free and 50 discounted – – major tourist attractions and restaurants. You can choose the length of time: 24 hours (38 euros), 48 hours (48 euros) or 72 hours (58 euros). ( iamsterdam.com)
– The Brussels Card also comes with a separate transportation pass and guide and is available in three time periods: 24 hours (24 euros), 48 hours (34 euros) or 72 hours (40 euros). ( brusselsinternational. be/ wabxlint/en/visitor/practical-information/ 4761/brussels-card. act).
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