City Cards in Europe: Vienna comes out on top, but Berlin and Paris fail to deliver in new EuroTest
Publication date: 25 September 2012
Putting all your hopes on a single card when visiting a new city may not be the best way to go. This is the conclusion reached in a comparison of 16 cards in 14 major cities, which was conducted for the first time by the EuroTest consumer protection programme (made up of 18 FIA member Clubs). Three "Good" ratings were accompanied by the same number of "Poor" ratings with 10 "Acceptable" ratings in between. While there was no "Very good" rating, there was also no "Very poor" rating at the other end of the scale.
Jacob Bangsgaard, Director General of the FIA Region I office, said: “The best city cards, like the one used in Vienna, offer an all-in-one, integrated tourism solution which covers travel, sights and services. The promotion of such cards should be encouraged Europe-wide by local, national and European authorities.”
First place goes to the Vienna Card
Scoring a good three thirds of the points possible, the Vienna Card in Austria's capital city came out tops and won first place in the comparison with a "Good" rating. This card, which costs €19.90 for one adult and is valid for three days, beat nearly every other card in terms of price except for the Zagreb Card (€11.89) which even covers children up to the age of 12. Only the Berlin Welcome and the Zagreb Card could compete with the 151 offers contained in the Vienna Card. However, the Vienna Card is not available for other periods of use nor is a children's card available. All the same, the card offers a discount on nine of the city's top 10 attractions, all of which were located within the public transport zone covered by the card.
Oslo and Ljubljana also have good cards
The other "Good" ratings: Close on the heels of the Vienna card is Norway's Oslo Pass, followed a good way behind by Slovenia's Urbana Ljubljana Tourist Card. In Oslo, the city card is available for one, two, three or four days for adults and children, and there's even one for senior citizens – the only one of its kind in this comparison. The card covers all the city's top 10 attractions and holders can look forward to a high average discount of 71 percent on all offers. However, this card does come at a high price: €65.70 for three days for one adult. By comparison, the Urbana Ljubljana Tourist Card, which came third, costs only €35 and offers a whopping 100% discount, i.e. all offers are free. To top that, the card also covered all top 10 attractions in Slovenia's capital city. It must be said, however, there were only 23 offers in total and the trip from and to the airport cost extra.
Last place goes to The Berlin Pass
The picture is completely different in Germany's capital city Berlin, which was the only city to have three cards in the comparison. The Berlin Pass only just managed to score 42 percent of the total points and came last with a "Poor” rating and the lowest rating of all. You will have to fork out €82 for this card for one adult for three days. But you will have to make do with just three of the city's top 10 attractions. What's even more annoying is that three of the offers contained on the card are free of charge anyway. There are no additional benefits and you can only buy the card online. If you wish to have the card sent to you, this will cost you even more in postage fees. The card was only available from a single sales outlet in the city – assuming, of course, that you have already purchased the card online! The information provided on the website was minimum and there were no downloads provided. This is made even worse by the fact that the information requested from the tourist information office took more than five days to arrive.
But on a more positive note: There were two types of ticket available for two and three days for adults and children, an average discount of 100% on all offers and all the attractions were located within the public transport zone covered by the card which also included travelling from and to the airport.
A poor show also by Berlin's second card
The last-place card, however, was not the only shortcoming found in Germany's capital city. The Berlin CityTourCard also brought up the rear, having to make do with third-last place and a "Poor" rating. Although this card, which is neither available for children nor can it be bought online, only costs €22.90, the discount it offers is also very low and the card contained only four of the city's top 10 attractions.
Filling the gap between last place and third last was the Paris Pass. With an impressive price tag of €153, visitors have to dig deep into their pockets to buy this card. However, a four-day card had to be purchased here because this was the only city in the comparison which did not have a three-day card on offer. Paris along with Zagreb was also the city where information had to be requested several times from the tourist information office and then took a record time of 34 days to arrive by post and 23 by e-mail – during which time you might have already been there and back. That brings to a close the really poor cards. Now to the remaining cities where the picture shows neither highs nor lows, a few minus points here, a few plus points there – simply middle-rate.
Where price and service don't match
Price was the category with the poorest scores. It should be remembered that this category not only considered the price of the card but also compared the three-day city card to a three-day travel card for public transport. That's because the higher the share of the public transport price in the price of the card itself, the greater the benefit for visitors using public transport if free trips are included in the card. This alone can make it worthwhile to buy a city card. However, six of the cards compared were given a "Very poor" rating in this category: the Berlin, Paris and London Pass, the cOPENhagen CARD, MadridCard and the I amsterdam City Card. The LuxembourgCard, Lisboa Card and Oslo Pass had to make do with a "Poor" rating. Along with the winner in this comparison - the Berlin CityTourCard, the Berlin WelcomeCard and the Zagreb Card proved to be unbeatable in terms of price. In the case of the latter card, a comparable travel card for public transport even cost more.
The Offer category was also slightly below average. The cards in Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Vienna and Zagreb were all rated "Poor" in this category as were the WelcomeCard and CityTourCard in Berlin. Only five of the cards came with additional benefits. In the case of seven cards, the average discount offered was significantly lower than expected. Five of the cards were not available for children. Although most of the cards included free travel on public transport, in a number of cases some of the attractions were located outside the transport zone covered by the card.
Now for the good news
We are pleased to report that, in most cases, the cards covered more than two thirds of the top attractions in the city; this was checked in the Top attractions category. The Urbana Ljubljana Tourist Card and the Oslo Pass even included all ten attractions. Rome took a completely different approach by offering two free admissions which the card holder was free to choose. But false hopes were awoken in Berlin and most especially by the MadridCard. Although the latter card promised free admission to many attractions in Madrid, a gob-smacking 30 of these were already free. When it comes to ticket sales and information, there was not a lot to criticise. The tickets were often available at all important sales outlets and on the Internet. It is annoying, however, if after ordering online you have to pick up your ticket on arrival, as was the case in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon, Oslo and Rome. The amount of information provided on the Internet varied. While it was good that at least maps of public transport networks are provided, it's even better when brochures or flyers can be downloaded.
Room for improvement everywhere
Even if the result does not appear to be bad at first, there is still a need for improvement almost everywhere. We don't simply mean lifting poor city cards to a higher level, we also believe that the cards must be designed in such a manner that they offer users real advantages.
Notes for the editors:
Through EuroTest – an international testing programme for consumer protection, 18 automobile clubs in 17 countries, members of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), have been putting the quality and safety of mobility in Europe to the test since 2000 for the benefit of their members and all mobile consumers in Europe. The EuroTest partners have constantly called for a Europe where the mobile consumer can circulate freely using quality infrastructure and in safety.
More information on the City Card test can be found at http://www.eurotestmobility.net.