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|Travel advice: how the over 65s can save|
The age of wisdom brings many rewards and a few disadvantages for travellers.
I was reminded of one of the key rewards by John Bowring, the reader whose cost-saving tips on a trip to Naples we published a few weeks ago. John is 79 and in his list of expenditure he pointed out that, since he was over 65, he was entitled to free entry to many key sights – including Pompeii and Herculaneum.
This was no mean saving. The standard cost of an entry ticket, which includes both sites (and the nearby Roman villas), is €20 (£17) a head – which adds up to a little over £35 for a couple. If you enjoy visiting cultural sights, you could multiply that figure by four or five over the course of a holiday in many European countries.
The problem is that, as in this country, the age limits and discounts offered on the continent vary and it can be hard to get reliable information about what is on offer. But – given the huge choice of sights and museums to visit and the fact that the savings bear no relation to the quality of the attraction – it is information worth knowing when you are planning your stay.
For major sights such as the Vatican Museums, Uffizi, Louvre etc, where long queues can be a problem, it is worth booking online before you travel, even though it might cost a couple of euros extra. Details on how to do this are on the websites listed.
All references to free or reduced admissions listed below are for British (or EU) citizens aged 65 or over. You will need your passport to prove your age.
Museums and galleries belonging to the state (Musei Statali) – which includes many of the most famous ones – are free for European citizens over 65 upon presentation of their passport. Musei Comunali (those run by local authorities or cities) sometimes follow state policies, but often offer a reduced-price entrance fee for over 65s; likewise for private museums and attractions. The many churches which have an entrance charge do not usually offer concessions for older travellers.
Here are some examples of charges and discounts in key cities:
Many of the key museums, monuments and sites in and around Rome are state controlled, so admission is free for over 65s, meaning significant savings (normal entry to the Colosseum for example is €12/£10). They include the Colosseum, the different branches of the National Roman Museum – Crypta Balbi, Altemps Palace, Palazzo Massimo and the Baths of Diocletian, Ostia Antica, the Borghese Gallery and the Palazzo Barberini and tickets to the Forum and the Palatine Hill.
Sometimes guided tours, tickets to particular areas and entrance to temporary exhibitions do incur a charge. The Vatican Museums (including the Sistine Chapel) are run by the Vatican and there are no specific reductions for older travellers on the full entrance price of €15 (£13) (though genuine pilgrims can get free entrance – see http://mv.vatican.va).
There are plenty of savings here: there is no charge at the key museums of the Uffizi (normally €6/£5), Accademia (normally €6/£5) and Bargello (normally €4/£3.50). More details can be found at www.uffizi.firenze.it
Free admission to the Accademia and associated museums (including the Ca' d'Oro and the Palazzo Grimani – details on www.gallerieaccademia.org, normal rates €6.50/£5.70 for the Accademia, for example). Entry to the museums of St Mark's Square (www.museiciviciveneziani.it, including the Correr and the Doge's Palace) costs €8 (£7) instead of €14 (£12.30). The Guggenheim, a private museum offers a €2 (£1.70) discount on the normal admission price of €12 (£10.50) (www.guggenheim-venice.it).
There are no national guidelines – it is up to individual cities and museums to decide whether they can offer reductions for older visitors. But it doesn't seem to be part of the national culture to do this. I checked a dozen or so major sights and found no discounts.
For example, in Paris there are no reductions at the Louvre (www.louvre.fr; €10/£8.80), Musee d'Orsay (www.musee-orsay.fr; €8/£7) and Eiffel Tower (www.tour-eiffel.com; €13.40/£11.80 for the lift to the top), nor are there on the official Paris Museum Passes (http://en.parismuseumpass.com), which offer entrance to around 60 museums in the city for two (€35/£30), four (€50/£44) or six (€65/£57) consecutive days.
There is no standard concession for older travellers. Regions set their own ticket prices, and almost all have a reduced entry price for over 60s or 65s. Here are some key examples: the Prado Museum in Madrid is €4 (£3.50) reduced from €8 (£7) for those over 60; EU citizens over 65 qualify for free admission. The Thyssen Bornemisza (www.museothyssen.org) drops admission to €5.50 (£4.80) instead of €8.
In Barcelona, the Picasso Museum (www.bcn.cat/museupicasso/en) is €6 (£5.20) instead of €10 (£8.80).
Outside the main cities, the Alhambra, Granada charges €9/£8 (instead of €12/£10.50) admission to the Alhambra and Generalife (www.alhambra-patronato.es/index.php) for EU citizens over 65.
Normally over 65s will get a 50 per cent reduction on the admission price, or free entry. Some sites are less generous – the new Acropolis Museum (www.theacropolismuseum.gr), for example, offers those aged 65 and above from EU countries a reduced fee of €3 (£2.60). The National Archaeological Museum (www.namuseum.gr) charges €3 (£2.60) instead of €7 (£6) and entrance to the Acropolis/Parthenon (http://odysseus.culture.gr) is €6 (£5.20) instead of €12 (£10.50).
It's a very mixed picture in Britain. Obviously the key national museums are free to all, but the major stewards of our cultural heritage offer few discounts.
For example, the National Trust says: "as a registered charity completely independent of government, the National Trust cannot afford to offer concessions on admission fees". However, members aged 60 plus who have held National Trust membership for a total of five years can buy "Pensioner" membership at £35 (annual), a slight discount on the normal rate of £37.88, or £829.50 (life), which is a big discount on the normal rate of £1,260.
Historic Royal Palaces (www.hrp.org.uk) gives a discount to older visitors, but the amount varies. For example, the Tower of London is normally £19.80 (£17 online), but for over 60s, it's £17.05 (£14.50 online). English Heritage (www.english-heritage.org.uk) charges over 60s £33.50 for annual membership, compared with £46 normally.