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One of the worst things about visiting any theme park is having to spend hours waiting in line to go on rides. Thankfully, Universal Studios Hollywood offers the Universal Express Pass which can help to cut your wait time by up to 85% in our experience.
However, this is another paid expense on top of theme park tickets, parking, a hotel, food, drinks, and souvenirs. This leaves many to wonder (at one point ourselves included) if the Universal Express Pass is worthwhile when visiting Universal Studios Hollywood.
In our experience, the Universal Express Pass is worth it at Universal Studios Hollywood if you’re visiting during the peak season and want to go on all the rides inside the park as it can save you up to 85% of the standby wait time on eligible rides.
This means that if the standby wait time for the scariest ride at Universal Hollywood, Revenge of the Mummy is one hour, you’ll likely only wait 10 to 15 minutes with a Universal Express Pass. Multiply this by all the rides at Universal Studios Hollywood and you can quickly see the impact a Universal Express Pass can have on your day.
However, if you’re visiting during the off-season, then Revenge of the Mummy might not have a 1 hour standby wait time. Instead, the wait time may only be 20 minutes and in that case, the benefit you get from the Universal Express Pass isn’t as valuable.
While the Universal Express Pass will be cheaper during the off-season (since Universal works on a dynamic pricing model) we still wouldn’t recommend buying one. Instead, we would recommend saving your money for some epic souvenirs.
If you’re visiting during the height of the peak season (Christmas, New Year, Thanksgiving etc.) when Universal Studios Hollywood is very busy then you may need a Universal Express Pass to experience every ride at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in one day.
How Much Does The Universal Express Pass Cost At Universal Studios Hollywood?
Universal works on a dynamic pricing model. As such the cost of both Universal Studios Hollywood theme park tickets and Universal Express Pass tickets will vary depending on the day in which you visit.
If you’re based in the UK I recommend buying your Universal Studios Hollywood park tickets from AttractionTix. They have the most competitive prices and incredible customer service.
If you’re based in the US or Canada I recommend Klook for your Universal Studios Hollywood tickets. They have the most competitive prices and a range of different ticket options to suit all budgets and requirements.
At the time of writing a one-day Universal Studios theme park ticket with a Universal Express Pass will cost between $199 and $309.
For comparison, general admission into Universal Studios Hollywood costs between $109 and $149. As such the cost of a Universal Express Pass is often between $90 and $120 per ticket.
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Can You Upgrade To A Universal Express Pass In Person At The Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park?
When purchasing your Universal Studios Hollywood theme park tickets online, you might decide just to purchase general admission. However, when you arrive you may realise that you’ve chosen a time when Universal Studios Hollywood is very busy which has resulted in long wait times.
In this case, provided that Universal Express Passes have not sold out for the day (very uncommon) you can upgrade your Universal Studios Hollywood park admission ticket to a Universal Express Pass in person at the theme park and just pay the difference which will roughly be between $90 and $120.
The best place to purchase a Universal Express Pass at Universal Studios Hollywood is at the Box Office Front of Line which is located inside the theme park just across from the Hello Kitty Store and the DreamWorks Theatre.
If you decide that you’d like to upgrade to a Universal Express Pass upon arriving at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park then you’ll want to do it as soon as you arrive at the theme park so that you’re able to maximise its benefits.
How Does The Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass Work?
When you purchase a Universal Express Pass ticket (either online or in-person at the gate) you’ll be provided with a ticket order. This order confirmation has a barcode on it which you’ll want to take with you to Universal Studios Hollywood (either on your phone or as a printed copy).
Once you arrive at the turnstiles at the park entrance you’ll then be able to exchange your ticket confirmation order for a physical ticket. This physical paper ticket will have a barcode on it alongside information about your purchase.
If you’ve purchased a Universal Express Pass then you will not receive one admission ticket and one Universal Express Pass ticket, and instead, you’ll get one ticket that is both your park admission and Universal Express Pass.
You are then free to head to any of the eligible Universal Studios Hollywood rides and enter through the Universal Express Pass entrance. At some stage during the entrance (the exact location varies between rides) you’ll be asked by a staff member to show your Universal Express Pass ticket and have the barcode scanned.
Provided your barcode scans correctly you’ll then be permitted to continue through the Universal Express Pass line to the rides boarding area.
What Rides Accept The Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass?
The Universal Express Pass can be used on all rides and shows at Universal Studios Hollywood except Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge located in Super Nintendo World.
Alongside this, the Universal Express Pass also gains you reservation-free entry into Super Nintendo World when reservations to enter the land are required.
Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge is the latest ride to open at Universal Studios Hollywood and subsequently has standby wait times of up to three hours. This ride will at some point be included with an Express Pass however it’s likely a few years away.
As such if you want to go on Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge you can either;
- Wait in the standby line (in which case head to this ride as soon as the park opens)
- Use the single-rider line
- Upgrade to a VIP Experience
What’s The Difference Between The Universal Express Pass & The Universal Express Unlimited?
When you go to purchase a Universal Express Pass you’ll be asked whether you’d like to upgrade to a Universal Express Unlimited Pass for an additional $50.
The difference between the Universal Express Pass and the Universal Express Unlimited Pass is the number of times you’re able to use the Express Pass on the same ride.
With a Universal Express Pass, you can only use the Express Pass entrance one time per ride. Meaning that you can’t use the Express Pass entrance on Transformers: The Ride 3D twice for example. Instead, the second time you wanted to go on the ride you’d need to use the standby line.
However, with a Universal Express Unlimited Pass, you can use the Universal Express Pass multiple times on the same ride. So if you wanted to go on Transformers: The Ride 3D twice rather than using the standby line the second time round, you could instead use the Universal Express entrance again instead.
Personally, we don’t think that upgrading from a Universal Express Pass to a Universal Express Unlimited Pass is worthwhile as we’d rather spend our time exploring the rest of the theme park.
What’s The Difference Between The Universal Express Pass & The VIP Experience?
Depending on what you’re looking to get from your day at Universal Studios Hollywood you may want to look at upgrading to the VIP Experience.
The difference between the Universal Express Pass and the VIP Experience is that with a Universal Express Pass, you just skip the standby wait lines on eligible rides. Whereas with the VIP Experience, a guide takes you around the park.
As such, not only do you skip the standby wait lines on all rides (including Mario Kart: Bowsers Challenge which is currently not included with the Universal Express Pass) you also get;
- An expert guided tour, including The World Famous Studio Tour
- Light snacks and refreshments
- Exclusive VIP gourmet meal
- Complimentary Valet Parking
The VIP Experience also works on a dynamic pricing model and subsequently tickets retail for between $369 and $479.
If you’re looking to be guided around the park, see and learn about the theme park and the film studio here then the VIP Experience is fantastic. However, if you are happy doing your own thing and just want to cut down on how long you have to wait for rides then you’re likely better sticking to a Universal Express Pass instead.
Universal Express Pass Hollywood Frequently Asked Questions
Sadly, unlike at the Universal Orlando Resort no hotels at Universal Studios Hollywood offer complimentary Universal Express Pass tickets. Instead, the only way to get a Universal Express Pass is to purchase one.
While Universal Express Passes have been known to sell out at Universal Studios Hollywood it is rather uncommon. That being said if you know you want a Universal Express Pass then we encourage you to purchase it as far in advance as possible to avoid disappointment.
I have never been asked for ID to prove that I am the person named on the ticket when using a ticket for the Universal Express Pass entry. That being said, sharing a Universal Express Pass is against Universal’s T&Cs and anyone found to be doing so will likely be asked to leave the park and possibly banned from returning in the future.
If you visit Universal Studios Hollywood multiple times a year then it may be worth upgrading your single park ticket to an annual pass. Universal offers a variety of annual passes each at a different price point and with different benefits. Most notably, the Platinum Annual Pass currently offers Universal Express access after 3pm.