The Case for Hop on Hop Off Tours

I see them in every major city, lurking around the major sights and tourist hubs, multiple companies, languages and themes, but I’d never actually ridden one. I’ve always been anti bus tour. I like walking and don’t love being surrounded by hoards of tourists. I suppose this was a bit unfair because I’d never really been on one. Lucas’s parents and aunt and uncle were visiting London with us, we had limited time and they weren’t as inclined to walk everywhere and take the tube as we are. So on our first morning in London, we got tickets to one of the big bus companies and set off to see the sights. 

  
Our bus had a live guide and it was fun to zip around the city on the open top and learn about various sights. I have to say the quality of the live guides varied, we hopped on and off a few busses and some were much better (and more audible) than others. The pre recorded tours went to less popular and farther flung sights so we didn’t bother with those. 

The busses are convenient since they go from attraction to attraction and run pretty frequently. All the companies offer multiple routes and some include walking tours or river cruises. If you’re looking to avoid taking the metro, or to get a quick rundown of the highlights of a city it’s a good way to go. Note that most upper deck seats aren’t covered, and the best views are definitely from the top floor so it may not be worth doing in inclement weather. 

   
 Make sure to check online before buying tickets, there are pretty much always sales, no matter which company you go through.  

The verdict? It was a bit pricey for 2.5 hours of entertainment, but could be good value if you use it instead of public transport as well. The busses were frequent, but top deck seats weren’t always available. I might consider another tour in the future but I wouldn’t put it high on my list. 

Are you a fan of bus tours? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!

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28 Comments Add yours

  1. Dina Honour says:

    We did one in Rome because while my husband and I don’t mind walking, we were dragging along two kids and my nearly 70 y/o mother. So I thought it was great for that. Sometimes if you can get a two day deal and you use it instead of public transport like you say, it’s pretty good value. At the very least, you take in all the big ‘sights’!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like you made good use of the bus! It can definitely be a good alternative to a confusing public transit system. We got a two day deal by buying tickets online, which I think made it worth it!

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  2. I like to do hop-on hop-off tours just to get a general idea of the layout of the city. I did this in Rome because it was scorching hot and took too long to walk from site to site, it was the lazy way out but it helped us get to know the city better for the rest of our trip.

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    1. It definitely makes sense in hot weather or to save time. In retrospect, if I’d taken the tour the first time I went to London, I might have had a better idea of the city. If/when I make it to Rome I’ll look into it, seems to be a popular option there.

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  3. angharadeyre says:

    I did one of these once – when I was relatively new to London but had a friend from Germany staying. It meant we saw the places she wanted to see in less time than it would have taken me to find them and then inexpertly make our way to using the tube. These days I can create my own ‘bus tours’ for people – mostly using the good old regular RV1 bus that goes from Tower Bridge, through London Bridge, down the Southbank, past the Eye, over Waterloo bridge and along the Strand to end in Covent Garden. Convenient and cheap!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point, the busses are a lot more straightforward than the tube and pretty direct. I’ve heard of that public bus that hits the main sights (and may check it out next time I’m in London), but our travel companions appreciated the commentary on the tour.

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  4. EmelyeKay says:

    I’ve never done one before, but perhaps now I’ll have to give one try!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not for everyone, but on a tight schedule I would definitely give it a try!

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  5. I usually have time and prefer to walk instead of taking a bus 🙂 But if you are in a hurry, I think it could be interesting

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    1. I do too, but we did learn quite a few things about the city that I hadn’t known before the tour. I might consider trying it again if we didn’t have much time.

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      1. Yes, that’s one of the great advantages of taking tours. You learn more than by doing it yourself because you can’t be bothered to do a lot of research.

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      2. It really is. When I’ve not bothered to research a city, I appreciate any kind of guided tour.

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  6. We prefer to navigate cities on our own for all the reasons that seasoned travelers do. Still, after a week of maneuvering through Ireland on our own we chose to spend our only day in Dublin on a bus. When you want to see the bigger sights in an efficient manner, it’s a pretty good system.

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    1. I agree-exploring a new city yourself is one of the most fun parts, but sometimes it’s nice to have someone else do the driving and navigating.

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  7. Definitely with you on this one, we prefer to walk or take public transport and get to know a new place that way. Plus a tour bus tried to run me over in Cambridge once, which only increased my hatred! That said our parents did the bus trip in Toronto and found it a useful way to get around and see the sights in a short space of time. Still not sure they are for me though but maybe one day I’ll give them a go!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds like an unfortunate incident! You definitely get a better feel for the atmosphere of a city on the public transport as well.

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  8. Expatorama says:

    I always thought hop on hop offs were a bit naff, but actually the one in Johannesburg is a great way to get into parts of the inner city and check it out from the safety of the bus before you decide whether to get off and explore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds like a good choice for Johannesburg as it can be intimidating to visit and navigate on your own. I’d definitely give it a go in a city I was nervous about exploring on my own.

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  9. I did a post like this a while ago. I think it makes a lot of sense for some cities and for some people. I did it once in NYC. I only had one day and I wanted to see as much of the city as possible. It worked. I also did it recently when I took my parents to Ireland because I didn’t think they would be able to do all of the walking. As it turned out it was perfect, we stopped where we wanted to stop but were able to see some of the other things that I wanted them to see but probably didn’t require a hop off. My Mom and Dad really enjoyed it and have already recommended it for their friends. That said, it doesn’t make sense for those who want to do less and experience more. For those intrepid souls it might be misery. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It seems like a good choice in New York because there is so much to see, and the metro is massive and can be confusing. Plus, as you say, it covers a lot of things you may just want to see from the bus.

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  10. Morag says:

    I did one in London years ago when I came down for an interview and stayed in a B&B the night before. The B&B kicked me out at 8am, but my interview wasn’t until 11am. Wandering aimlessly between the B&B and the location of the interview wondering what to do for 2½ hours I came across one of those bus tours. I asked the driver how long the full circuit back to here took, and he said just under 2 hours, so I hopped on. I never hopped off the whole trip (couldn’t afford the time), but I did get to see all the sights go past, and had a much better appreciation of the layout of London than I did before, having generally always traversed London by tube. It gave me my first proper view of London on the surface. In various places I was quite surprised how close together things were.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like it worked out as a good way to fill the time! I was surprised as well at how close some places were, I think in a few cases I’ve taken unnecessary tube trips when I could have more easily walked.

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  11. I have never done one in a big city and this is usually because I’ve already bought a public transport card to cover travelling between sites & accommodation. Hotels in the middle of the city are too expensive for me! I think if I was on a tight schedule then I would do one or if there are sites that are hard to get to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point, a cost comparison between transit and the bus tour would be good to check before purchasing. How far from city centre do you usually stay?

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  12. I did a hop on hop off tour in Rome. It was really convenient but it was also very pricey. You have to be prepared to do a lot to make it worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely, it’s really only worth it if you’re ready to hit the ground running!

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  13. thegreyeye says:

    I did one in Brussels. I won’t say I didn’t like it, I did like seating in the top and seeing around. But they are highly overpriced and if you see one attraction for some time, you have to wait long for another bus, and they close there service @6 pm. So, u almost pay for nothing. I don’t have any other city’s experience. Maybe they are good. In paris one thing I know, the bus tours are open till 10 pm, so may be that is good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are pretty expensive, though you can find deals online. Seems like the quality and value varies a bit from city to city. I don’t think I’d do another unless I was really pressed for time.

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