When visiting a major city, it’s easy to see tour buses and think, “Oh those tourists! I want to be an independent traveler.” Independence works in some places, but when visiting London, the Hop On-Hop Off- bus option makes sense. Yes, you can quickly get from place to place using the highly efficient Metro, but you’ll miss the true atmosphere (and architecture) of London.
Big Bargains on The Big Bus Tour
We enjoyed our two days on the Big Bus Tour even though we’ve visited London numerous times. Their marketing plan works. Pay for a one day ticket and get the second day free. I overheard many people comment how happy they were about buying their one day ticket and being told they could use it the next day also. People like getting something beyond what they expected!
Red or Blue Line?
The Big Bus Tours offer a Red or Blue Line. It doesn’t really matter which line you take as they cover “roughly” the same
attractions. The Red Line, however, has a live person giving the commentary in English. Each guide we encountered was funny and presented all those trivia facts that you won’t find in a typical guidebook. They also made a point of greeting everyone as they boarded the bus, especially any children. The Blue Line offers a taped commentary in 13 different languages through the use of individual headphones. The ten-year-old behind me announced, “I’m going to listen to the tour in Portuguese!” He then sat quietly for the next twenty minutes as his mother told me, “He doesn’t know a word of Portuguese!” The tour guides will also alert you to get your cameras ready when the bus approaches a particularly interesting photo opportunity.
Where Do You Go?
Because London can seem like New York on steroids, I suggest taking a morning bus and simply getting an overview of the city. The bus will drive by Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Big Ben, Coca Cola London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, the Horse Guards and much more. You’ll see all the places you’ve heard about and get a feel for what you want to see in order of importance. If you need a break after the overview bus tour, simply get off and take the Metro back to the attraction you want to see. Then hop on the bus again if you want to go to another attraction.
Pick up and Drop off points are easily identifiable by signs along the tour. We seldom had to wait for more than 10 minutes before another bus arrived to pick us up for the next part of our journey. Even though it was cold, we opted to sit on top to get the true, “I’m a tourist on a bus tour experience”. Plus it allowed for a better view to see all the intricate architectural building details you seldom find in the US. Kids especially like sitting near the front of the top level and gawk at how the bus driver maneuvers this huge bus through tiny, twisted streets teeming with other buses and cars. My husband, who has driven a large RV through many harrowing streets in the States, commented he would never attempt to bring an RV through downtown London.
In addition to two days of bus rides, the Big Bus Tours also includes a 30 minute cruise down the Thames River. It was just enough of a cruise to get the feel of seeing London from the waterfront. Plus the boat passes by an actual Pirate ship and the school that Daniel Radcliff attended.
But wait! There’s more! Your ticket also includes three walking tours. While on our bus, the driver announced, “Our next stop is the starting point of the Harry Potter Walking Tour. See many places where the movie was shot.” A collective gasp came from the kids on the bus as well as a mad rush to get off and start the tour. Another city walking tour includes a stop to see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace.
London is a city filled with history and pomp and heavy traffic. Enjoy your time by letting the skilled bus drivers get you from place to place in an entertaining and safe fashion. Cheerio!