Some travellers avoid them and locals even scoff at them, but when it comes to seeing all of London's major landmarks in a small timeframe nothing beats the London's hop-on hop-off bus tours.
Not only is purchasing a ticket on a hop-on hop-off bus tour a great way to squeeze in all of London's major sights in a short amount of time, it will also help you get a rough idea of what the city's layout is like. Not only that, if you purchase a full 24-hour or even 48-hour ticket, you can use the hop-on hop-off bus to get around London for your entire holiday without worrying about paying for public transportation.
London's hop-on hop-off bus tours are also ideal for tourists who struggle to understand English, as many companies offer audio commentaries in several different languages. A lot of companies also offer a variety of perks so customers can take advantage of discounts at London's many landmarks, or purchase a combo ticket so they can visit one of London's many attractions for a discounted price.
There are three different major companies that offer hop-on hop-off bus tours for tourists in London. The Original London Tour and the Big Bus Tours have been around for years and are nearly "mirror images" of each other, and although Golden Tours is a relatively new company, they are slowly starting to rival both companies in terms of cost and benefits.
If you're wondering about which company to choose when purchasing a ticket for a hop-on hop-off bus tour in London, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Big Bus Tours
Big Bus Tours operates sightseeing tours in 18 different cities across the world, so naturally their hop-on hop-off tour in London is pretty hard to beat. Their open-top, double-decker buses make over 50 different stops in London alone, most of which are located near many of London's most notable attractions and landmarks.
Big Bus Tours offer a variety of ticket options for either 24-hour or 48-hour sightseeing tours, and you can also upgrade your ticket to include admission to the London Eye and Madame Tussauds as well. Every customer will also be given a voucher book full of all sorts of discounts and offers you can use at various London attractions, and you will even be given a free poncho if it's raining during the tour. The company has recently partnered with City Cruises, so you can take advantage of a free trip up the River Thames by boat after you're finished you're bus tour.
The company also has a free app so you can find more information on the various attractions and landmarks you will be seeing during your tour, as well as some shopping and dining recommendations as well. You can also use the app to find the nearest Big Bus stop to your location, which is ideal if you're strolling around London beforehand.
Each tour lasts for about two and a half hours, and your tour tickets for two of the tours are interchangeable (for the Classic Red and Big Blue tours only).
Their Classic Red tour includes:
- Stops at all the major London landmarks and attractions
- A live English-speaking guide who will provide commentary for the duration of the tour
Their Big Blue tour includes:
- Mayfair, Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park
- Pre-recorded commentary covering background information on London's main attractions (which is available in 12 different languages).
- Free headphones
Their Green Link tour includes:
- The areas between St. Pancras and Westminster
- Pre-recorded commentary covering background information on the main attractions seen during the tour (available in 12 different languages).
- Free headphones
Tickets for their 24-hour hop-on hop-off tour costs £27 for adults, £12.50 for children and £66.50 for families. If you want to purchase a ticket for their 48-hour tour, tickets cost £35 for adults, £17.50 for children, and £87.50 for families.
The Original Tours
This company was founded nearly 65 years ago, and their hop-on hop-off bus tours are still going strong. As a matter of fact, if you've strolled around Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square or Leicester Square during a stay in London, then you've probably already spotted the iconic Original Tours buses at some point or another.
The Original Tours have some great online discounts if you pre-book your tickets online beforehand, and they also offer discounts for group bookings of ten or more people as well. They also stop at 80 different locations in London, (which are more locations than any other hop-on hop-off bus tour company in London), and each ticket automatically includes a free River Thames Sightseeing Cruise.
The Original Tours are especially popular for families with young children, as they offer a special kids channel with commentary designed specifically to educate children during their tours. Every child will also receive a free London "passport," an activity and quiz book before they board their tour as well.
Their Red Route (also known as the City Sightseeing Tour) includes:
- Language commentary in several different languages as well as a separate commentary for children
- All the major landmarks and attractions in central and West London as well as the Tower Bridge, the London Eye and more
Their Yellow Route (also known as the Original Tour) includes:
- A live English-speaking guide providing commentary as well as recorded audio commentaries
- The majority of the same stops as the Red Route as well as the Horse Guards Parade, the Shard and more
Their Orange Route (also known as the British Museum Tour) includes:
- Pre-recorded commentaries available in different languages
- The British Museum, King's Cross station, Ripley's Believe It Or Not!, Russell Square and Euston Station
Their Green Route (also known as the Capital Connector) includes:
- Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, the National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Lambeth Palace, the London Eye, the Sea Life London Aquarium, South Bank, Downing Street and more
Their Blue Route (also known as the Royal Borough Tour) includes:
- Pre-recorded commentaries available in different languages
- Kensington Palace, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park and more
Their Grey Route (also known as Capital Connector) includes:
- Notting Hill, Kensington Gardens, Paddington Station, Marble Arch and Hyde Park
Tickets for their 24-hour hop-on hop-off bus tour cost £30 for adults (or £26 online), £15 for children between the ages of five and 15 (or £12.50 online), and £90 for families consisting of two adults and two children (or £73 online).
Their 48-hour tour tickets cost £40 for adults (or £36 online), £19 for children (or £16.50 online), and £118 for families (or £96 online).
Golden Tours may not be as well known as the OLT and Big Bus, but over the past several years they've managed to leave their mark on London's hop-on hop-off bus tour industry.
Unlike their competitors, Golden Tours offer free WiFi on their buses as well as a 72-hour ticket option, which is ideal if you're staying in London for a longer period of time. They also offer discounted admission tickets to the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the London Dungeon, Shrek's Adventure, the Tower of London, the Shard and Madame Tussauds and St. Paul's Cathedral.
Their Blue route (or Essential Tour) includes:
- A live English-speaking guide
- All the main London landmarks like Buckingham Palace, the Tower Bridge, Big Ben, St. Paul's Cathedral, Trafalgar Square. the Imperial War Museum, and much more
Their Red route (or Classic Tour) includes:
- Pre-recorded commentary in 11 different languages
- All of the main sights in central London
- Stops in London's Museum Quarter
Their Orange route (or Grand Tour) includes:
- Many of London's central sights as well as Madame Tussauds, Marylebone and King's Cross
Their Yellow route (or the Pick Up/Drop Off route) is only offered in the morning and drives through all of the major hotel districts in central London
Their London Introduction, 3-hour Open Top bus tour costs £19 for adults, £10 for children, and £53 for families .
Their 24-hour tickets (which include an extra free 24 hours) cost £25.50 for adults, £12 for children, and £66.50 for families.
Their one-day tickets cost £22 for adults, £11 for children, and£60 for families.
Their 48-hour tickets (which includes an extra free 24 hours) cost £33.50 for adults, £15 for children, and £85 for families.