Do Real Travellers Use A Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Tour?

Do Real Travellers Use Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Tours?

Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Tour Madrid. Struggling to keep the earphones in...

Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Tour Madrid. Struggling to keep the earphones in…

10 years ago, rucksack on my back, guide book in my hand and feeling unadventurous I stepped onto a hop-on hop-off tour bus in Berlin. This experience changed my view of bus tours forever, challenging my snobbish view that such tours were for lazy tourists who had no sense of discovery. On that day I found another thing that I am grateful to my partner for. For it was him that nagged me to do the tour.

Until then I had viewed with distaste the huddles of tourists trolling around cities, like my home town of London, on hop-on hop-off tours trying to keep the cheap earphones in their ears to hear the commentary. While the problem of keeping the earphones in your ears is still a problem, I learnt that hop-on hop-off tours are ideal for discovering a city.

Hop-on Hop-Off buses are not just for unadventurous, lazy visitors who cannot be bothered to figure out public transport and mingle with locals.  They are for “real” travellers too!

After that trip 10 year ago it dawned on me that they are perfect for immersing you into any new city. They help make sense and give you an overview of a city that no map can do. They give you a potted history, point out what marks the city in terms of significant buildings, memorials and where key events took place. They give you an idea of the position, relative distances and location of all the key destinations. They help give you a perspective on what you want to go back to explore – and what you should try and bundle together in follow up expeditions over the next few hours and days. They have also revealed unusual markets and destinations in the city I would never have found otherwise. They are also perfect when you are in town for a short stay, such as a business trip to get out and see a lot of the city in a short time.

They are also usually the most cost effective way of getting around the city, as they let you jump on and off all day without taxi fares or figuring out the complexities of metro and bus routes.

Virtually every city and major destination I have been to over the years now seems to offer a hop-on hop-off bus tour. It is something that I now see as my “map” and “induction’ to every place that I visit. They can be a really powerful tool for any traveller.

Swallow your pride. Stop being snobbish. Real travellers really should embrace hop-on hop-off bus tours.

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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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12 Responses

  1. Mike Wiesner says:

    As an experienced traveler, I try to stay away from the touristy activities and try to blend in with the locals. However, the hop on, hop off bus is a great way to scout out the city in a short amount of time and spot those places you want to revisit later.
    I enjoyed your blog.

  2. Adam says:

    I’m with you 100% on this ! Hop-on, hop-off buses are a great, quick introduction to a city. I didn’t particularly like the one I went on in Berlin, as the “free” walking tour was more than sufficient, but in other places I’ve found them extremely helpful. And if it’s sweltering hot outside (or freezing cold), it’s a great way to see a lot in a more comfortable environment.

    • Thanks for reading the post and your thoughts. Agree, have had better ones than the one in Berlin as seemed to reel off more of “what” you were seeing than the stories behind them. I took that to be a reflection of some of the difficult past. But glad you agree overall! Gary

  3. liz davidson says:

    We use the hop on hop off buses a fair bit and another bonus is that if you are in a city a few days they often have discounted entry to other attractions as well. I like hem for checking out an area before deciding if I want to ‘mix it’ with the locals!! something as a lone female traveller you have to consider.

    • Liz, thanks for reading and commenting. Great point about the solo traveller point, especially for women solo travellers. A good way to get a feel for the lay of the land before venturing out.

  4. Clare says:

    Love this! I nearly always take the hop-on, hop-off bus to get my bearings and give me a feel for where my hotel fits in to a new city. 48 hour tickets can be pretty handy the next day for getting from A to B too, once I pick off what I want to see. I’m not a massive fan of the ear phones, they do the job but don’t compare to the live commentary bus in Dublin – my jaw was aching from laughing so much on that city tour. Brilliant drivers!

  5. My wife and I have never done the hop-on/hop-off routine, and I hate to admit it, but snobbery has played a big part in the decision not to. I pledge next trip, come hell or high water, we’re gonna do it!
    Thanks for the persuasive article. You may have changed to travelers lives.

  6. Astrid says:

    Agree especially on saving on taxi fares! It’s a quick way to see the place you’re dealing with like which attractions are near to plan for the other days we can explore on our own. 🙂

  7. Megan says:

    I’ve only ever done one hop-on, hop-off bus tour (Dublin) and had forgotten how helpful it actually was! I did it after already having been in the city for a month, but it was definitely still worthwhile. Like so many other travelers I often turn my nose up at organized tours and the like, but I’ve been re-thinking that mindset a lot lately due to posts like yours!

  8. Katie says:

    While i completely agree with taking a tour of the city almost as soon as you get to your destination so that you get your bearings, I have never yet used a hop-on hop-off bus. And trust me i know exactly why i’m prejudiced- it’s those god-awful colors they always paint the buses in, bright yellows and neon greens. After reading your post though I may one day give the buses a chance, if only to say that I know for sure I hate it. But who knows? It might change my mind. But I would still never use these if I was staying in a place for any length of time because it’s always much more fun and exciting to learn your way around the old-fashioned way- by getting lost and consulting your map or asking locals for directions.

  9. Adelina says:

    I’ve never taken a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Normally I opt for a walking tour which is also a great way to get oriented when in a new city. But I can see how a bus tour would be useful in cities where sites are spread out far from one another or if you only have a short time in a city.

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