Take a Hop on-Hop off bus? REALLY? I can hear your groans… We’ve all seen them during our travels, those double-decker buses, the upper deck packed with photo-snapping riders who insist on waving to passersby. They look so…touristy. WHY would I suggest you join them?
Trust me on this, there are plenty of good reasons. But let me first point out that when we go someplace new, we’re tourists, too. Instantly recognizable. Accept it–actually, embrace it! You’ll have a better time. The waving part? Not necessary.
- Get the layout of your destination. It’s one thing to look at a map when you plan your trip, another thing to actually see where attractions and landmarks are, the distances apart…and if you still want to visit them. I always try to take a Hop on-Hop off bus as soon as possible. My strategy is to make a full circuit the first time around, then decide where I want to get off. When I was in Istanbul, I soon realized that my itinerary was too ambitious, so I was able to revise it.
- They’re economical! A full-day of sightseeing and transportation for one price? This is a no-brainer. A quick look on Viator or GetYourGuide (two online tour clearinghouses) shows a day in downtown New York City (8am-6pm) is $19. Stockholm is pricier at $39.83…but everything is more expensive in Scandinavia. You can opt for a Hop on-Hop off boat cruise for $29.29. If you’re shy about taking subways or taxis, choose a 48-hour pass. All you have to do is show up at one of the stops.
- You’ll learn more. A Hop on-Hop off bus usually comes with a guide who shares facts and trivia about the city. International buses are equipped with recorded commentary in different languages; you’ll get basic information, making it easy to follow the route map. This summer I took my granddaughter on a Chicago Hop on-Hop off bus…yes, our hometown! She’s still getting familiar with the city, so it was a good idea. Our guide was funny and informative. We both learned so much! All day we rode and got off when something looked interesting.
- Get outside the tourist zone! Nearly every Hop on-Hop off bus I’ve take either goes beyond the usual sights or offers a second loop into a different area, for the same price. In Naples, there were two routes that went far beyond the city limits, into small towns and along the coast. I would never have done that on my own. Our driver even stopped several times so we could get lovely photos of Mt. Vesuvius.
Peace-of-mind. If you’re anxious about being in a new city, learning to travel solo, orconfused about how the metro works, a Hop on-Hop off bus can soothe your nerves. There are stops all over and a bus comes by regularly, sometimes every 15 minutes. All you have to do is stand and wait by the sign. Some people feel safer, too. If any of these hesitancies describe you, you may prefer sticking with the bus.
- Add on options–book ahead. Once you’ve decided to include a Hop on-Hop off bus, go online and check out the options. For $109 in New York City, you can get a 3-day bus pass that includes Downtown, Uptown, Harlem, and Brooklyn Loops, the night tour, the Ellis Island ferry and admission to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Often there are discounts for booking ahead; the pass begins the day you decide to use it.
- Your ticket comes with other discounts! Every Hop on-Hop-off bus ticket I’ve had came with ways to save money: reduced entry fees, restaurant specials, even free stuff. In Chicago, it was a bag of Garrett’s famous popcorn! All these deals add up–important for budget travelers.
Just one last thing: If you’re getting a City Pass, check it to see if it includes a day of a Hop on-Hop off bus. My London Pass does…no need duplicating something you’ll be purchasing anyway. Other than that, enjoy observing your new city from up high!
More travel tips!