“ Sightseeing Type: Tours „
Having lived in Scotland all of my life and loving the place with a passion my wife and I were delighted to recently be visited by her family who wanted to see some of Glasgow so we decided to use the Sightseeing Tours bus in the city to take them and us around and give a little more depth to what the place is all about but was it worth it?
The bus itself was a double decker with the upper floor having a small amount of cover at the front but the back fully open so that you can have a variety of different places to sit dependant on what you want and the weather. The bus seating was comfortable and overall it was obviously kept to high standard as it was so clean and fresh feeling.
The value for money side of this was somethin I at first worried about as it was £11 per adult but when advised that lasts you for 2 full days then you realise just how good this is as you can jump off at a number of stops and make this £11 give you a large amount of entertainment for the 2 days (especially in Glasgow as museums are mainly free so it works out very cheap).
The tour guide was very friendly and knoweldgeable and thanks to living in the city was able to offer up information on coffee shops, bars and restaurants (even telling us which ones were best to avoid) as well as the main points of interest. He kept things ticking along and did not bore which was my biggest concern.
The tour we went on lasted about an hour and 45 minutes and you could have jumped off at any of the stops on the tour (I believe it was 20) and with the buses being every 30 minutes then this offered a great way to see the city safe in the knowledge you would not need to stay any longer than you wished.
The bus was well driven and you felt safe throughout which is something I have previously not felt on any double decker so this was a nice surprise for me.
Keep your ticket once used and you can show it on your next tour with the same company anywhere they operate and get £1 off your ticket which I think is excellent.
Overall I was very impressed with this sightseeing tour and would highly recommend them for anyone (even just to tour your own city as you can learn a lot). Great tour guide who was knowledgeable and friendly and a driver who kept the tour at a good pace all made my tour a fun one so I highly recommend.
City Sightseeing is a large chain, and I should start by saying I've only done one of their tours - in Glasgow. There are two main tour providers in Glasgow, and they go from the same stance. Watch out for the two competing sales teams on the pavement near the bus stop (north side of George Square), they are very competitive!
We had a live guide, giving the commentary in English. I was surprised at how easily we could hear almost all of it given we were on the open top bit in the rain and passing traffic. There were headsets available to plug in and get the commentary in a variety of other languages (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish).
The cost was £11 for an adult or £9 for a concession, and tickets can be bought from the driver. If you're planning ahead there is a £1 discount if you buy online. It seems very expensive but it is about an hour's tour and you can hop on and off all day if you like - and the next day as well (the ticket covers 2 days).
Speaking of planning ahead - don't go on a Monday if you want to visit all the museums as recently (summer 2010) Glasgow City Council started closing all their sites on a Monday to save money!
The tour takes just over an hour and passes most of the main tourist sites in the city - telling you a bit about them, and helping you get your bearings. You can pick up a free leaflet at the tourist information office (on the south side of George Square) which includes a map of the route. A good hint is to take a pen & note down the places you want to go to as the guide mentions them - we didn't & couldn't remember where we wanted to go by the time we got back!
The guide gives you a little bit of information about all the museums, galleries and shopping streets, and gives you plenty of notice as you approach each stop so that you can listen out for the place you want to go to and get off there.
In general these tours are a good introduction to a city, and I thought this was the case here with the Glasgow City Sightseeing tour. I've worked in Glasgow for years but never really explored it, the bus helped me find quite a few places I'd like to go back and visit. But I would say plan ahead to get full use from your money - ideally over 2 days if you're here long enough. For one round trip it's expensive but for 2 days of hop on and hop off it's excellent value.
Oh - and take a coat with a hood or hat, this is Scotland after all!
Over the past few years I have visited several cities in the UK and throughout the world and I have found a good way of seeing all the significant sites especially if you are only visiting for a short time, or at least of gaining an appreciation of where they are located, are the City Sightseeing open top buses.
On the whole the city sightseeing buses are red open top buses as shown in the photo, however a few cities may have different colour buses if there are several tour routes round the city. There may be a shelter at the front of the top deck in more modern buses but don't count on it, if you come suitably prepared for the weather the top deck is definitely the place to sit to get the best all round view of the city.
On all routes there is at least one main stop, manned by a City Sightseeing agent from whom you can buy bus tickets (more on these later) they will also give you a tour guide leaflet (often also available on the buses). It is worth getting a leaflet as these contain a map detailing all the stops, attractions near the stops and more often than not vouchers for local attractions. Although I have never found these useful it'll depend on your interests and they're free so not worth turning down.
Tickets can be bought at the main stops, on the buses themselves or from advertised agents - usually newsstands or tourist information type centres. You will be able to buy a ticket that is valid for either 24 or 48 hours allowing you to hop on and off the bus as you like. However most buses don't run 24 hrs, they generally stop in the early evening, so don't see this as cheap transport around the city's nightlife. If the city has multiple City Sightseeing routes you may be able to buy a discounted ticket that is valid for both routes but always consider how long you'd want to spend hopping on and off each route and whether it would be worth it. The tickets will cost at least £10 per person for a basic 24 hour ticket, often more in popular tourist cities (London and Oxford to name but two). There is a child discount and often a student discount but obviously for a family this can turn quickly into an expensive trip. Also if you have a ticket from another City Sightseeing bus tour you can get, from memory, 10% off. I have never tried this, not great at keeping tickets, so don't know whether there are any caveats or time deadlines, although I do have a city sightseeing ticket from Marrakech so if I do use this for a discount I will update this review.
The buses follow set routes which take in what the company considers to be significant sights of interest around the city. At each of these sights there is a bus stop where the bus will stop briefly so that you can get off go and visit the attraction and then get back on a later bus. The only problem behind this is that some buses don't run very frequently so you may find yourself standing at a bus stop for a long time waiting for the next bus, although the leaflet does explain the buses schedules. The quality and type of sights on the route can be a little hit and miss, especially if the city has more than one route, so if there are sights you are wanting to see it is definitely worth checking before you buy the ticket that the bus goes near them.
Once you get on the bus you don't sit onboard and simply enjoy the view there is a guided tour either from a live guide or recorded via headphones. When I've been on buses with live guides, in the Uk, they have only spoken English and provided a recorded commentary in other languages. The live guides provide a bit more variety and interest to the tour as they are able to respond to the actual situation and the good ones will have developed additional anecdotes and will tell you more than their standard tour information, it also makes each bus tour interesting as no two live guides tell exactly the same story and they are able to point out exactly where what they are talking about can be seen. If you get on a bus with an audio tour only the bus driver or conductor should provide you with a set of headphones, I say should as every time I've used one of these buses recently I've had to ask for the earphones they seem to think I know where they are which is annoying and holds up others getting on the bus behind you. Once you have chosen your seat you plug your earphones in and select your choice of language - as a bare minimum English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese will be available. Depending on the age of the tour bus you may have some difficulty in getting the audio tour into your headphones. Always check the volume first, try another set of earphones and if all else fails change seats - not easy on a busy bus. The audio tour runs automatically and does contain a lot of interesting information but sometimes due to traffic you may not actually be at the location that is being talked about and it's not always easy to find the places being talking about by simply being told to look left or right.
Before travelling check their website to see if you destination has a bus can also find out costs and routes as bare minimum.
These are ideal if you have only a short time in a city and I will use them again, but with more time planning your own tour may be more enjoyable.
I am basing this on my experience of this company in Milan, Italy - but they are a company which runs bus tours in the majority of major cities around the world.
What are they?
A company which specialises in "hop on, hop off" bus tours in the major cities of the world.
In Milan they ran two routes around the city with various points where you can jump on or off as you please at the attractions / historical sites / shopping districts.
They also run tours to specific attractions around the city - for example in Milan a "Last Supper" tour which takes in a dinner, a talk on the famous piece of art and a guaranteed spot to see the famour painting. The other tours run by the company are bookable through the staff on the bus or at tourist information offices.
For Milan it cost 20 euros per head for a 24 hour ticket. Now normally my husband and I would NEVER bother to do these overpriced tours but my sister in law and her husband were on a sports tour to Milan so got this included. We wanted to spend time with them so paid the price!
For your 20 euros you get a 24 hour pass on the bus. You can ride it as many times as you like - along both routes. I guess that this could save you money if you are in a city like London where it costs £6 per day for a travel card but in Milan where a day pass on the metro was 3 euros it seemed very expensive.
My tip would be to start off at around mid afternoon and then you can use the bus all the next morning too.
Can be bought on the bus or at your hotel (certain ones) or the tourist information box. If you are on an organised tour these are often included in the price for you.
As you can probably see from the picture expect an open topped double decker bus which is clearly marked. In Milan the bus did have a roof across so you would not get wet - I think in sunnier climates there is no roof.
Each bus comes with a driver and a "host" who is meant to look after you, check your tickets etc. Our first host was an unsmiling Italian who was very grumpy and you would not want to ask her any questions. On later buses that we took there were friendlier staff but they really didnt do anything - preferring to sit downstairs away from the guests and let us get on with it!
As you go around you can listen to a commentry about the city and its sites - you are provided with a set of headphones and can choose from about 10 languages.
English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguasee, Japanese etc. so most of the popular languages are covered. You just put your headphones into the slot, select your language and off you go!
The commentry is pretty informative - we were given back ground into the history of Milan, the food, the culture as well as the buildings. In between classical music is played. Pick your seat carefully as the headphone points dont always work and if you ask the cross staff to help they get a little angry!
Access to buses
If you are in a wheelchair or need help getting on the bus the staff will help you but expect to sit downstairs - you need to be relatively mobile to get up and down the bus stairs. there are no toilets on the bus and you are not allowed to eat or drink (although we did sneak some water on board!)
Now the staff smilingly gave us a leaflet detailing all the times that the buses were supposed to run. Every 45 minutes on both routes which sounded great.
BUT it was actually winter timetable (bus every 1 hour and 15 minutes on both routes), so when you got to a bus stop (which, to give them credit are clearly marked) you saw a different time table.
The buses didnt stick to the timetable anyway so some members of the group were left standing in the cold for about an hour.
Most of the buses we caught were between 10 and 30 minutes late even based on the reduced timetable.
Avoid like the plague - unless you get this as part of a package. I would always prefer to just wander the city by yourself using public transport.
Unreliable - unfriendly staff and poor facilities make this a very expensive waste of money
City Sightseeing Worldwide - the world's leading open top bus tour operator - With distinctive buses and friendly staff, the choice in selected cities between multi-lingual commentary or live guide, an exclusive Kids Commentary in some destinations, sightseeing has never been so much fun! Hop On and Hop Off as much as you like at any of the bus stops on the route and see all the best sights and attractions that the town or city has to offer.