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A bus stop tour of a city
City Sightseeing Buses
Member Name: Vixstar
City Sightseeing Buses
Advantages: Good way to see a lot of the city quickly; hop on and off buses
Disadvantages: Price; recorded tour; choice of sights
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.
Summary: Ideal for the time poor and cash rich
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