I've been on both Original London Sightseeing Tour and Big Bus Tours in London. This isn't designed as a review as such, it's more some hints and tips to get more out of your day if you decide to take in London's sights from an open-topped bus.
Both operators cover the main sights in London. They have two main routes (one will be live guided in English, the other will have recorded commentary over headphones in different languages), and other link routes to get you from your hotel or station to the sightseeing routes. They also offer a boat ride on the Thames and walking tours as well. They provide headphones for the commentary, and ponchos if it's raining.
Tickets are valid for 24 hours from the time of purchase, but don't expect the buses to run through the night (would you want to do a bus tour at 3am?)They start at around 8.30am, check with staff for last bus times each day (I know Original Tour have timetables available online, which is handy). In summer buses are much more frequent and run later, in winter they run every twenty minutes or so and finish earlier, but they generally give you an extra day for free to compensate.
If you speak English, go for the routes that are live-guided, they're so much more interesting if you get a decent guide. They can also answer any questions that you have and give you advice on how to spend the day.
The buses are at their fullest around 11am-2pm - it's worth getting there earlier in the day to do the sightseeing from on the bus, then use it later for getting around when you're less worried about getting the views from the top deck. It gets especially manic around Buckingham Palace at the end of the Changing of the Guard, and it can be a scrum to get onto the bus. Stroll through Green Park instead to get the bus from Piccadilly instead.
The cruise is a nice break from the traffic. You'll get commentary on here as well, but be prepared to be bombarded with requests for tips (you don't get this on the buses, strangely, but if you think the guide is worth it, give them a couple of quid). The pier by the Tower of London is generally quieter than the one at Big Ben. The walking tours give you a nice way to see the sights from a different perspective as well.
Bear in mind you're in the open air and it can get breezy, so layers are the order of the day.
No buses are allowed to drive in front of the Palace, so be aware of that.
Like any busy city, London can get clogged with traffic, so allow plenty of time to get around.
Hope these hints give you an idea of what to expect and how to get the best out of your trip.
I want to share one of my AMAZING Experience all over the web whereever I get a chance! Today its for you, my dooyoo friends. This is a real unforgettable experience for me.
I went to London for the first time in my life this summer, 9th June,2007 with my husband and have seen London with the bus from sight seeing bus company name Big Bus. They offer a hop-on hop-off tour which means you can hop-on or hop-off the bus when ad where you want within the valid period of your ticket.
The Big Bus tour offers a 24-hrs Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing tour where you can get on the Big Bus at any of their scheduled stop and get off the bus at your desired attraction stop, at any time with a valid ticket.
The Big Bus Company---------------
This company is the winner of sightseeing tour of the year 2004. The company established in 1991 with only two buses. The company was the first to offer a river-cruise, and remains the ONLY open-top sightseeing company to include three walking tour. In 1997 the company introduced the Big Bus Information Centre in Buckingham Palace Road, where staff can assist you planning your stay in London, help you with theatre tickets and a range of quality souvenirs. The London-based, family-owned company employs over 400 staff, and has over 70 buses.
Schedule and Tickets-------------
Operate everyday except 25th December
Tickets can be purchased from the buses, by telephone on 00 44 (0)20 7233 9533, or from Big Bus Information Centre at 48 Buckingham Palace Road, SW1.
You can also buy tickets Online at bigbus.com. Check the website for bus timetable too.
Checks, Credit cards, cash for all
Children £10 (5-15 years) children must be accompanied by a full fare paying adult.
£2 discount online, print ticket from computer and use it
Tickets are valid for 24 hours from the time u first get on the bus
Buses run every 20-30 minutes.
You can buy discounted theatre tickets through The Big Bus Company valid Monday-Thursday available at Information Centre at 48 Buckingham Palace Road, SW1, also full-price tickets for any West End Theatre show are available
The bus ticket includes;
1.FREE River Cruise on Thames! The Cruise departs from Tower Pier, Waterloo Pier or Westminster Pier, and takes approximately 30 minutes. Cruise departs every 20 minutes. The bus tickets offer a free one way cruise so you can start from Tower Pier and get off the cruise at any stop in Waterloo Pier or Westminster Pier and vice versa.
2.FREE Walking Tours of London guided by Big Bus staff. They offer 3 types of walking tour and all are free to a valid Big Bus ticket holder. If you do not have a Big Bus ticket then you can buy only walk tour ticket price of £5 per walk.
-------Royal London Walking tour starts at 10.00am, everyday
Walk through historic Royal London from St. James's Palace, former official residence of Prince Charles, to Buckingham Palace, celebrated home of the Queen. You can see famous the Changing of the Guard at Palace when you reach there.
-------The Big Bus Beatles Walking Tour starts at 2.30pm everyday
This tour take you to Soho and Mayfair, where the Beatles based themselves throughout their rise in the Swinging Sixties and where Paul McCartney still has his London office today. Beatles' famed Apple headquarters where they played their last rooftop gig in 1969. It includes walking through the world of John, Paul, George and Ringo.
-------Ghosts by Gaslight Tour starts at 6.00pm everyday
Some part of West End of London at night you find there more chilling London of gas-lights and ghosts.
They have digitally-recorded commentary, in eight different languages, you can enjoy it with a supplied headphone while on the bus!
Big Bus tours:
If you just sit on the bus and enjoy sightseeing then the entire Red tour would take approximately 2 hours 10 minutes, buses run every 20-30 minutes. The first Red Tour bus starts from Green Park at 8.25 am. A complete Blue tour would take approximately 3 hours 15 mins, buses run every 20-30 minutes and the first Blue tour bus starts from Hyde Park at 8.25 am.
Stops Or Attractions-------
MARBLE ARCH - Speakers' Corner, Oxford Street, Hyde Park
MADAME TUSSAUD'S - Planetarium, Sherlock Holmes Museum, London Zoo
OXFORD CIRCUS -Oxford Street, Fitzrovia
PICCADILLY CIRCUS - Soho, Chinatown
HAYMARKET - Haymarket , Leicester Square, Planet Hollywood, Trocadero
TRAFALGAR SQUARE -National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Nelson's Column
CRAIG'S COURT -Craig's Court and Whitehall , Admiralty Arch, The Mall, St James's Park
BANQUETING HOUSE - Horse Guards, St James's Park
WHITEHALL -Parliament Street Downing Street, Cenotaph, Cabinet War Rooms, Big Ben
LONDON EYE - South Bank Lion, Westminster Bridge, River Cruise, Dalí Universe, London Aquarium
WATERLOO -York Road , South Bank Arts Centre, Waterloo International Station
COVENT GARDEN - Aldwych, Royal Opera House, London's Transport Museum, Somerset House
ST PAUL'S-The City, Barbican, Museum of London, Millennium Bridge, Tate Modern
LONDON BRIDGE - London Dungeon, Tate Modern, H.M.S. Belfast, Southwark Cathedral, Globe Theatre
TOWER OF LONDON - Tower Hill, River Cruise, Tower Bridge Experience, Docklands Light Railway
EMBANKMENT PIER - Victoria Embankment, Embankment Gardens, Cleopatra's Needle
LAMBETH PALACE - Lambeth Palace, Imperial War Museum, Museum of Garden History
PARLIAMENT SQUARE -Houses of Parliament, Tate Britain
WESTMINSTER ABBEY - New Scotland Yard, Westminster Cathedral
BUCKINGHAM PALACE - Buckingham Gate
ROYAL MEWS - Buckingham Palace Road, Big Bus Information Centre
BAYSWATER -London Elizabeth Hotel, Lancaster Terrace, The Italian Gardens, Serpentine, The Long Water
PRINCESS DIANA MEMORIAL - The Elfin Tree, Round Pond
BADEN POWELL -Baden Powell House, Natural History Museum 76
KENSINGTON GARDENS - Bayswater Road, Queensway, Whiteley's Shopping Centre
KENSINGTON PALACE - Kensington High Street
ROYAL ALBERT HALL - bus stop outside Royal Albert Hall, Albert Memorial, Princess Diana Memorial Fountain
NOTTING HILL - Portobello Road Market, Holland Park
GLOUCESTER ROAD - Stanhope Arms Pub
SOUTH KENSINGTON MUSEUMS - Cromwell Gardens, Victoria & Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum
HARRODS -Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, Harvey Nichols, Sloane Street
HYDE PARK CORNER - Lanesborough Hotel, Wellington Museum, Belgravia, Hyde Park, Wellington Arch
HARD ROCK CORNER - Hard Rock Café, Constitution Hill, Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, Wellington Arch
GREEN PARK UNDERGROUND
MAYFAIR -Little America
Big Bus also runs in Dubai, was launched in 2002, Big Bus Philadelphia 2003 and Big Bus Baltimore. in 2005,
In my opinion this is the best option to see London and to enjoy your stay completely hassle free! A completely tourist friendly bus tour I ever enjoyed!
We preferred the Big Bus tour as it covers maximum attractions in London. We have actually bought the Big Bus Tickets from a private tour information store close to Big Bus stop at Madame Tussaud's. The price was as listed above.
Either the Red tour or the Blue tour covers most of the attractions listed above and the staffs are very much helpful to assist the tourists so that we can visit all of the top attractions in London. Buses are frequent and on time. Tickets are stamped with time when we get on the bus for the first time and then are checked every time we get on the bus there after. Tickets are also sometime checked by a ticket checker while on board.
The headphones can be connected to the bus seat speaker to hear the commentary which has a good sound quality with a nice description for each attraction. Commentary about any attraction starts when the bus reaches the particular attraction so it is very easy to recognize the attraction.
We started the cruise from Westminster pier and ended up at Tower pier. You can just show the ticket to the City River Cruise Counter and get on any available city River Cruise. The cruise has a café at the bottom floor and the sightseeing sitting arrangement on the deck. There you can also enjoy a live commentary by an expert cruise staff. The view on both side of Thames is beautiful and I enjoyed the cruise tour most in my whole tour in London. While we get off the cruise at Tower Pier, we visited the Tower at that stop and get on the Big Bus again at a stop in front of the Tower.
The Big Bus tour is very much convenient, comfortable and tourist friendly tour. They have their helpful efficient staffs continuously assisting the tourists. The buses runs on perfect time and many of their buses runs all the time you can see them often while on board. The best way to see London no doubt.
Joined the bus with my family at Baker Street and didn't have to wait long to start the excursion. Earphones were supplied to enjoy the commentary(in several languages).The tour was informative and interesting,covering all the really famous landmarks. We stopped off at the river Thames to enjoy a free river cruise.Because buses were so frquent we were able to rejoin the bus tour.The hop on/off feature means that you can explore the landmark at your leisure.The tour is child friendly supplying fun packs for young travellers. The ticket lasts for 24 hours, as there are four different tour routes you could try them all.I was able to book the tickets on line be fore travelling to London. The tour was so good My family are returning to London in Autumn, I've already purchased two days worth of tickets for the tour bus.The price of tickets is favourable in comparison to some of the other bus companies I came across while in London. There is also the option to purchase tickets using Tesco "days out" club card deals.
Even though the day wasn't particularly cold I would suggest taking a warm coat, but you could sit under cover at the front of the bus. Not ideal when taking photos.
We were there during half term holidays and although many attractions were busy, there were no queuesfor any of the tourist buses
NAME OF LOCATION: City Sightseeing Bus Tour, at Chester. There are 18 stops around the city including one outside the train station.
BACKGROUND: Whilst on a weekend trip to Chester, my boyfriend Robert and I decided try the open top tour. Unfortunately we bought our tickets on the Sunday and lost some of the benefits of having 24hours as we went home Sunday evening but learn from our experience!
We visited Chester by coach and walked from outside the walled city to the Cathedral, where the nearest sightseeing bus stop was to our coach drop off point. There was another company doing a ½ hour bus tour from this point on an old fashioned tram like bus but this did not offer the benefits this tour did so we didnt try it.
Chester has a railway station but looks on the map to be some distance from the town so you would need a taxi or bus to get into the town itself (although the sightseeing tour goes past it, and picks up opposite it near the Queens Hotel.
If you take the sightseeing bus round the town it takes an hour (and if you do, you will get money off certain other attractions admission charges when you show your bus ticket). We liked the tour and the fact that if you used a different bus you can get a different perspective on the area. The buses are very easy to spot as they are bright red and open top. The bus stops (18 of them)are more difficult to find unless you have a map (we got ours from the Deva Roman Experience museum).
The sightseeing bus does not go past the Deva Roman Experience museum (see review) as it is on a pedestrians only zone but it is near stops 7, 11 and a short walking distance from 12, and you will get 50p of adult/senior citizens prices if you show your bus ticket, which if we had known we would have used the bus first.
Adults £8 Child £3.00, OAPS £6.50 Family £19 (Bus only)
Adults £11.50 Child £4.50, OAPS £9.00 Family £27.50
Family is 2 adults and up to 3 children but all tickets valid for 2 days(24 hours from time of purchase) and entitles you to a hop on hop off service every 30minutes (more frequent in summer)).
11-26 March: Weekends only from 0955 every 30mins, last tour from station 1555.
27 March 26 May: Daily from 0955 every 20mins, last tour from station 1615.
27May 21 July: Daily from 0955 every 15mins, last tour from station 1655.
22 July-1 September: Daily from 0955 every 12mins, last tour from station 1725.
2 September-17 September: Daily from 0955 every 15mins, last tour at station 1640.
18 September-29 October: Daily from 0955 every 20mins, last tour from station 1615
Additional buses operate on Bank Holiday weekends.
I strongly suggest that you obtain a leaflet as the bus has 2 routes (a daily one and a Sunday one and although they have similarities, the Sunday one has Sunday only stops and the leaflet gives a map showing where they all are (different colours for each day the daily ones seem to be on the Sunday route so can still be used).
There do not seem to be any proper bus stops, so look for the number on the nearest lamppost the one opposite the Chester Visitor centre had 18 on it, which is the right stop number.
1. Hop on hop off service
2. Valid for 24 hours
3. Live guided tour
4. Different guides have different speeches so may hear new information about the same place if go on same route
5. Kids club receive a kids passport and felt tip pens as part of their ticket price.
1. Open top bus so not ideal for bad weather
2. Have a long wait if miss a bus at particular times
3. No obvious bus stops we missed the one near the Cathedral and only realised because the map showed the Cathedral shape and we were too far down the road.
Keep your ticket, as it entitles you to money off in Chester or if you go elsewhere, it gets you 10% off another City sightseeing bus in 70 other cities around the world London, Sydney, Cape Town.
MORE INFORMATION FROM
Chester Bus 01244 347457or 07786 657225 www.chesterbus.co.uk or email@example.com Please note that I have not checked this website out myself I just hopped on the bus after getting a leaflet from the Deva Roman Experience.
City Sightseeing Head Office (general enquiries) 0871 6660000 www.city-sightseeing.com Please note that I have not checked this website yet although I intend to do so to find out how much the London one will be.
Deva Roman Experience, Pierpoint Lane, Bridge Street, Chester Cheshire, CH1 1NL Telephone 01244 343 407. Despite trawling the net, I have been unable to find a specific website for the Deva Roman Experience. However it is mentioned on lots of other tourism websites including http://www.iexplore.com/dmap/England/Where+to+Go
Two weeks ago I found myself at a very boring conference in London. Having spent an almost sleepless night in a main-road hotel above a train station, I was in danger of dozing off. Outside, however, the skies were clear and blue and the temperatures unseasonably warm. I waited ‘til twelve, took advantage of the free lunch and then legged it to Trafalgar Square to take an open top bus tour round the capital for the rest of the afternoon. The first bus to come along was the Big Bus Tour. I would have got on it whatever the price and wherever it was going in truth, but I was very pleased to discover that for £15 quid I was entitled to 3 bus tours and 1 boat ride up the Thames as many times as I wanted over the next 24 hours. Also, I could get on and off the buses at the many designated stops whenever I liked. Fantastic. I whipped out my cash and took my place on the ‘red’ tour which was to last one and a half to two hours depending on traffic. The bus was an open top one with the front 4 rows of seats on the upper deck covered. I sat half way along on a non-padded but surprisingly comfortable seat. Basically, the ‘red’ tour takes in Westminster and The City, thus most of the sights we all know and associate with our capital city. On this tour I saw Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Hyde Park, Green Park, Marble Arch, St Paul’s, the London Eye, Parliament old and new, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Waterloo Bridge (from which you get the most amazing view of London), Tower Bridge and much, much more. The guide was superb. He was warm, friendly and professional, and had very detailed knowledge of the city. Most of his jokes were even funny, and his presence really made the tour interesting. Along the way he pointed out loads of places I’d never heard of that had fascinating histories and were a pleasure to see. He was also happy to answer questions and genera
lly chat with the punters. Though I’ve been to London many times I’d never seen all of the famous sights and this tour not only enabled me to do that, but to finally get a handle on the place as a whole and how the different districts relate to each other both geographically and historically. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take the other tours, so never got to see the Mall, Buck palace, the Globe Theatre and other buildings I would have liked. Neither did I have time to take the boat trip from the Tower up to the city centre. For me it was well worth the 15 quid just to take the one tour, and the whole package represents exceptional value for money. Oh yes, and your ticket also gets you discount at restaurants and attractions too. Next time I go to London I’ll buy my ticket and do the lot, and I’d highly recommend the Big Bus Tour to anyone wanting to take the tourist trail. It’s a relaxing, entertaining and fascinating journey through living history.
My brother immigrated two years ago to New Zealand. So before he went we thought we would all go round London and see the sights. To see everything we thought the best way would be to get the train to tower hill and then get on a bus tour… What a mistake. The trains ran perfectly and soon we arrived at Tower Hill. We went to the bus stations and wondered what bus to take, we choose London Pride. We got on our traditional red bus and decided to sit on the top so we would have the best view. When the bus left we had a lovely guide telling us all the history of the buildings we were passing. At every sight you could get on or off so it would be nice and easy to see what we wanted. Our first stop was Trafalgar Square. We stopped and took some photos of everyone having a great time. We went back to bus stop and waited for a bus to turn up. We were told that the buses were every twenty minutes or more often (depending on traffic and what the time of day was – there are less in the evening). Well after 40 minutes the bus arrived. We were not too amused but we got on. This bus didn’t have a tour guide but a tape telling you what was happening. (the only problem was we got stuck in traffic, so the tape remained playing and telling us what we would of seen, even though we were not even near. When the bus started to move again we passed historic sights like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. My niece was click, click, click with her camera (taking 3 of each picture just in case the first two didn’t come out – it must of cost a fortune in developing). We got off the bus again near Big Ben because we felt like we needed to stretch out legs. We walked around looking at all beautiful buildings. We didn’t go to the bus stop we got off at but decided to walk to the next one. We knew where it was because we had been given a map with all the bus stops marked out on it and what routes the bus took
. We ended up on this nice little side road. Not too much traffic, nice and easy right? Well we gave up in the end. The bus stop was obviously out of action because no bus showed up after 40minutes. We were by this point not very amused and fed up. It kept happening that things were going wrong. We walked to the next road to find another bus stop, which was in use. We waited 10minutes and the bus showed up (but didn’t pass the previous stop we were at). We just got on the bus without checking what way it was going and what route it was taking. We wanted to go back to tower Hill and go home because we were fed up. Well we went to the wrong stop, the stop that NEXT TO THE ONE WE WERE AT would of take 10minutes to get there, the bus we got on took over an hour to get back. It had been a really long day with all the waiting around. I was really hungry for my dinner and so was the rest of the family. I was also really tired, and fell asleep on the bus. I was woken up when we got to Tower Hill where we went home. My experience is two years old so hopefully the system is a bit better organised. I hope so because that bus trip was not cheap either. It started off a really good day and had a sour ending. Other people that have been on them have praised the trip so hopefully for the sake of others we just went on a bad day. Sara
If you don’t have the time or the money to do one of the major bus tours of London, or it’s a cold day but you still want the better views from the top deck, some of London Transport’s buses offer excellent routes past major London sites. Below are just a few suggestions. Bus tickets including travel in Central London cost £1. THE NUMBER 10 offers a route from Archway in North London to Hammersmith in the West. The section from King’s Cross to Kensington is particularly interesting. From the stops opposite King’s Cross station, take the number 10 westbound. Make sure to sit on the top deck if possible (the very front seats are the best!). The extravagant red building on your right is the Victorian St Pancras Station. The building itself used to be one of London’s most luxurious hotels until it became uneconomical to run and was closed in the 1930s. It became used as office buildings and is known as St Pancras Chambers; empty for some years, since it failed to meet Health & Safety regulations, there are now plans to redevelop it, with part becoming a hotel once more. The main downstairs rooms are open to the public. Next on your right is the British Library. This is not the most attractive building from outside, but lovely inside. The shop, café and exhibitions are open to the public although the library reading rooms are open to researchers only. Some exhibitions are free. Euston Station is a little further down on the right. It’s now an unattractive sixties building, but you can see two original lodges at the bus entrance. The reason there are so many stations along this road is that it marked the most southern point railways from the north were allowed to go in the city. The bus will turn left down Gower Street past the University College London buildings. Note the many blue plaques down this street. At the end, you turn right (noting the umbrella shop i
n front of you) into Oxford Street. Get off just before the bus turns if you want to visit the British Museum, which is on the road to the left (Great Russell Street). To your left after the Centrepoint office block is Charing Cross Road, famous for its bookshops. You are now travelling down Oxford Street. You will go past the street’s famous department stores, including Selfridges, until you reach Marble Arch at the end. On your right for some time now is Hyde Park. When you see Harvey Nichols on your left, you have reached Knightsbridge (Harrods is on the road to your left just past Harvey Nichols). A little later, the Royal Albert Hall is on your left and the Albert Memorial (recently cleaned and restored) on your right. If you want to visit the Kensington museums (Science Museum, Natural History Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum), you can get off here and they are a short walk down the road on your left. The bus continues down to Kensington High Street, and on your right you will see Holland Park and the Commonwealth Institute. There are usually free exhibitions to visit at the Commonwealth Institute. THE NUMBER 11 goes from Fulham Broadway in the West to Liverpool Street Station in the East. I concentrate on the section between Liverpool Street and Westminster, although it’s worth carrying on past Victoria to Chelsea for the shopping. Starting in the east, at Liverpool Street Station, you will travel first of all through the City of London (the ‘square mile). This is the financial heart of the capital city, and you will see a huge range of architecture in a short space of time. Most of it postdates the Great Fire of London in 1666, and all periods from that date are covered. At Bank, you are by the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England (get off to visit the Bank of England museum, which is free and more interesting than you might expect). You will continue on past the f
amous St Paul’s Cathedral. The current cathedral was built by Sir Christopher Wren to replace the earlier building destroyed in the Great Fire. Its landmark dome is actually in effect false: a dome that shape would not be able to support the stone structure on top of it. Wren therefore built a strong brick cone, concealed by the outer dome. Another, smaller dome was built within it, creating the interior dome with its Whispering Gallery. A little further along is the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court) – you might just catch a glimpse of it. If you have the time, you can queue for the public galleries to watch a case in progress. You then continue along Fleet Street, which used to be the heart of England’s newspaper industry. You can still see traces of this in the buildings to your right. On your left is the heart of legal London: Inner and Middle Temple, two of the four Inns of Court to which all barristers belong. They are reached through the pathways to the left. As you come to the end of Fleet Street, the Royal Courts of Justice are on your right. This cathedral-like nineteenth- century building houses the High Court and Court of Appeal: you will have seen its front steps many times on news broadcasts. You have now left the City of London. Aldwych is to your right: the rather grand building is Bush House, holding the Australian embassy. To your left is King’s College, part of the University of London. You are now travelling along the Strand, the south boundary of Theatreland. On your left, you will pass the Savoy Hotel as well as the Savoy Theatre built to house productions of Gilbert & Sullivan. There are other theatres on your right, and Covent Garden is just a very short walk away. After Charing Cross Station is Trafalgar Square, famous for its lions, fountains and Nelson’s Column. On the right is the National Gallery: entrance is free. Leicester Square is out
of sight immediately behind it. At the building’s right end is the beginning of Charing Cross Road with its many bookshops. You then continue along Whitehall (passing various government buildings, the Cenotaph, and the entrance to Downing Street) to Westminster, where you will see the Houses of Parliament. (Big Ben is not in fact the famous clock but the bell within it). The present buildings date from the nineteenth century: most of the earlier buildings burned down in 1834, although fragments remain. Also on Parliament Square is Westminster Abbey, famous in particular for the people buried in there, for example in Poets’ Corner. There is a tube station at Westminster, or you can walk down the side of the Houses of Parliament to the River Thames. These are ideas for just two of London’s bus routes. Many more routes travel through areas of interest – try http://www.londontransport.co.uk for full information on other bus routes.
I came across the Big Bus Tour whilst gaping aghast at the two hour long queue to Madame Tussauds outside Baker Street station. I saw a couple of men in uniform handing out Big Bus Tour leaflets and asked them if they knew how long the queue would take - it didn't seem to be moving at all. To cut a long story short, I ended up buying a Big Bus Tour ticket with a combined Madame Tussauds/planetarium fast track entry ticket, allowing me to jump the horrendous queue. I'm not normally one to be talked into things by salesmen - I'm wary and cynical and very aware of commission based sales techniques. However, it seemed to be a really good deal, and the tour salesmen seemed to be honest and helpful enough - there was no pressure. I later found out that no employees of the Big Bus Company work for commission. What a difference in attitude and helpfulness it makes! I paid £27 for my ticket. This included a reduced rate entry ticket for Madame Tussauds and the Planetarium. The Bus Tour alone is £15. It became clear to me that the reason the enormous queue outside was moving so slow was because of all the people with fast track entry tickets jumping in front! The fast track ticket allows you to jump to the front of the queue at any time while your Big Bus Tour Ticket is valid. Which brings me on to the subject of timing. A Big Bus Tour Ticket is valid for 24 hours. I bought mine at 1.30pm on Tuesday, which allowed me to continue sightseeing on Wednesday. On hindsight, I would have left Madame Tussauds until the last minute, as I could then have stayed as long as I liked without thinking I was missing Bus Tour time. The buses run from around 8am till 7pm. They run on three routes clearly marked on a map within the complimentary guide book. The "red" route takes you around the main bridges, monuments and statues in central London, and goes around the old "City of London", as opposed to Greater London. The "
;green" tour takes you to Buckingham palace, and the "blue" tour takes you west to knightsbridge and the main shopping areas and famous stores like Harvey Nichols and Harrods. Each route takes between 1 - 2.5 hours depending on traffic. You are also encouraged to "hop on - hop off" and check out the sites at each stop. There are a number of bonus "treats" included in the tour, and the well informed guides on each bus will advise you on which ones are "not to be missed". They will also advise you on how to make the best use of your time. These extras include free admission to three walking tours, and a half hour river cruise down the Thames - recommended. You are also offered reduced rate fast track entry tickets to a number of attractions including the Tower of London and The London Dungeons. Even if you use the 24 hours to the best of your advantage, there is no way you can possibly do everything, so don't even try! My advice is to take a good long look at the map, and decide what you'd really like to see and hear about. If you have plenty of time and money to spend in London, you can also use the Big Bus Tour as an "introdution" to the Capital City, and not get off the bus at all. This will show you all the sights briefly, then you can decide which areas/attractions you would like to go back and spend more time at, or see in greater detail. Each bus has a guide giving a live commentary on the tour. The guides are usually fairly amusing, but if you get stuck with a boring one, get off the bus at the first stop and catch the next one, which will be 10 minutes behind, sometimes less. Also watch out for the rather aggresive woman who spend the best part of the tour trying to persuade you to get off the bus. I felt a little irritated at this - surely it is my decision how I want to use my Tour. I think I stayed on that particular bus for half an hour just to annoy her. F
or the best part though, the guides are good fun, and knowledgeable. As well as the required information they often throw in some little quips and stories about people and places in the City, sometimes jokes and political quips. Every guide has different things to say. The commentary is in English, unless you catch "The Big Language Bus" which gives commentary in no less than 12 languages. Nearly all the buses have an open topped roof if you think it's fun to shiver and shake your way around the biggest city in the UK. The lower deck is cosy. The buses are regular (every 10 minutes), the staff are friendly and helpful, and the whole thing is really is a good deal, especially if you take advantage of some of the "extras". The Big Bus Tour Company also runs out of town trips, which you can find out about at the Big Bus Tour Company Office, shown on the map. Buy your tickets at the office, on the street or on the bus. Nearly all stops are a very short distance away from a tube station. The easiest places to catch the Big Bus Tour are Green Park and Baker Street Tube Stations. The Big Bus Tour comes thoroughly recommended by a number of newspapers and magazines, but most importantly, it comes with a big thumbs up from me!
London roads are jam packed with large numbers of mainly open-topped, double decker buses, taking sightseeing tourists around the crowded London streets. I have often wondered what the appeal could be, so today my family and I tried out London Prides Grand Tour. It costs an enormous £35 for a family of 2 adults and 2 children and the tour takes between 1 and a 1/2 and 2 hours, depending on road conditions. I am surprised to say that I would recommend the trip (even at that price), it was great to be able to look at the vast amount of famous sights without worrying about pedestrians or getting lost or inadvertently going the wrong way up a one-way street! We sat back and enjoyed seeing Trafalgour Square, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, St Pauls Cathedral, Tower Bridge and many more famous sites. Yes you do need to act like a tourist (looking from left to right to left with alarming speed, so as not to miss anything), yes you should remember a jacket (even on a sunny day, it is pretty drafty on the top of an open air bus) and yes it IS expensive (but almost certainly cheaper than a family of four wandering around London shops and restaurants for 2 hours)! I have been convinced that it is worth taking one of these tours, especially if your time is limited and you want to be able to tell the folks back home of all the things you have seen in London.