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Last weekend, I went to London for three days. We went on a tourist bus (The Big Bus Company) which took us around all the famous attractions in London.
Places to hop on and off include : Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral and Tower of London.
We paid £29 each (there were 6 of us) for the bus, which we did think was a lot of money to pay, however, we were only in London for a couple of days and so wanted to see as much as possible. We later worked out that it probably would have been cheaper to get taxis everywhere, especially when compared to the £174 we paid for 6 of us to go on the bus - we could have got a lot of taxis for that amount.
When I got on the bus, the main reason why I chose this bus was because it had 'Buckingham Palace' (as well as all the other places - but this was the main reason) on it. I really wanted to see the palace. I got really excited and when they said 'coming up is Buckingham Palace', I had my camera at the ready and was so disappointed to learn that the bus didn't actually go past the palace (only past the gates of the Mall). Apparently buses can't go up there, only cars and by walking, which I was disappointed about.
Each bus stop had a tour guide / person selling tickets, which was very useful as you could tell them where to go and they would say 'hop on this bus and it will take you there'. This, we found to be very helpful as we didn't know London very well.
We found the staff to be extremely helpful. Whilst we were on the bus we asked the tour guide how to get to a certain place - the next time the bus stopped, the guide showed us to another tour guide who was selling tickets and he kindly helped us across the road, told the bus driver of the bus we were about to catch to wait for us and then helped us on the bus. I thought that this was great and an excellent service. The staff really are helpful.
As we were going round (we actually stayed on the bus for around 2 and a ½ hours - we didn't think we'd be on it this long, but as some of the group had tickets booked for the London Eye at 3pm we decided to carry on until the next London Eye stop so that were on time).
We swapped tour guides a couple of times. On some, you could listen to earphones with a recorded commentary (available in English, French, Spanish etc). This was good. On another tour we had a 'real commentator' - I preferred this one as they give you more information and more up to date information. They even included personal stories like 'one day I was walked round this corner and almost bumped into Tom Cruise'. So cool stories too.
The buses are double deckers and so you can sit on the top (it's an open top bus) - this was a bit chilly (it was a cold day when we went), however, I imagine it would be lovely on a hot summer's day. I liked the open top bit as you could take clear picures without the 'glare from the windows'. The bottom part is great if you are not sure where you are going (so needed to ask the tour guide which stop to get off at). It was also lovely and warm on the bottom bit.
I would definitely recommend The Big Bus Tour Company! It is a fantastic way to get around London.
Thanks for reading!
Xdonzx / xd-o-n-z-x
The very helpful receptionist in our London hotel was what prompted me to buy tickets for the Big Bus tour around London; we were having a long weekend in the Capital to celebrate my birthday but being eight months pregnant at the time I was finding using the tube (and all the walking that entails) really tiring. I wanted to see as many of the sights as possible and was generally moaning to her about the time it was taking to plan routes and then travel those routes to each place when she suggested buying a 24 hour ticket for the Big Bus as we could not only sit on the bus and listen to the tour, but get on and off the bus at will at the various attractions we wanted to visit.
For those of you who have never come across The Big Bus Company before, like me, let me give you a brief run down of what the company actually does before giving you my a taste of my experiences on the Bus. Basically you buy a ticket for the bus and then either use it as your public transport option around London's attractions or simply sit aboard the bus for a couple of hours and listen to the guided talk as you tour the Capital. What makes the Big Bus so great is the fact that there are so many dedicated bus stops throughout London and the buses themselves run so frequently that you simply won't waste as much precious sightseeing time as if you were continually traipsing to and from tube stations or 'normal' bus stops.
We bought our tickets from The Big Bus Company Information Centre located at 48 Buckingham Palace Road, although could have bought them online and saved £2 per ticket, and decided to make use of them the following day with a trip to The Tower of London and Harrods. Your ticket is only validated when it's been used once so you can safely purchase tickets in advance and keep them until your trip without fear of them going out of date, something definitely worth remembering when planning our return trip to London as I like to get all these kinds of things booked and paid for before setting off so they don't eat into our spending budget.
There are three Big Bus routes which all take in different parts of the City; Red Route, Blue Route and Green Link. The Red and Blue Routes are basically tours, while the Green is a less meandering way to get across and through London while still taking advantage of the wonderful sights to be seen. Most of what we wanted to see that day was on the Blue Route, but it's very easy to swap and change between routes as your ticket covers you for travel on all of them so it's just a case of finding the relevant bus stop for the route you require. We were given a list of bus stops along with their nearby attractions when we purchased our tickets and this made it a piece of cake to navigate our way around London without getting lost (or getting on the wrong bus!) once!
The buses themselves are great; open top double deckers with comfortable seats and fantastically knowledgeable tour guides giving passengers the low down of every part of London which the bus passes through. We didn't stay on any one bus for the entire tour as we had our plans of what we wanted to see and wanted to do it at our own pace, but even travelling on the bus for three or four stops at a time was enough for me to realise that the tour guides are all really friendly and well trained to both give the talk and answer any questions the passengers had for them. They really seem to know their stuff when it came to facts and figures about London as it is now and also historical London, although it's kinda hard to imagine them getting anything wrong when they're basically repeating the same facts and figures at least three times a day! Still, as boring as it might be for them the tour guides still made the talk fun and interesting for the passengers and that's really all that matters.
I was particularly grateful for the way the tour guides shout out each bus stop as it comes up as it's easy to get so caught up in watching the view from the top deck that you miss your stop and end up having to either double back or change your sightseeing plans. As the bus approaches each major bus stop the guide will call out exactly where you are and what attractions this particular stop is most convenient for - most of London's buildings are so huge that it's hard to miss them I suppose but believe me when your attention is riveted on a speck in the distance it's even possible to not notice Big Ben in front of you, let alone some of the smaller attractions!
A 24 hour ticket for use on The Big Bus Company will cost you £22 for adults and £10 for children (although anyone under 15 must be accompanied by a full paying adult), I know this sounds expensive but I thought it was definitely value for money considering how much tube, taxi and regular bus fares would have cost us on our mammoth day of sightseeing. We literally covered the Capital twice in between hopping off the buses to visit attractions and stopping off at interesting looking shops or pubs which we probably would have never seen if we hadn't passed on the Big Bus. Definitely money well spent.
The Big Bus ticket also gives you a free 30 - 45 minute river cruise along the Thames and the option to go on one (or all) of three organised walking tours of London. I've been on Thames cruises before so didn't bother with this, but the walking tours looked really good and the receptionist who originally suggested the Big Bus said they're a brilliant way of seeing the City AND getting a bit of exercise. The tour is a 90 minute walk taking in the sights and points of interest based on a specific theme - I'd have loved to have done the Haunted London one which tells the tales of some of the City's more grisly times and allows walkers to stop off at various pubs and hotels in a kind of spiritual pub crawl. If you have your Big Bus ticket these walking tours are free but to be honest it's only a fiver to join one even if you're not using the Big Bus that day so is cheap at half the price really.
All in all I'd certainly recommend The Big Bus Company for a brilliant enhancement to your trip to London. In a nutshell it will get you around the City while giving you an interesting and topical bite size chunks of information about the various places and views you can expect to see on the routes. Obviously getting onto the top deck isn't possible for wheelchair users or anyone with severe mobility problems but to be honest the guided tour is so comprehensive and the route so well planned that you won't be missing out on too much, other than the more elevated views of course.
The Information Centre on Buckingham Palace Road is an excellent place to start if you've never used the Big Bus before as it has maps and pamphlets you can take away with you to enable you to make the most of your 24 hour ticket. The Centre is fully accessible to disabled visitors and here you can also ask for and receive good advice on the various attractions along the route. You can also buy a range of souvenirs from the Centre at decent prices, including a lovely die cast model of one of the open top buses which Mark snapped up as soon as he saw it.
If you don't fancy travelling to Buckingham Palace Road, you can also purchase your Big Bus ticket from www.bigbus.co.uk where you'll be asked to print out an e-ticket or alternatively call 020 7233 9533 and they'll post out your tickets.
The Big Bus Company
48 Buckingham Palace Road
Tel: 020 7233 9533