Hop On Hop Off Buses: Tourist Trap or Tourist Attraction?

Some people love them, some people hate them. Personally? I think they are freaking awesome!

What am I talking about? Hop on hop off buses – or as I like to call them ‘HoHo’ buses. 

Ever since I took my first HoHo bus in November 2010 in Bath, of all places, I have been hooked. I have been on them in places like London, New York City, Sydney and even the Christchurch Tram is hop on hop off so I’m totally counting that!

I am not saying they are perfect, some of them are bloody expensive (yes I’m talking to you Brisbane), but you can get some really great value tickets too. Here’s some things I’ve learned when dealing with HoHo buses.

Bath - My first experience with the Hop on Hop off buses
Bath – My first experience with the Hop on Hop off buses

To buy or not to buy – online

You might think you’re getting a deal – “Buy now and save money” is not always true. Sometimes its way cheaper to buy directly from the driver. If there are competing companies, see what deal they can give you – this happened to me in London. Online the tickets were about £25 for 24 hours, I rocked up to the buses next to the London Eye and paid £18 instead because there were two companies wanting me on their bus.

HoHo bus line up outside the Tower of London
London – HoHo bus lined up outside the Tower of London

Do your research before you go

Not all HoHo buses are created equal. Most companies offer multiple routes – be realistic, unless you don’t want to get off at any of the attractions it is likely that you will not be able to do 3 loops in one day. Pick the loop that is best for what you want to see and do. If you really want to do another loop, you would be better off getting a multi day ticket. One of the best value tickets I got was in NYC. It was 3 days for about USD65 but in reality it gave me about 3.5 – 4 days from the first use. PLUS it had 3 different loops AND a 2 hour Brooklyn tour was included. The HoHo buses was my transport in NYC for the first 4 days I was there!

The craziness of Times Square in NYC
NYC – HoHo buses add to the craziness of Times Square

Sit at the top of the bus

If you are able, then sit up the top! Personally I wouldn’t pay the money to get on the HoHo bus and sit inside, you can get a regular bus for way cheaper (route #15 in London goes along a major tourist route and would be a hell of a lot cheaper!). For me the whole experience of the HoHo bus is to sit upstairs and see everything. I’ve been frozen, sunburned and windblown at the top of these buses, but I’ve also had some pretty amazing views and photo ops.

Looking back at Bath from the back of the bus
Bath – from the back of the bus 

Perfect if you want to see a city but don’t have much time

If you only have a day or two in a city and you haven’t been there before, unless you’re like me and have everything meticulously planned, then the HoHo bus is perfect. You will see all the major attractions, be driven everywhere, have commentary along the way and get off the bus if you feel so inclined.Theses buses are a great way to get acquainted (or re-acquainted) with a city, with very little effort from you.

Cute little HoHo trolley in Vancouver
Vancouver – Cute little HoHo trolley

Do the full loop

I fully recommend getting on the bus and staying on the bus for a full loop. This way you’ve seen all the sights from the outside, you will know which ones you want to go back to so you can stay on the bus until you get to where you want to go. As I mentioned above, the bus is a great way to get acquainted with a city – you can figure out how far things are from each other. Most loops are 90 minutes so it gives you plenty of time to figure out where to get off if you want.

Amazing day in Sydney (I did get sunburnt this day)
Sydney – Amazing day and I actually got sunburned

Best place to sit?

I’ve sat inside, upstairs at the front, upstairs in the middle, but I have to say that I think that upstairs at the back of the bus is the best place to sit (unless it’s pouring with rain of course!). I usually head upstairs and try to get the back seat or as close to the back as possible. For me, I find it is the best place to get really good photos along the way.

Piccadilly Circus - enough said!
London – Piccadilly Circus – enough said!

In summary:

  • Yes they are touristy
  • Yes they are expensive
  • Yes there can be too many to choose from and therefore get really, really confusing

But, the HoHo buses really are just a bit of fun and lets face it, if you are visiting a place and seeing the sights then I hate to break it to you… you are a tourist! Embrace your inner tourist and just get on a HoHo bus today.

I usually hate my photo being taken but I love this selfie on the HoHo bus with the Eiffel Tower
Paris – I usually hate my photo being taken but I love this selfie on the HoHo bus with the Eiffel Tower

Do you love the Hop on Hop off bus experience? If so, where is the best place you’ve gotten the bus?

**cover photo taken in Waikiki. The driver is one of the few people ever to ask me where in NZ I am from, not Australia!**

All photos taken by me.

3 thoughts on “Hop On Hop Off Buses: Tourist Trap or Tourist Attraction?

  1. Sometimes I love these busses – they can take the hassle out of a strange city – especially when a tourist attraction is waaaaaaaay out of the center and you don’t have a great deal of time!


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