Hop-On-Hop-Off London Bus Tours

BOOK MY TOUR!
Updated: 12 diciembre 2023
 By Margaret

Our tour guides do their best to show you as many landmarks as possible in London, but some of the most popular attractions are spread out pretty far apart.

Most guides will recommend taking the tube from one point to the next, but hop-on hop-off tours are another option to consider as well.

In addition to including helpful details about each of the hop-on hop-off bus tours available in London, we will also include some tips and advice from locals and travelers who use our Facebook Group.

Disclosure: We think you should consider our free tours, but we have also provided other options. While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.


HOP-ON HOP-OFF TOURS

This section will cover each of the 3 main London bus tour companies that allow you to jump off and explore each stop at your leisure.

We will provide details about ticket types, hours, prices, and other important factors.

And again, you also might consider our free, hop-on-hop-off tour on the public bus 11 route, which comes with GPS-enabled audio.

We actually recommend using these bus tours to get an idea for which attractions you'd like to visit, and then checking to see if one of our free London walking tours includes those locations.


Big Bus Tours

Big Bus London considers itself the premiere hop-on-hop-off tour bus company and the reviews appear to agree.

This company offers 3 routes with 38 bus stops.

The purchase of all tickets also includes a free Thames River cruise, which you could from Westminster Pier or London Tower Pier.

Each type of ticket also includes 3 guided walking tours.

  • Changing of the Guard Walking Tour
  • Jack the Ripper Walking Tour
  • City of London Past to Present Walking Tour

You will also enjoy free wifi onboard, as well as a booklet filled with vouchers for various London attractions.  

All ticket types, with the exception of the Classic Ticket, also include the Big Bus night tour.

You can also combine a Big Bus ticket with several popular attractions for a combo discount.


Ticket Prices (with a 10% online discount)

Discover Ticket (24 Hours)

NOTE: A 1-day ticket is included for free with the London Explorer Pass and the London Sightseeing Pass.

Essential Ticket (48 Hours)

  • Adult – £49.50
  • Child – £40.50
  • Family – £159.75
  • Includes a free cruise on the Thames.
  • Includes free guided walking tours.
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

Explore Ticket (48 Hours)

  • Adult – £58.50
  • Child – £49.50
  • Family – £191.25
  • Includes a free cruise along the Thames.
  • Includes free guided walking tours.
  • Includes the night bus tour for free.
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

TIP: If you want to save an extra 5%, consider using Tiqets!

NOTE: There is sometimes a multi-day ticket for a few pounds more that allows you to use your ticket on non-consecutive days.

Times: 8:10 am - 7:00 pm. Tours run every 10-20 minutes. Big Bus also offers a night tour.


Where to Purchase Tickets

Purchase tickets here. Tickets are cheaper when purchased online in advance.

Or you could get them from Central Departure Points.

These points are Marble Arch, Green Park, Victoria Station, Baker Street, and Trafalgar Square. Onsite tickets are a bit more expensive.


Commentary Languages and Type

Each ticket entitles you to an audio guide.

Recorded commentary in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, and English.


Routes

Red Route (2 hrs 30 min):

The best of London covers Central London, from Green Park to Victoria Station, including Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, Covent Garden, Big Ben, Mayfair, London Bridge, and much more.

The Big Bus red route starts from the Green Park Underground station next to the Ritz (first stop at 08:30 and last stop at 16:00)

Big Bus London Map

Click on the map for a larger view


Blue Route (1 hrs 15 min):

As above, plus Kensington Gardens, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park, Piccadilly Circus, Paddington, Notting Hill, Regents Park, and more.

The Big Bus blue route starts from 144 Regent Street (TfL Bus Stop "V", near the corner with Beak Street)


Green Route (1 hr 10 min):

Temple Church, The Mall, St James’s Park, British Museum, Kings Cross, Churchill Museum, Downing Street, National Portrait Gallery, and much more.

The Big Bus green route starts from


Holiday Routes

For the holidays, Big Bus offers a special route at night which will take you around London to see all of the best Christmas lights and displays.

They also have a Christmas Day bus tour, which might not seem like a big deal at first, but it's worth noting that none of the public buses will be running on this day.

In other words, you can expect far less traffic on Christmas day, and that might make the experience much more enjoyable.

Of course, a lot of places will also be closed on Christmas, and this route doesn't allow you to hop on or off at your own leisure.

Even so, if you're interested in seeing the city without too much traffic, this could be the best time to do it!


Reviews of Big Bus Tours London

With a 4 out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor, Big Bus Tours has received quite a few respectable reviews from its customers.

Most passengers felt like this was a great way to learn about London and see many significant landmarks.

Unhappy reviews tend to increase during the early summer season as buses become more crowded, so be sure to temper your expectations.


The TootBus Sightseeing Tour

The TootBus Sightseeing Tour, also known as the Original London Sightseeing Tour company is almost identical to Big Bus Tours and their reviews are about equal.

As their name hints, they are the original hop-on-hop-off London sightseeing bus tour.

Original Bus Tour London

The Original Tour also offers opportunities to combine a bus ticket with tickets to popular attractions to save on both. 

Extras: 24-hour and 48-hour tickets include a free river cruise, 3 free walking tours, and a booklet filled with vouchers for various London attractions (not for The Original Tour).

Also for children, a free activity pack is included.

The 3 free walking tours are: Changing of the Guard, Rock N Roll London, and Jack the Ripper.

Original London also offers a nighttime bus tour as well as a bus tour specifically for families.


Ticket Prices (with 15% discount)

24-Hour London Discovery Ticket Price

  • Adult – £29.75
  • Child – £17.00
  • Family – £90.00

48-Hour London Discovery Ticket Price

  • Adult – £34.85
  • Child – £21.25
  • Family – £107.00

72-Hour Ticket Price

  • Adult – £39.95
  • Child – £25.50
  • Family – £124.00

Purchase tickets or learn more. (Free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance)

Times

Yellow Route

  • Mon - Thur: 9 am - 4:35 pm
    • Buses run every 20-35 minutes.
  • Fri - Sun: 9 am - 5:10 pm
    • Buses run every 15-30 minutes.

Blue Route

  • Daily: 9 am - 4 pm
  • Buses run every 20-30 minutes.

Routes

Yellow Route  – The Original Tour (T1 and T2)

  • Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye, The Shard, Tower Bridge and Leicester Square.National Gallery, and more.
  • T1 – Live commentary in English.  T2 – Recorded commentary in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, Mandarin. PLUS special commentary specifically for children.
  • First bus: 8:30 am. Frequency: every 5-20 mins.
Original Tour Map

Blue Route – The Royal Borough Route (T4)

  • Harrods, Victoria & Albert Museum, Science Museum, Natural History Museum and Design Museum, and more. 
  • Multilingual commentary.
  • First bus:  8:30 am. Frequency: Every 15-20 mins.

Orange Route  – The British Museum Tour  (T5)

  • British Museum, British Library, Chinatown, Shaftesbury Avenue, and more.
  • Multilingual commentary.
  • First bus: 8:35 am. Frequency: Every 20-30 mins.

NOTE: This route is not currently available and we don't know when they will bring it back.


Reviews of Toot Bus London

Much like their competition, The Original London Sightseeing Tour has received a 4 out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor.

Reviews for their hop-on-hop-off bus tours are mostly positive, but they have had some unhappy customers from time to time.

Some guests complained that they didn’t learn a lot and the trip took too long, but many others were pleasantly surprised by everything they experienced.

Several visitors were very impressed by their drivers and the additional walking tours that they offer for free.


City Sightseeing London Hop-On Hop-off Tours

This is one of the most popular bus tour companies in the world, and they offer a very similar level of service to their competitors.

City Sightseeing currently offers both a 24-hour and 48-hour ticket. Each ticket includes at least one additional activity, including free walking tours, cruises, and more.

There are a total of 25 stops spread across two routes.

The red route will take you to some of the most notable sites in London,


Here are the prices you can expect to pay for each ticket:

24-Hour Ticket

  • £37/Adults | £22/Children
  • £96/Family (2 Adults, 2 Children)
  • 24-Hour Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour.
  • Self-Guided Royal London Tour.
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

24-Hour Ticket + Cruise

  • £42/Adults | £25/Children
  • £109/Family (2 Adults, 2 Children)
  • 24-Hour Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour.
  • Self-Guided Royal London Tour.
  • Thames River Cruise.
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

48-Hour Ticket + Cruise

  • £49/Adults | £29/Children
  • £127/Family (2 Adults, 2 Children)
  • 48-Hour Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour.
  • 6 Self-Guided London Tours.
  • Thames River Cruise.
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

City Sightseeing London Routes

City Sightseeing offers pretty much the same red and green route provided by Big Bus Tours.

The red route starts from the London Eye, Belvedere Road, Stand 3788, and follows a route that covers mostly Westminster and the City of London.

The green route also starts from the London Eye and travels north to sites such as Woburn Place and Southampton Row.

There aren't many differences to note, as they both follow pretty much the same path.

If you want to get a better idea of where the bus will take you, use the following map for more information.

The City Sightseeing Route Map. Image source: City Sightseeing.

The Thames River cruise, the blue route, starts from Westminster Pier, across from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and has just one stop ending at Tower Pier, near the Tower of London.


Reviews

You might have noticed that City Sightseeing offers better pricing than some of its competitors, but it should be noted that the quality of service might not be as great.

According to TripAdvisor, this company currently has a 3 out of 5 rating, which isn't terrible, but it's also not very good.

While some guests enjoyed their experience, others were disappointed with the amount of information given and the regularity of service.

Keep these factors in mind before deciding which ticket to buy.


Golden Tours


24-Hour Hop-on-Hop-off Ticket Price

  • Adult – £41
  • Child – £25
  • Includes boat ride

48-Hour Hop-on-Hop-off Ticket Price

  • Adult – £47
  • Child – £28
  • Includes boat ride

72-Hour Hop-on-Hop-off Ticket Price

  • Adult – £54
  • Child – £34
  • Includes boat ride.

Purchase tickets or learn more. (Full refund up to 24 hours in advance)

NOTE: The 24-hour ticket is included for free with the London Explorer Pass.

Commentary Languages and Type: Live commentary in English. Recorded commentary in German, French, Spanish, Italian Japanese, Russian, and Brazilian Portuguese.

Route Duration: 1 – 3 hours

Extras: FREE riverboat cruise.


Routes

  • Red Route – Standard Route – Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace.
  • Yellow Route – Standard Route plus Kensington --- Harrods, V&A Museum, Royal Albert Hall, etc.

Times

  • 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Buses run every 10-20 minutes.

Although this service is worth mentioning, it’s important to note that Golden Tours has only been given a 3 ½ out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor, but 4 out of 5 stars on Get Your Guide (see the reviews).

Reviews for their hop-on-hop-off bus tour are very mixed, and several customers have concluded that the service was not very good.

Some guests complained about their bus driver while others were displeased with how infrequently the buses ran.

Those who enjoyed their trip felt that it was a great value which made it a lot easier to explore London. 


LONDON NIGHT BUS TOURS

Many of the above-mentioned bus tour companies offer night bus tours, and we will detail those services below.

Most of these are not hop-on-hop-off tours, but they do take place in the same open-top double-decker buses that are used during the day.

Be sure to also check out our post on night tours of London for walking, bike, boat, and Segway tours.

There is also a Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes night bus tour.


London By Night

A double-decker bus tour of London after the sun goes down.

The tour route takes visitors through the most famous sites in London, all lit up, including the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Harrods, and more!

This company has received an overall 4 out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor and a 4.7 out of 5-star rating on Get Your Guide (see the reviews).

An overwhelming majority of reviewers were very pleased with their service, some going so far as to say that this was an excellent experience.

Although they have been given a few negative reviews, none of them indicate any serious issues with the tour bus.


Ticket Prices

  • Adult – £29
  • Child – £16
  • Family – £78
  • Under 5 – FREE
  • Purchase tickets here. (Free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance)

Times

  • 19:30, 20:00, 20:30, 21:15, 21:45, 22:15 in Summer (Apr-Sept).
  • 19:30, 21:20 in Winter (Oct-Mar)
  • Tours last around 1 hr 15 min.

Location: Tours begin from Green Park Underground Station next to the Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly.

View the route map.

Commentary Type and Language: Live commentary in English.


Big Bus Tours

This night tour will take you past notable and historic sites such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the London Eye after the sun sets.

The tour is offered three times per night and you can start the tour at one of three different stops. Hotel return service is provided at the end of your outing.

Pre-recorded commentary is available in 12 languages, as it is on their hop-on-hop-off bus tours.


Ticket Prices

Times

  • From the London Eye: 7:30 pm, 8 pm, 8:30 pm
  • From Victoria: 7:45 pm, 8:15 pm, 8:45 pm
  • From the Marble Arch: 8 pm, 8:30 pm, 9 pm

This night bus tour is only available for a limited time from April – September.

That said, you can purchase tickets ahead of time and use them on any day within 6 months of purchase.


The TootBus Night Tour (formerly the Original London Night Tour)

This company offers its yellow route as a night tour, and it includes a variety of popular landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and more.

Unlike other companies, this is essentially just an extension of their hop-on-hop-off bus tour during the day, but the night bus tickets are only valid after 6:30 pm.

Think of it as a discount ticket for the end of the day.

That said, this night bus tour does not include any of the additional activities that you can get with other services provided by the Original London Sightseeing Tour.

Regardless, being able to hop on and off at your own leisure will make this a much better option for anyone who wants to get some good pictures after the sun goes down.


Ticket Prices (with 15% discount)

  • Adult – £23.80
  • Child – £13.60
  • Family – £72.00
  • Under 5 – FREE
  • Purchase tickets or learn more. (Free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance)

Times

  • March - April: 7:30 pm
  • May: 8:00 pm
  • June - August: 8:30 pm
  • September: 7:30 pm
  • October: 7:00 pm
  • November: 5:30 pm
  • The tour lasts for up to 2 ½ hours

Toot Bus's night tour starts from Coventry Street, London W1D 6BH.

In addition to offering the opportunity to jump off and explore at your leisure, this is also the most affordable night bus tour in London and it’s available year-round!

Toot Bus also offers a bus tour specifically for families.


DISCOUNTS AND DEALS

The following section will cover all of the different ways you can save money on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour.

We include information about tourist passes, combo packages, and more.


Tourist Attraction Passes

Most of the tourist attraction discount passes available to you in London include free tickets to at least one hop-on-hop-off bus tour, but not all of these services are the same.

Each of these tourist passes includes a variety of attractions for one flat price, allowing you to save up to 55% depending on the card that you choose.

They can also save you time by allowing you to skip the ticket queue at select tours and attractions. 

With that in mind, this section will provide a breakdown of which bus tour is offered by each tourist pass.


Big Bus Tours (24-hour ticket)

Golden Tours (24-hour ticket)

Make sure to read our full post about which London City Pass is best for you for more details about how to use these services.


Combo Packages

All the 3 major hop-on-hop-off companies offer tickets that combine various durations of their bus tickets with popular attractions in London.


The TootBus Sightseeing Tour (formerly the Original London Sightseeing Tour)

This company offers a combo deal that includes both their hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a cruise on the river Thames.

If you're interested in both of these activities, this is a great way to save money on tickets by paying one flat price instead of paying for tickets individually.

Prices (with 15% discount)

  • 24 Hour Tickets: £35.70/Adults | £20.40/Children
  • 48 Hour Tickets: £41.65/Adults | £24.65/Children
  • 72 Hour Tickets: £47.60/Adults | £28.90/Children

Big Bus Tours

This service currently offers a variety of combo packages, and they also work with Madame Tussauds to provide discounts through a special London attraction package.

The following deals are available directly from Big Bus Tours:

  • Discover Ticket + London Eye
    • £81/Adults | £67/Kids
  • Essential Ticket + London Eye
    • £105/Adults | £92/Kids
  • Discover Ticket + Madame Tussauds
    • £83/Adults | £69/Kids
  • Discover Ticket + Tower of London
    • £73/Adults | £48/Kids

Purchase combo packages or learn more.


Golden Tours

Much like its competitors, this company also offers a plethora of different combo deals which include their hop-on-hop-off bus tour and at least one additional attraction.

Purchase tickets or learn more.

Here are the deals they currently have available:

  • 24-Hour Bus Tour + London Eye
    • £66/Adults | £50/Kids
  • 24-Hour Bus Tour + Tower of London
    • £66/Adults | £35/Kids
  • 24-Hour Bus Tour + Madame Tussauds
    • £64/Adults | £49/Kids
  • 24-Hour Bus Tour + Westminster Abbey
    • £59/Adults | £32/Kids
  • 24-Hour Bus Tour + St. Paul’s Cathedral
    • £46/Adults | £24/Kids
  • 24-Hour Bus Tour + London Dungeon
    • £58/Adults | £40/Kids
  • 24-Hour Bus Tour + London Eye + Madame Tussauds
    • £101/Adults | £79/Kids
  • 24-Hour Bus Tour + London Eye + Tower of London
    • £104/Adults | £69/Kids
  • 24-Hour Bus Tour + SEA LIFE Aquarium
    • £58/Adults | £43/Kids

Purchase tickets or learn more.

While some of these combo packages are excellent deals, you may want to compare prices for a few of them to the Madame Tussauds Attraction Package and other combination discounts.


PROS AND CONS OF A LONDON HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS TOUR

If you’re looking for a great way to see all the major sites in London, a hop-on-hop-off bus tour can be a great option.

That said, there are a few things you may want to consider before purchasing tickets.


PROS

Here are a few reasons you may want to think about taking a hop-on-hop-off bus tour in London.


Commentary in Several Languages

These bus tours typically include recorded commentary about the most historic and notable landmarks in the city.

The audio guide is often offered in at least 5-10 different languages.

Which Are the Best London Bus Tours

Jump Off and Explore

In addition to the tour itself, you’ll also have the opportunity to jump off at any stop you want and take a closer look for yourself.

You can set your own pace for exploration. Once you’re done looking around, just hop back on and resume your guided trip!


Great Overview of the City

This is a great way for visitors to become more familiar with the city and where everything is located.

Each hop-on-hop-off bus tour includes a map that can make it even easier to find your way around town.


Additional Services

Depending on which type of ticket you purchase, you could also enjoy free walking tours, cruises, night tours, and other things to do.

This is a great way to save money on activities you may already be considering.

Reasonable Prices

Considering that you’ll receive transportation, a tour, live and recorded commentary, a map, and even additional activities, the ticket prices are pretty reasonable at an average price of £35-£50 per person.

TIP: We have a section on discounts and deals below so you don't have to pay full price!


CONS

Although a hop-on-hop-off bus tour can be very useful for most travelers, there are some reasons that you may want to consider another service.

Best London Bus Tour

Simplistic Commentary

It’s nice that these tours typically include both live and recorded commentary about the city.

But, they don’t usually go into a lot of detail about all of the landmarks and historic locations you will see.

If you want more in-depth commentary, consider complementing a bus tour with one of our walking tours.

London Walking Tours

Or, consider our public bus hop-on-hop-off route.

In addition to audio on the bus, we also have clips for walking around at select stops (learn more here).


Not Very Efficient

Whether you don’t have a lot of time in London or you just want to save some time, a hop-on-hop-off bus tour isn’t very efficient.

This service is more about taking your time and exploring each location of interest.

Visitors who want a quicker, more efficient experience should consider a different kind of London bus tour.


No Assigned Seat

While you can get an assigned seat on other bus tours and assure that you’ll always have a place to sit, there is no such guarantee on these hop-on-hop-off bus tours.

All seats are first-come, first-served.

If you want to make sure you’ve got a good seat with great views of the city, another type of London bus tour will probably suit you better.


Tips From Locals and Travelers

Alright, enough trying to sell you on hop-on hop-off bus tours.

Here are some of the thoughts and opinions of both locals and travelers from our London Travel Tips group on Facebook who have taken these tours in London.

Megan recommends a pretty good idea, which is to use your first circuit on the bus to note locations you'd like to visit.

Then, on your second trip around, use the hop-on hop-off bus to get to each of the attractions you want to see in closer detail!

Thomas notes that they always do the hop-on hop-off tours in every city they visit just to get an overview of the area, and that is definitely one of the better uses of these services.

Here's another excellent suggestion.

Whether or not you're trying to save money, it's worth noting that you can technically see all the major attractions included on a hop-on hop-off bus tour by using the TFL buses instead.

As a matter of fact, you can actually see a lot more this way, but it does require more effort to figure out the bus routes you'll want to take.

Most locals recommend lines 9 and 15 if you want to follow basically the same route as hop-on hop-off tours.

Richard here actually used to work on the hop-on hop-off buses, so he's got a lot of experience with the services.

He advises to avoid Golden Tours, and from other comments we have seen, it seems that this company does have issues providing these tours.

He also notes that you can easily find which route a bus offers by looking at the colour coded signs on the windows.

If you're wondering whether or not you need to purchase tickets in advance, it'll be nice to know that you can just walk right up to the bus and purchase tickets directly from the driver/guide.

The only real reason to buy tickets ahead of time is to save money, and that's why we offer so many discount opportunities in this post!

For more helpful advice, make sure to check our London Travel Tips group on Facebook.


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About The Author

Margaret

An American simply by accident of birth, Margaret moved to London over 16 years ago and hasn’t looked back since! With a keen interest in History – and a BA degree to match – Margaret prides herself on her knowledge of the amazing city she calls home and she's been guiding here now for nearly a decade. Social history is her real expertise, with sound understanding of the day-to-day lives of Londoners over the past centuries. Read More...
Updated: diciembre 12th, 2023
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