Best London Hop On-Hop Off Buses and More

This post compares and reviews the various London bus tours, including hop-on-hop-off, night bus tours, day trips as well as do it yourself options. 

 

 


HOP-ON-HOP-OFF LONDON BUS TOURS

The most popular kind of bus tour here in London is a hop-on-hop-off tour.

Buses on these tours are continually driving around defined routes in London and visitors can use their ticket to jump on at any stop and can get off at whichever stop they choose.

 

 

Tickets are usually valid for 1 – 2 days for the operating hours of the company you have bought your ticket from.

Many routes overlap one another and it is usually possible to ride all routes within a single day.  

Each company also offers complimentary walking tours as part of their ticket packages (though they are not as good as our pay-what-you-wish walking tours).

The best hop-on-hop-off tours in London are run by the three following companies:

  • BIG BUS
  • ORIGINAL LONDON SIGHTSEEING TOUR
  • GOLDEN TOURS

TIP: Many of these London bus tours are included in the London Pass and/or Explorer Pass, which are tourist discount passes.


BIG BUS TOURS

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

The purchase of a multi-day ticket also includes a free river cruise and several free walking tours (though not as good as ours), which are Royal London, Harry Potter, and a ghost tour as well as a booklet filled with vouchers for various London attractions.  

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

 

 


Reviews of Big Bus Tours London

With a 4 out of 5-stars rating on TripAdvisor, Big Bus Tours has clearly received quite a few respectable reviews from their 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 becoming more crowded, so be sure to temper your expectations.


Ticket Prices

Classic Ticket (24 Hours)

NOTE: Included for free with boat cruise with the London Explorer Pass and the London Pass.

Premium Ticket (48 Hours)

  • Adult – £40
  • Child – £31
  • Family – £125
  • Includes a free cruise along the Thames (and occasionally the night tour).
  • More information or to book.

Deluxe Ticket (72 Hours)

  • Adult – £45.00
  • Child – £36
  • Family – £140
  • Includes a free cruise along the Thames.
  • Includes the night tour for free.
  • More information or to book

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

Times: 8:10 am to 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 at Marble Arch, Green Park, Victoria Station, Baker Street, and Trafalgar Square. Onsite tickets are a bit more expensive.


Commentary Languages and Type:

Live commentary in English.

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 from Green Park to Victoria Station. Includes Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Big Ben, Mayfair, London Bridge, and much more.

 

Click on the map for a larger view
Big Bus London Map

 

Blue Route (1 hrs 15 min):

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

Green Route (1 hr 15 min):

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

 


THE ORIGINAL LONDON SIGHTSEEING TOUR 

Original Bus Tour London

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.

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

Extras: 24-hours, 48-hours, and 72-hours 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. 


Reviews of Original London Sightseeing Tour

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

Reviews for their hop-on-hop-off bus tour 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. 

Note: These tours are not included for free with the purchase of the London Pass, an all-inclusive tourist discount pass.

Where to Purchase Tickets: Purchase tickets here


City Sampler Ticket Price (no online discount):

  • Adult – £27.00
  • Child – £13.50
  • Family – £67.50
  • Concession – £22.50

24 Hour Ticket Price:

  • Adult – £32.50 
  • Child – £15.25 
  • Family – £80.00 
  • Concession – £29.00 

TIP: The 24-hour ticket is included for free with the purchase of the London City Pass, a tourist attraction discount card.

48 Hour Ticket Price:

  • Adult – £42.50
  • Child – £20.00
  • Family – £104.00 
  • Concession – £38.00

72 Hour Ticket Price:

  • Adult – £52.50
  • Child – £24.50
  • Family – £129.00 
  • Concession – £38.00 

Main 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. See the timetable here.

 

 

Original Tour Map

 

Blue Route – The Royal Borough Route (T4)

  • Harrods, Victoria & Albert Museum, Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Design Museum and more. 
  • Multilingual commentary.
  • First bus:  8:00 am. Frequency: Every 15-20 mins. See timetable here.

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. See timetable here.

Shuttles Connecting to Main Routes:

Red Shuttle

  • Hyde Park, Marble Arch, and Regents Park. 
  • Multilingual commentary.
  • First Bus: 9 am. Frequency: 30 – 60 mins. See the timetable here.

Purple Shuttle

  • Helps you connect with the Yellow Route at Marble Arch.
  • Multilingual commentary.
  • First bus: 9:30 am. Frequency: Every 30-60 mins. See the timetable here.

 


GOLDEN TOURS

originaltours

Although this service is worth mentioning, it’s important to note that Golden Tours has only been given a 3 ½ out of 5 stars 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 come to the conclusion 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. 

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

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

Routes:

  • Blue Route – Standard Route plus Belgravia and Kensington – Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Harrods, V&A Museum, etc.
  • Red Route – Standard Route plus the Docklands
  • Green Route – Standard Route
  • Lilac Route – Standard Route plus Soho and Bloomsbury

Times:

  • Blue Route – 8:16 am to 5:00 pm
  • Red Route – 8:16 am to 5:30 pm
  • Green Route – 8:16 am to 5:00 pm
  • Lilac Route – 8:16 am to 4:15 pm
  • Buses run every 10-20 minutes.

Where to Purchase Tickets: Online or at departure points Green Park, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace.

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. FREE Royal or Beatles walking tours.

 


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LONDON BY NIGHT BUS TOURS 

Many of the above-mentioned bus tour companies offer night bus tours, like Big Bus Tours. Here is a list of a few more. 

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

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


SEE 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 at might – Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Harrods and more!

 

 

This company has received an overall 4 out of 5-stars rating on TripAdvisor and a 4.7 out of 5 stars 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:

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 next to the Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly.

Commentary Type and Language: Live commentary in English.

 


EVENING BEATLES BUS TOUR 

Enjoy a 2 hour 15 min evening mini-coach tour of Central London.  Visit 35 locations made famous by the Fab 4 including Abbey Road.

This tour is well reviewed (read the reviews). 

There is another Beatles tour that takes place on most days at 9 am.  

  • Every Monday through Friday at 6 pm (March-Sept)
  • £35/adult, £25/child (3-11)
  • Click here for more information or to book this tour. 

 


GHOST BUS TOURS

A spooky sightseeing tour that takes place on a black double-decker bus. T

he commentary is creepy but also amusing and takes guests past some of the most famous icons in the city, exploring the dark and grisly past of this ancient city.  

 

 

With an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor, it’s safe to say that most passengers have a lot of fun on the Ghost Bus.

This company has received some negative reviews, but they don’t seem to represent the typical experience. A majority of guests report that this bus tour is a lot of fun and can be very spooky.  

TIP: This tour is included for free with the iVENTURE Card tourist discount pass. Learn more about tourist passes by clicking here.


Ticket Prices:

Times:

  • Sunday to Thursday – 19:30 & 21:00
  • Friday – 18:00, 19:30 & 21:00
  • Saturday – 18:00, 19:30, 19:45, 21:00 & 21:15
  • Tour lasts approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Location: Northumberland Avenue, near Trafalgar Square opposite the Sherlock Holmes pub.

Commentary Type and Language: Live commentary in English.

 


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UNIQUE BUS TOUR EXPERIENCES

Supernatural, super tasty, or super fun – here are our recommendations for slightly off-beat London bus tours. 


Harry Potter Bus Tour 

This 2.5-3 hour bus tour features many of the film locations and inspirations from all 8 films in the series. Some of the stops include Kings Cross Station, 12 Grimmauld Place and the sites used for the Leaky Cauldron.

There is also an opportunity at the end of the tour to buy Harry Potter merchandise.

NOTE: We also offer a pay-what-you-wish Harry Potter walking tour as well as a GPS-enabled audio tour of Harry Potter sights.

When: 

  • Saturday 2 pm: (Jan – 17 Dec)
  • Wednesday 2 pm: (School Holidays and Mar-Oct)
  • Thursday 2 pm: (School Holidays and Jul-Aug)
  • Friday 2 pm: (School Holidays and Jul-Aug)

Cost: £30 – Adult | £21 – Child (under 16)

Click here for more information or to book tickets

 


Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter with transportation included

There are several tour operators that offer packages that include your ticket to the studio with timed entry and also transportation from London by coach or train.

Typically, these tours cost approximately £66.00 per person (less for children).

Some of these companies play Harry Potter movies on the bus ride to warm you up for your studio visit.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter – Dedicated tour Guide and transportation included

You can book a fully-guided tour of the studios through Golden Tours

For die-hard Harry Potter fans, this might be the way for you to go. Included in the price is admission with the timed entry; a dedicated studio tour guide; headsets when appropriate, transportation to and from the meeting point in Central London and one butterbeer per guest.

Best to book a month in advance as this tour sells out.

When: check their calendar for availability

Cost:

  • £69 – Adult (age 16+)
  • £614- Child (age 5-15)
  • £20 – Infant (Age 3-4)
  • Free – 2 and under
  • £256 – Family (2 adults and 2 children)
  • Click here for more information or to book this tour. 

 


Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes Bus Tour

As the name indicates, this tour focuses on the true story of Jack the Ripper and the fictional tale of Sherlock Holmes.

In addition to covering these topics, they also provide information about subjects such as the Elephant Man and Smithfield Market.

This spooky bus tour takes place after dark, ensuring the perfect atmosphere to hear all about some of the most notorious crimes and disturbing legends in London’s history.

Reviews for this service are pretty good with an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars (read reviews here).

Customers indicate that their tour guides are very friendly and knowledgeable, providing a lot of interesting information about Jack the Ripper.

Sadly, some guests were a bit disappointed that there weren’t more details about Sherlock Holmes. That being said, a majority of people indicate that they had a lot of fun on this trip around London.

 


Beatles and Rock Tour of London

This is a 3.5 mini coach tour to explore the Beatles’ London, including Abbey Road and other rock icons such as Freddie Mercury and David Bowie.

 


LONDON DUCK TOURS

NOTE: London Ducks have suspended services as of September 1, 2017. There is no expected date to restart service at this time.

A whirlwind journey through London in a Second World War amphibious vehicles! The tours run through London giving visitors fun facts and stories about the capital before finishing by splashing down into the river Thames for a boat ride – all in the same vehicle!

 


BB’s BAKERY BUS AFTERNOON TOUR 

BB BAkery Bus

Afternoon tea with a twist or a sightseeing bus tour with a twist! Either way you look at it, this is one tasty tour!

A full afternoon tea served aboard a double-decker bus that travels through Central London, showcasing London’s famous sights as guests indulge in sweet treats and teas. 

Although the theme of this bus tour may seem strange to foreigners, the 4 ½ star rating this company has received on TripAdvisor indicates that it’s a pretty phenomenal service.

There are a handful of negative reviews, but an overwhelming majority of guests report that this is a lovely trip which includes delicious food.

Some reviewers even went so far as to describe the tour as a great experience, indicating that it was a wonderful combination of English tradition and sightseeing.

Ticket Prices:

  • Lower Deck seats start at Adult £45.00 and Children (5-11) £43
  • Higher Prices depending on seats with better views, Upper Deck, etc.

Times:

  • Depart daily from 8 Northumberland Avenue, off Trafalgar Square: 12:30 and 15:00
  • Depart daily from Victoria Coach Station: 12:00, 14:30 & 17:00
  • Tours last approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

 


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FREE LONDON BUS TOURS

Free London Bus Tours

There are budget-friendly ways of sightseeing in London – really!  Free Tours by Foot offers London walking tours for every budget, you name the price.  

As many travelers know, there is no better way to explore a city than by walking its many streets.

But of course that can be strenuous, so why not complement our walking tours with self-guided free London bus tours.  

Instead of spending lots of money on an organized bus tour, do it yourself and be your own guide.  

There are many options, depending on where you start off, and what you want to see. 

Check out our selection of free self-guided walking tours as well as our Guide to London on a Budget.

Also, London For Free offers some pretty good suggestions for a self-guided bus tour.

With a daily bus ticket of less than £5 (make sure you have the exact fare), you can spend all day hopping on and off public buses.  Here are some self-guided bus tours we recommend that nicely complement our  free walking tours:

TOUR: Tower Bridge via Southwark to Covent Gardens

Take the RV1 bus at the Tower Bridge. The bus stop is opposite of the Tower when you walk towards the top of Tower Bridge. Cross the road, so you are standing on the side where traffic is heading towards the bridge.

This bus ride is recommended for either after our All-in-One Tour or our City of London Tour which both end near the Tower of London. The bus ride will end in Covent Garden Piazza.

Here is what you’ll cover on your self-guided bus tour:

TOUR:  Westminster Abbey via Trafalgar Square to City of London

For those of you, who take our Westminster walking tour, but are unable to do our comprehensive All-in-One walking tour, take the 11 bus from Westminster Abbey (the stop is located on Victoria Street, between Dacre St. and Tothill St.) and get off at St. Pauls.  

Here is what you’ll cover on your self-guided bus tour.

The Heritage Bus route 15 and 9

Using London Buses is pretty easy. Most buses are driver-only operated, meaning you need to board at the front to show the driver your bus ticket.

Routes 9 and 15, the traditional Routemaster buses, work differently, as you can simply board the bus, sit, and wait for the conductor to check your ticket. These older models are worth taking a ride if you get the chance.

Route 9 operates between Kensington via Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. Route 15 operates between Tower Hill and Trafalgar Square.

 


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TOURIST ATTRACTION PASSES AND OTHER DISCOUNTS

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. 

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.

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)

London City Tour

Original London Sightseeing Tour

 


Combination Tickets

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

 


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